BROWN: Officials have been very public about their feelings about FOX News and what they believe FOX News is and represents. And they made a point of coming out and saying it.
JARRETT: What we're saying is, is that we want the public to understand what's going on. When we saw the kind of distortions this summer, particularly directed at seniors, over health care reform, it was really outrageous. And I think what the president said in his message before Congress is, we're going to speak directly to the American people and make sure that they understand the truth. And so, certainly, if we see somebody distorting the truth, we're going to call them on the carpet for that. But we don't want to take our focus away from the core issues that are so important to the American people. Now, when there's all that chatter and distortion and false information, we have to disseminate -- we have to distinguish between truth and fiction.
BROWN: So do you think FOX News is biased?
JARRETT: Well, of course they're biased. Of course they are.
BROWN: OK. Then do you also think that MSNBC is biased?
JARRETT: Well, you know what? This is the thing. I don't want to -- actually, I don't want to just generalize all FOX is biased or that another station is biased. I think what we want to do is look at it on a case-by-case basis. And when we see a pattern of distortion, we're going to be honest about that pattern of distortion.
BROWN: But you only see that at FOX News? That's all that -- you have spoken out about FOX News.
JARRETT: That's actually not true.I think that what the administration has said very clearly is that we're going to speak truth to power. When we saw all of the distortions in the course of the summer, when people were coming down to town hall meetings and putting up signs that were scaring seniors to death, when we have seen commercials go up on television that are distorting the truth, we're actually calling everybody out. So, this isn't something that's simply directed at FOX. We really just want the American people to have a clear understanding. There's so much at stake right now. We really don't have a lot of time for nonsense and distortions.
Emphasis mine. Gee, isn't this a target-rich environment? Let's consider what Jarrett is asserting here. She says Fox News is biased. But when the CNN(!) anchor Brown challenges her, she says she doesn't want to generalize about who is biased and who isn't biased, even though she just did it a minute before. And then Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the most powerful man on the planet, says that she needs to speak "truth to power." Think about that for a minute before we turn it over to the maestro. Take it away, Mr. Taranto:
Good for Campbell Brown for sticking up for a competitor (albeit at the expense of a lesser competitor). And it's pretty funny how Jarrett, after smugly asserting, "Of course they're biased," did not make a pretense of standing by her position when Brown asked a question she would have been prepared for if she had spent any time thinking this through.
Even more risible, though, is the claim that the administration "is going to speak truth to power." Hello, Valerie? Your boss is the president of the United States! No one is more powerful. As we suggested Friday, it really seems as if Obama and his men do not understand what it means to be president. Because their power is constrained--thank you, Founding Fathers!--they labor under the delusion that they are powerless.
This is exactly right. It is risible. Jarrett and her boss have substantially more power than any single news network. Fox News cannot control the agenda of this nation; it can only report on it and comment on it. And if the commenters at Fox News are persuasive enough, they might be able to move public opinion some, but they can only seek to influence. Obama can do much more, any time he sees fit. I don't know what Team Obama expected, but separation of powers has always been baked into the design of this nation. Presidents don't necessarily get their way. Nine different men have served as president in my lifetime and every one of them has received a comeuppance at one point or another. And every one of them has deserved it.
But there's another point to be made, and Taranto makes it well:
Yet while this is all hilarious, it is also scary when you think it through. Great power entails great responsibility. There is little to suggest that Obama and his aides appreciate their responsibility, and much, including their incessant complaining that the previous president did a lousy job, to suggest an attitude of total irresponsibility.
The job of those in power is not to "speak truth to power," though it would be nice if they spoke the truth once in a while. It is to exercise power responsibly. The effort to bully Fox News Channel would be an abuse of power were it not so pathetically inept.