Democratic presidential candidates decided quite a while ago that there's no upside to legitimizing the Republicans' Fox News Channel by participating in one of its debates. The response has been predictably bitter -- and consistent -- from the right.
Fox News chief Roger Ailes said
, "The candidates that can't face Fox, can't face Al Qaeda." Joan Vennochi parroted the line in the Boston Globe, writing
, "If you can't face the bad boys of Fox News, how can you face the bad boys of Iraq or Iran?"
Now, NBC's Tim Russert is getting in on the game
COLMES: That's why -- you know, candidates of both parties should come on this show. They don't. Democrats don't want to go on with him; some Republicans don't want to come on with me. I think that's wrong. And I think Democrats make a mistake not allowing a debate to take place on the FOX News Channel.
RUSSERT: It's a TV show. If you can't handle TV questions, how are you going to stand up to Iran, and North Korea, and the rest of the world?
While I'm delighted to see so many media personalities compare Fox News to the world's most dangerous regimes, the suggestion that Democratic candidates are somehow afraid of a partisan news network is pretty silly.
The point, which I'd hoped was obvious by now, is that Dems (accurately) perceive Fox News as a partisan outlet, with a Republican audience, and with an agenda contrary to Democratic policies. As E. J. Dionne recently put it
, "I am an avid reader of conservative magazines such as National Review and the Weekly Standard. But if these two publications teamed up to sponsor a Democratic debate, would anyone accuse Edwards, Obama and Clinton of 'blacklisting' if the candidates said, 'no, thanks'?"
Digby recently summarized
the broader point nicely.
What the Democrats are saying is that unlike George W. Bush they aren't dumb enough to legitimize the enemy's propaganda.... [I]t's a waste of time. FOX is a partisan Republican network and the Democrats are trying to get Democratic primary votes (who do not and will not watch FOX for any reason.) They might as well be holding the debate in Dick Cheney's office. The vast, vast majority of Fox's audience are older, white, male right-wingers, hard core 28 percenters who would rather stick needles in their eyes than vote for a Democrat. It's ridiculous to think Democrats have any chance of persuading the audience of a network whose most popular show stars a man who says this:
O'REILLY: OK, I think it's a small part, but I think it's there. On the other side, you have people who hate America, and they hate it because it's run primarily by white, Christian men. Let me repeat that. America is run primarily by white, Christian men, and there is a segment of our population who hates that, despises that power structure. So they, under the guise of being compassionate, want to flood the country with foreign nationals, unlimited, unlimited, to change the complexion -- pardon the pun -- of America.
Mr. Russert, steering clear of such nonsense has nothing to do with an ability to "stand up to Iran and North Korea."