This past week, we learned that the White House is "waging war" on Fox News. And what terrifying weapon is the administration wielding? What sinister tactic has the Fox faithful rending their garments? Well, the White House has said that Fox is more a political operation than a news organization, committed to advancing the Republican Party's goals. In other words, the White House is leveling the same charge people have made about Fox for its entire history. Watch the station for more than a few minutes, and you'll see it's true.
What's really been revealed in this little dustup is the way television journalists think that they should get to follow a set of rules different from the set their colleagues whose work appears in other media follow.
The influential French sociologist Gabriel Tarde wrote in 1898 that newspapers "both enriched and leveled ... the conversations of individuals, even those who do not read papers but who, talking to those who do, are forced to follow the groove of their borrowed thoughts. One pen suffices to set off a thousand tongues."
For months, the insurance industry was remarkably quiet. Despite fears that it would publicly fight reform with a scorched-earth campaign of television ads like it did in 1993, until now it's been subdued. It was part of a carefully planned inside-outside strategy: On the outside, the industry constantly stressed its support of reform, while noting that it objected to some of reform's potential components, like the public option. On the inside, it was furiously lobbying to make sure the bill would maximize its profits and minimize its costs.
Although the fact that Olympia Snowe voted for the Finance Committee's version of health-care reform was welcome, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. If Snowe had voted no, she would have made herself instantly irrelevant, because a no vote there would have guaranteed a no vote on the floor, and another no vote on the conference report that will combine the House and Senate versions.
Back in 2007, Barack Obama said that if he got the chance to make a Supreme Court appointment, one of his criteria for a justice would be a capacity for "empathy." Conservatives were predictably outraged. But last week, we got to see what it looks like when a justice is unable to view the world from another's perspective. While Salazar v. Buono may not be too important in the grand scheme of things, one particular exchange during oral arguments ought to make conservatives give some thought to the quality of empathy. Because in the years to come, they're going to learn more about it, whether they want to or not.