You can tell just how perfectly The Washington Post fits into the White House publicity apparatus when it posts articles proclaiming that they have Fox News reporter Peter Doocy exactly where they want him. He is a “useful foil,” reports Philip Bump, and he’s easily foiled.
Peter Doocy is a useful foil for the White House.https://t.co/lMwD1mg7Eq
— Philip Bump (@pbump) August 28, 2021
The headline on this Friday analysis was “Biden escalates his efforts to puncture the Fox News bubble.” Jen Psaki is that genius who regularly calls on Doocy because he’s going to be lame and embarrassing. This is how it began:
In a sense, Peter Doocy’s arrival in the White House press briefing room has been to his employer’s detriment. It used to be that Fox News could spend days condemning Democratic presidents for not responding to whatever controversy its hosts had been tumbling around in their rhetorical rock polishers. Now, though, there’s Doocy, who is regularly selected by White House press secretary Jen Psaki to ask questions probably in part so that the familiar process can be beheaded early. Her exchanges with Doocy drop into the political conversation like bang snaps, crackling with life for an instant before being forgotten, the gotcha almost always redirected to the junkyard.
That’s at least in part because the questions often reflect a network or right-wing consensus that hasn’t been exposed to any significant scrutiny. Little grains of ice snowball into scandals, with Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino and whoever else packing on more and more — and then they get removed from the cooler and placed on the sidewalk. It often doesn’t take long for it to melt.
Oh, witness the heat of forceful liberal brains! Fox News is no match!
Now ask yourself: can you remember a single viral “bang snap” in the Psaki briefing room from a Washington Post White House reporter? Or are they all cozy cooperators like Matt “I marvel at Biden’s fortune cookie tweets” Viser?
Bump then chronicled how Biden got the better of Doocy as he suggested Biden had failed in Afghanistan, and Biden oh-so-effectively suggested Trump had failed, too, and exposed Doocy for posing an “unsound” question.
Doocy and his network often don’t provide or consider the context that would subject their theories to heat from the outset. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait pointed out Thursday, Fox viewers often aren’t really tuning in to the network’s offerings for a considered debate on the news of the day. What keeps them engaged and watching is the diaspora of voices and range of volumes fuming at the day’s outrage.
For all of the right’s focus on Biden’s mental acuity, he’s sufficiently adept at the sort of exchange seen Thursday to be able to put Doocy on the defensive.
Philip Bump-Bump was shaking the pom-poms. He concluded by equating Fox with a “hostile power” and with “misinformation.”
In November, after it became obvious that Biden had won the election, I pointed out that with Trump vanquished, Biden’s main opponent — misinformation from the right — remained potent. (Right-wing misinformation, driven by Trump, then spent months claiming that no such vanquishing had occurred.) Biden and his team clearly recognize this threat, as evidenced by their willingness to engage with Doocy.
There’s an overly neat analogy that could be drawn here about the White House entertaining a representative of a hostile power, but it’s not entirely wrong. Doocy gives the White House a way into the often-sealed discourse on the right, a way to draw those snowballs into the sunlight. Psaki and Biden are confident in their ability to handle Doocy’s questions and eager to reframe them.
Earlier: Philip Bump Thinks He’s Smart, So Why Did He Write This?