Disdainful of the divisive nature of cable news and talk radio, US President Barack Obama criticized the media for its role in political gridlock and called out Fox News and Rush Limbaugh by name in a new interview.
Speaking to The New Republic, Obama was discussing the issue of Democrats and Republicans being unable to reach common ground due to a variety of factors and placed a fair share of the blame on the influence of media rhetoric. "One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates," said the President. "If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it."
Although the right-leaning media tends to be more rigid and vindictive, Obama acknowledged that media elements in his own party must also shoulder some of the responsibility. "The same dynamic happens on the Democratic side," he noted. "I think the difference is just that the more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word. And I think at least leaders like myself—and I include Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in this—are willing to buck the more absolutist-wing elements in our party to try to get stuff done."
Because of the feared backlash from Fox News, many Republicans have adopted an obstructionist approach and prevented progress on important issues. "Some of [the barriers] have to do with our media and what gets attention," the President pointed out. "Nobody gets on TV saying, 'I agree with my colleague from the other party.' People get on TV for calling each other names and saying the most outlandish things."
"Even on issues like the response to Hurricane Sandy," he continued. "Chris Christie was getting hammered by certain members of his own party and media outlets for cooperating with me to respond to his constituents. That gives you an indication of how difficult I think the political environment has become for a lot of these folks. And I think what will change that is politicians seeing more upside to cooperation than downside, and right now that isn't the case. Public opinion is going to be what changes that."
The combative format of most cable news shows is not conducive to reasonable discussion or debate, and that has seeped into politics to a greater degree than ever before. Will it get better before it gets worse?