White House Attack Machine

The White House is using the daily press briefing to launch personal attacks on President Obama’s critics, signaling the vast liberal news media to join in.

In just 50 days in office, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has taken on Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer at CNBC; conservative radio king Rush Limbaugh; and, most recently, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In addition to using using the daily briefing in its traditional role of explaining and defending Obama’s policies, Gibbs has also stayed in his 2008 campaign mode by making biting comments about the president’s dissenters.

Perhaps no attack worked better than Gibbs assault on Cramer, a former hedge fund trader who hosts a somewhat whacky CNBC nightly how on stock trading. The often-hyper Cramer went ballistic at Obama economic policies, accusing the president of “the greatest wealth destruction” ever.

From the podium, Gibbs had this response: “I’m going to get in a lot of trouble if I continue with — the president — again, if you turn on a certain program it’s geared to a very small audience — no offense to my good friends or friend at CNBC.”

There it was. A personal slap down of Cramer, a long-time liberal Democrat. The liberal press took the bait. A series of negative blogs and liberal commentary ensued. National wire stories reported Gibbs has taking on critic Cramer.

No one launched into Cramer more enthusiastically than left-leaning comedian Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show.”

Cramer had frequently criticized George W. Bush economics. Stewart never took notice. But after Cramer dared criticize Obama and the White House responded, Stewart suddenly became Cramer’s worst nightmare. He ridiculed some of Cramer’s horrible stock calls in attempt to shrink the Wall Street guru’s standing.

Cramer is not the only White House-chastened anchor at CNBC. Rick Santelli, a former trader who anchors coverage from a Chicago trading floor, lashed out one morning at Obama’s mortgage rescue plan. His tirade made the much-read Drudge Report.

Gibbs’ response? “I’ve watched Mr. Santelli on cable the past 24 hours or so. I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives, but the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgages, stay in their jobs, pay their bills, send their kids to school,” Gibbs said, pitting the news anchor against apple pie and children.

Gibbs invited Santelli to Washington so they could read the mortgage bailout plan together. “I would be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee — decaf,” he said.

There it is. Santelli is a rich, aloof, irrational commentator.

In Limbaugh’s case, the talk show host delivered a fiery speech to the annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting in Washington. He views Obama’s economic agent as socialism and said he wants it to fail.

The White House clearly understands there are those in the liberal news media who sill do its bidding. Check out Gibb’s response to a Limbaugh question:

“I think maybe the best question, though, is for you to ask individual Republicans whether they agree with what Rush Limbaugh said this weekend. Do they want to see the President’s economic agenda fail? You know, I bet there are a number of guests on television throughout the day and maybe into tomorrow who could let America know whether they agree with what Rush Limbaugh said this weekend.”

The remark helped ignite a tidal wave of negative liberal news coverage, from the morning TV shows to the nightly news to print journalism.

No one was harsher than the increasingly liberal Newsweek. It put a demonic-looking Limbaugh on the cover over the headline “Enough.”

Gibbs does not stop at ridiculing pundits. After former Vice President Richard Cheney criticized Obama’s economic and war policies, the press secretary dismissed him as part of a “Republican cabal.” To press corps laughter, he quipped that Limbaugh must have been busy.

Conservatives say the personal slap downs — especially of a former vice president — stand in contrast to how the Bush White House used the daily briefing.

In fact, when Al Gore — who accused Bush of manufacturing reasons for going to war in Iraq — won the Nobel Prize, Bush invited him to the White House.

When then press secretary Ari Fleischer issued mild criticism of Bill Clinton’s last minute Middle East summit as trying to “shoot the moon,” the White House reporters castigated him for daring to criticize a former president. Fleischer was forced to apologize.

Don’t expect any apologies from Gibbs.

“There are very few days that I’ve had more fun,” he told a laughing press corps after one of his personal criticisms. “I was afraid I was going to have too much more fun. “

Conservatives note the double standard.

“I don’t mind a press secretary having a bit of bite,” said Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center, which points out liberal press bias.

But Graham, who spent two years in the White House press corps, told HUMAN EVENTS he is struck by how reporters treat Gibbs compared with Fleischer.

In one instance, Fleischer remarked that people “need to watch watch what they say,” after he was read outlandish quotes from two political activists. The media portrayed the response as some dark Bush plot to get back at critics.

“I haven’t seen anyone reporting that Gibbs is sending dark messages of censorship, whether he’s attacking Limbaugh or Santelli or Cramer or whoever is in Obama’s way,” Graham said.

“Ari Fleischer knew he was walking into a lion’s den every day,” he added. “Gibbs walks into a puppy farm.”