By Pam Linn

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Obama vs. Fox justifiable, but why?

Okay. So I brought this on myself. But if I was to write about Obama’s war on Fox News, it seemed I would have to actually watch one news cycle. Dumb idea.

My day generally starts with “Morning Edition” on NPR, where I can hear the news without looking at it. My brain wakes one side at a time. The newspaper is next with lead story: “Baghdad suicide bombers kill 147.” “Deadliest attack in two years casts doubt on Iraq’s ability to protect its population ahead of U.S. military withdrawal.” In 10 minutes I learn from AP of two car bombings that targeted government buildings killing 35 employees at the Ministry of Justice and at least 25 staff members of the Baghdad Provincial Council. At least 721 people are wounded, including three American contractors. The street had just been reopened to vehicle traffic six months ago. Blast walls had been repositioned to allow traffic closer to the government buildings. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki touted changes as a sign that safety was returning to the city.

I would later discover that cable news channels didn’t find this particularly compelling.

About 9 a.m. I settle in for the most goosed up, visually disorienting programming ever. Fox’s boxes make it hard to focus. One says “Happening Now” although what ensues is a rehash of the Great Health Care Debate, ongoing all summer. Democratic Consultant Taylor West says, “57 percent want the public option.” Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Newt Gingrich, counters, “People don’t want it. Taxpayers will pay for those that opt in.” He then proceeds to blast Maine’s health program as “defying free market principles.”

A quick cut to “Billionaire tied to Madoff found dead in pool of Palm Beach mansion.” The implication of foul play doesn’t pan out. According to the Monday paper, Jeffry Picower was discovered at the bottom of his pool Sunday afternoon and was pronounced dead at 1:30 p.m. An autopsy later shows he died of a heart attack. End of story.

Meanwhile, Fox news readers are teasing to other stories that aren’t new but are “coming up next” anyway: “Swine Flu scams on the Internet and how to protect yourself;” “New regulations for banks;” “White House strategy meeting on Afghanistan.” “Wayward Flight overshoots Minneapolis by 150 miles, pilots may have been asleep.” This happened last Wednesday and the feds hadn’t interviewed the crew yet. Everything is conjecture. We learn elsewhere the pilots actually were on their laptops.

Then Fox shows a photo of a crater in Latvia “that could have been made by a meteor.” Or is it a hoax? We never find out. Of course, Fox is rightly leery of hoaxes after its extensive coverage of “Balloon Boy” last week. Did it never occur to anyone that this could be a PR stunt?

Fox teases: “Researchers at prestigious university might have been poisoned.” AP story in the paper reads: “Six Harvard medical researchers were sickened after drinking coffee laced with a common lab chemical preservative.” The investigation has been ongoing since August.

So much for what’s “Happening Now.”

Neil Cavuto’s bit is called “Right Now” but consists of interviews on health care followed by a ridiculous sort of infomercial for “Mr. Handyman” by franchise owner John Galka showing tools used to “drill out a lock.” And I need to know this why?

And then comes Glenn Beck ranting about the “Me Generation” for which he apparently holds us all responsible. “It’s what we taught them. It’s our fault.” At least he doesn’t cry. “We must stop teaching them they get trophies whether they win or lose. When we accepted their lying, cheating, stealing and said ‘not my child’ . . . our leaders will capitalize on this.” After 30 minutes, I give up. I need a break.

When I come back, there’s O’Reilly spinning in his zone.

He’s saying “Fox News is now the most powerful news organization in the world” (or country, I’m not sure which). And Joe Klein is a coward. Apparently in Time magazine, Klein wrote of either Fox or O’Reilly: “Nobody cares about that hateful crap and seditious lies . . . to a sliver of an audience.” Good point.

When Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s press conference begins, I decide to toggle back and forth between Fox and CNN. Main difference: CNN broadcasts Reid’s remarks and answers to reporters’ questions uninterrupted; Fox cuts Reid off and inserts its own commentators’ remarks. Same deal with Obama’s address at a naval base in Florida.

Then comes Hannity: “This program is not White House approved,” he begins, then interviews Dick Morris who shamelessly promotes himself, his Web site, his book “Catastrophe” while blasting everyone left of, well, Fox News. My head is exploding.

After this, Greta Van Susteren interviewing Newt Gingrich seems absolutely sane. My ears stop ringing, my head stops spinning. Maybe there’s a slight balance here after all.

Obama has a point, but why stoop to conquer? Let’s hope it was just a moment’s lapse in dignity.

So by 11 p.m. I’m back with PBS where enlightenment is the mission, talking heads are civil and there are no goofy visuals to distort the truth. Thanks, Charlie Rose.