Monday, February 09, 2015

Beat the Media, Win the White House

One of the reasons that Romney lost is that he failed to take on the media. The ultimate lost opportunity came when CNN’s debate moderator Candy Crowley directly inserted herself into the argument between Obama and Romney to declare her favorite right and Romney wrong.

Romney had won the Republican primaries, but had failed to absorb the lesson of his most tenacious opponent. Newt Gingrich did not treat the media as a neutral moderator, but as a debate opponent, challenging its premises and agendas. And so Romney was left unprepared for Crowley’s attack.

On the road to 2016, the latest crop of candidates appears to have learned nothing from Romney’s failure. In response to the media blowing up his vaccine comment, Christie issued a sensible clarification that provided more fuel for the media narrative. And the media narrative is what most people know.

They know that Christie was behind Bridgegate even though the Democrats pushing the story provided zero evidence of it. They know that Congressman Steve Scalise spoke at a Neo-Nazi event even though that never actually happened. But what they know is the story that the media tells them. Not the facts.

The media is using Christie to churn out stories framing the GOP race as a debate over vaccines while painting Republicans as opponents of vaccination. Media attacks on Republicans come in three stages. The first stage reports on an individual Republican’s action or statement. The second stage projects that on Republicans in general as part of a “Culture of X”. The third stage asks whether Republicans will ever be able to break free of the “Culture of X” with “X” being anything from racism to hatred of science.

By now we’re in the third stage. Republican opposition to vaccination has become a media meme.

In response, conservative blogs and outlets have shown that Obama and Hillary Clinton both linked vaccines to autism and that parents who don’t vaccinate tend to be wealthy Democrats.

But the media won’t report that unless the actual candidates stop debating vaccines and start using those facts to challenge its lies and hypocrisy.

A media smear campaign can’t be met with sensible clarifications. They only strengthen the smear. Christie’s clarification that he believes in measles vaccinations has allowed the media to begin spinning him as flip-flopping on vaccines. Any further statements explaining his views will be used to continue reporting on the manufactured story of the “Republican vaccine controversy.”

The only way to break the cycle is for Republicans to stop explaining themselves and to challenge the narrative. The narrative is a lie, but no one will ever know that if the candidates don’t challenge it.

Sensible clarifications might have worked in 1955. They might have even worked in 1985. But they’re completely useless today. No doubt the fact that Obama and Hillary were vaccine skeptics will be acknowledged somewhere near the bottom of a Washington Post fact check of a Hillary commercial that blames her opponent for spreading disease and killing children. Maybe as many as five people will read it.

Today’s media has less respect for the truth than an elevator full of con artists. As bad as it is most of the time, it gets worse during national campaigns when it begins manufacturing scandals and then reporting on them and then demanding that the candidates respond to its narratives as if they were real issues.

And Republicans keep falling for it

The road to the White House is over the crushed and mangled narratives of the media. A Republican candidate who fails to take on the media will fall wrapped head to toe in lies and scandals. He will go on issuing clarifications and sensible statements while the media accuses him of murdering small children.

The media is not impartial. It is not even a forum. The national media is the political opponent of every Republican running for the White House.

It needs to be treated that way.

When CNN’s John King tried to drag Newt Gingrich through the dirt in a primary debate, Gingrich dragged the media through the dirt instead, describing it as “destructive”, “vicious” and “negative”. He turned the tables by putting the media and its motives up on the stage. He refused to treat John King as a journalist who had the right to hold him accountable. Instead he fought to hold King accountable.

And that’s something that any Republican candidate can do.

The public doesn’t like the media. Poll after poll shows that they don’t trust the media. They listen to what the media tells them because Republicans meekly play out their parts in the media’s smear campaigns the way that ISIS hostages do what they’re told even while their heads are being cut off.

When the media attacks, the issue should never be the credibility of a Republican candidate. The issue must always be the credibility of the media. It must be the credibility of the politicians being protected by the press. If Christie and Paul had based all of their replies around the fact that their positions are basically the same as those of Obama and Hillary, the media’s entire story would have collapsed.

The media would have been unable to move forward with the story without quoting the candidates, relegating the whole thing to the backwaters of the left in places like Salon and Slate. Instead the story is everywhere. And the only people who can kill it are the Republican targets of the smear campaign.

Conservative media outlets do their part, but they need Republicans to do theirs. The media buried Romney’s dog story when Republicans tepidly picked on the conservative media’s response that Obama had eaten dog. But when Republicans sit and take it, then they become the victims of the media.

The media counts on Republicans playing defense. When Republicans go on the attack, when they challenge premises and the moral authority of the press, then phony scandals suddenly fizzle out.

Republicans wouldn’t roll over and play dead for their opponents. Why do they do it for the media?

Obama understood that being able to control your message and your brand is the most important element of modern politics. He shut out the media by using a small clique of influential friendly journalists for heavy interviews while doing light chats with everyone from YouTube celebrities to late night talk show hosts. He has his own photographer who distributes photos for the press to use.

When there’s a controversy, the White House leaks an anonymous response. Its spokesmen divert and delay. They make fools of themselves to protect Obama. Their main goal is to deny the press a useable quote and they accomplish their real purpose of making the press briefings a waste of the press’ time.

If Obama distrusts and shuts out the press even though it licks his boots, why do Republicans play ball with it only to get a kick in the teeth?

The media was Obama’s messaging machine. It is becoming Hillary’s spin system. If Republicans passively submit to it, then the media will define them and 2016 will become a rerun of 2012.

2016 won’t just be a race against Hillary, but against the media. The media needs Republicans to tie the noose around their own necks by acknowledging the media’s credibility as investigators and reporters.

When Republicans provide the media with credibility, they lose.


Fisk Ellington Rutledge III said...

Republicans actually do roll over for their opponents. Romney heavily censored himself while running against Obama, and was about as tepid and mealy-mouthed as it’s possible to get. All he talked about was adjusting the economy. He sounded like some kind of Asperger's-afflicted accountant.

The current Republican Party is led by a bunch of unprincipled cowards and traitors who are little better than familiars and errand boys for that affirmative-action parasite currently infesting the White House.

At a time when we are in a severe, government-caused, economic depression, we desperately need a complete moratorium on ALL immigration, total deportation of ALL illegal aliens, a moratorium on new citizenships, an END to affirmative action and a draconian program to encourage as many third-world aliens as possible to leave the U.S. If we did all these things we would have a chance of saving the U.S., but our traitorous Republican leadership isn't even talking about these things.

It is literally insane and self-destructive for these quislings to want to swamp the U.S. with millions more third-world savages.

It's time for a third party that will aggressively, openly express contempt for politically-correct, Leftist tyranny, and loudly push for an end to ALL third-world immigration as well as summarily deporting ALL third-world aliens. There is no other problem that is as urgent as the immigration disaster.

Ainsley said...

Fantastic, yes, yes. Exactly. It's here too, in Oz, the confected scandals, the curious amnesia.

Charming Richard said...

Romney lost because righteous conservatives rejected his panty-waist reaction to "Fatso" Crowley. At that precise moment, frozen in time and history, the look on his perplexed face sealed his fate forever.

At once, his rich-boy prep school prankster inner jello gut revealed he didn't have the balls to even 'fight like a girl.' He had Obama on the ropes and allowed "Fatso" to bully him into not delivering the knockout punch.

Out of touch and out of mind, goodbye "Mittens," it was not nice knowing you.

Anonymous said...

This is likely the most important advice to GOP candidates for 2016 and they should all be duct taped to chairs with toothpicks holding their eyelids open and forced to watch it, perhaps commit it to memory.

I would offer them one other suggestion, that with every opportunity to answer a "journalist's" question or accusation, GOP candidates should refer to them as Brian Williams. "Yes, Brian Williams, I'm happy to straighten you out on that." Or, "You're wrong, Brian Williams, here are the facts". Brian Williams is in the culture and thus in the minds of the electorate. It's name recognition and it should be exploited by the GOP.

Brooks Imperial said...

The media aren't the only group the Republicans won't challenge. It's now February. Boehner and McConnell have yet to present the president with a single bill of veto-able legislation.

Anonymous said...

Could you please send this op-ed to every conservative candidate across the nation?
One would think that the people running for office would understand this simple thing, but no...

Fat Man said...

I, for one, hope that Brian Williams is retained as the anchorman of NBC Nightly News and the face of NBC's News Division for many long and healthy years.

I also hope that the American people see that face, remember his lies, and know that every word that comes from the alphabet networks, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the rest of the mainstream media, is a lie, including, "a", "and", and "the".

TotallyPeeved said...

One of the few times I disagree with you, Mr. Greenfield. The republicans aren't "falling" for anything. They are complicit in the Hot Air Theater that is politics.

Anonymous said...

When Newt drove his shoe up John King's ass I stood up at home and cheered!

Johnny said...

Romney seemed to me like a man from another era, a nicer time when politics was less combative. It was almost like he had a gentleman's agreement to run for reasons of honor, but did not expect to win.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely correct. If Romney in his sum up had told the American people that Candy Crowleys partisanship was typical of the "Obama thrill down the leg" bias, and stuck Obama with the "trip to Vegas the day after the brutal killing" he would have had a good chance. He (and we) paid dearly for Romney's failure to use Crowley, and paid for pussy footing around Obama.

Nicholas Darkwater said...

Newt vs King - yes. I would add Newt's blistering reply to Scott Pelley's condescending argument that killing terrorists was "not the rule of laawww."

Anonymous said...

in the case of another civil war in the u.s. that some people (whose other predictions have been correct) are beginning to predict, and the bullets start flying, the media better understand that some people will not consider them as neutral; they will be considered fair game-because they are in large part the reason our country is in the state its in

even a former carter administration official, pat caddel, has gone on record stating that the media in the u.s. has abandoned its constitutional role and is not only a threat to our democracy, but an enemy to the people of the united states

Anonymous said...

Gringrich was an improvement but not a solution. His was more of a debating tactic. We all know he goes right of his political Republican opponents and then cuts deals with the Dems.

Republicans deal with the media they way they deal with any large corporation. As servants and turncoats towards the people they serve. The only way to punish the media is not to debate it. It is to make sure alternative outlets, bloggers, etc. that are honorable become successful. That means a tea party type solution by citizens and politicians. Republican establishment will not participate. They will look to see if the media company is on NASDAQ. If it is they will be servile if not they will be hostile.

RAM said...

The timid Republicans fear that the media would put THEM out of office.

Arimathean said...

You correctly point out the problem, but your proposed solution is a fantasy. If Republicans wanted to fight back against the mainstream media's lies, how would they get that message out? The media will not report anything negative about themselves, and there is no way to make them do so. The Republican counter-attack would be reported by you, and maybe Newsmax, but ignored by all other media.

Republicans have only one opportunity to get their message out without media filtering: the Presidential debates. That's it. Yes, Romney should have taken on Crowley - that's obvious in retrospect. In the moment, however, he was completely taken aback by Crowley's cheating. A proper response would have required by spontaneity and assertiveness - not Romney's strong suits. The next time, however, no Republican will be unprepared for such cheating by the debate moderator.

Republicans are timid because they are trying to win. The first Republican who takes on the media will be crucified by those same media. He might be able to take the mainstream media down with him, but he will not win the White House. We need an outspoken conservative to play the role of the sacrificial lamb. We will never elect another Reagan until we put forward a Goldwater to prepare the way - someone who will flagrantly transgress the bounds of political correctness because he would rather be right than President.

fsy said...

No genuine conservative should want to be in the White House, although the rest of us would be happy if he was there. Why would anyone want to be in charge of the biggest welfare bureaucracy in history? A conservative President would have the choice of ignoring the laws (and probable getting himself impeached) or enforcing them to perpetuate the big-govt. mess we have.

Probably the only hope is secession, but the small and evidently inconsequential victories in Congress seem to have dampened any interest in that.

Anonymous said...


SabaShimon said...

Say what you will about Josef Goebbels and his hideous cohorts, he got this one right:
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State"

Anonymous said...

Sure, Romney stuffed up during the second debate at the crucial moment, but he did very well in the first debate. I don't see why he couldn't learn from his mistakes. If he really wanted to have another go, he at least is a known commodity, and everything who regrets having chosen Obama, might move to him. A prepared hard-hitting Romney who has learned his lesson could be a success on round 3.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why Republicans accept debate moderators from the biased press. Why not demand that the moderators come from a broad variety of media outlets? Even Fox, pitiful as it is, has not been included.

Another piece of advice Republicans need is not to cave on issues of importance to their own voters. Every time they do, they are admitting that they think the Democrats have been right all along. That discourages us from taking them seriously. I thought Romney was a decent guy who would have made a much better President than Obama, but he apparently did not realize what he was up against. Republican candidates will be asked about evolution, abortion, same sex marriage, and economic inequality. They'd better have better answers than I've heard so far or they will not be getting my vote.

Gary Rosen said...

Arimathean, I have had the exact same thought. The MFM is so far gone that it will take more than one election cycle to break their power and some national Republican candidate has to go out there and call them out on their BS, damn the consequences.

Drow Ranger said...

These days I have to wonder what's in the water in Washington. What is it that turns perfectly good Republicans into grovelling backside kissers? Or were they RINOs all along and just failed to tell everybody? Are they afraid of not getting invited to the right cocktail parties?

Seriously just what is wrong with Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and the rest of that crew?

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