Perhaps the worst sign for Mitt Romney supporters is the obsession conservative pundits have with blaming the media for their candidate’s lack of popularity. Blaming the media is always the last recourse of a campaign in distress, and on the right it’s been a kind of security blanket, helping them avoid confronting hard realities. Rather than question whether or not their message resonates with American voters, they say it would if only the media would frame it correctly.
There’s a kind of disconnect when people who watch Fox news and listen to talk radio complain about media bias — indeed, what they’re really complaining about is that the media doesn’t share the Fox news bias!
Consider: Mitt Romney’s leaked tape was a big story – one of the biggest in the campaign, coming just over six weeks before the election. The attack in Libya was also big news, a small but deadly terror attack on the 11th anniversary of 9-11. Both got play. Tough questions were asked.
To the right: the media should be focused like a laser on Obama’s “crumbling narrative” about what happened in Libya. At least that’s claim Mona Charen makes is an especially whiney and vapid article attacking the press as being pro-Obama. So what is the “crumbling narrative?” Well, to find that you have to read a right wing interpretation of the news, since it doesn’t come from the White House.
President Obama calls the attack in Libya a terrorist attack that was coordinated, and not a spontaneous response to a movie. Beyond that they so far refuse to say more until they finish their investigation. The White House has been pretty consistent on that, even if they did criticize the intolerance and dishonesty of a video which sparked protests in other parts of the Mideast.
But the right wants a crumbling narrative, so they construct it through a patchwork of quotes taken out of context, building an artificial narrative they then can ridicule. Take a few quotes from the UN Ambassador, take another quote here or there from minor officials, ignore all the statements from the President and Secretary of State, and then claim that Obama says the attacks were purely in response to the video and weren’t terror attacks.
Huh? Oh, it gets better. They then take the President’s claim that overall this is a bump in the road in the process of change for the region and say Obama is heartlessly calling the death of a diplomat “a bump.”
To get the GOP narrative, you need The Onion! Yet, Charen claims, that’s how the press should be focused. Anything else is a pro-Obama conspiracy.
That’s it? That’s proof the press is supporting Obama? Oh, Charen says, there’s more – Obama made a gaffe in Poland a year or so ago by mistakenly saying “Polish death camps” on a visit. I remember that, the press and conservatives skewered Obama for days. But now, Charen whines, the press should be praising Romney for getting what was “basically” an endorsement from Lech Walesa, who stood up to Communism. Instead, she complains, the press covered an outburst from a Romney aide.
If this is a vast conspiracy, why does she have to reach way back to July to find evidence? And is she saying the press shouldn’t have covered the outburst? Earth to Charen, you swear at reporters it’ll get covered regardless of who does it! But the press did cover Walesa’s comments. She fails to mention that Walesa (who has some of his own scandals) did not have the support of his own party, whose leadership rejected Romney for his anti-labor stance. That doesn’t fit the narrative Charen believes the press should follow.
Either one of two things are happening. If you’re a Romney supporter, you better hope it’s the first.
1. The Romney campaign knows things are going poorly so they’re trying to pressure the press to give them good coverage. They want to get the press to tell things the way the Romney camp wants it told.
That’s fine, though Charen’s article makes a pretty poor case. But if the perception gets created that the press is unfair, they might go more gently on Romney. Can’t blame them for trying that – Kerry’s campaign made similar complaints in 2004.
2. Romneyworld is so locked into its view of reality that it truly believes they are victims of a media conspiracy and don’t understand that their campaign is the problem.
If that’s happening, Romney is toast. They’re getting poor coverage because they are running a bad campaign. This is not controversial, pundit after pundit on the right has been saying the same thing. They’re doing poorly because Romney is not a good candidate. People don’t like him, he let himself get defined by the Obama team last summer and hasn’t done much of anything to define himself.
It’s a close race, but Obama has the lead. If Romney’s going to turn it around he has to turn around his campaign. A first move is to stop whining. When you whine it reinforces the image that you’re losing. More importantly, he has to show he’s a leader. Right now Romney appears to be a follower – a moderate who has veered to the right because that’s what his campaign wants. People don’t think he believes in anything or has clear principles. He is, in essence, the anti-Reagan.
Consider Romney’s own words: “And I realize that there will be some in the Fourth Estate, or whichever estate, who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geopolitics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearization of Iran. They’ll instead try and find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough years for our country.”
Get it – the media should ONLY write about the economy, geopolitics, the threat of war, or Iran. Covering the campaign or what the candidates say, do or plan is a distraction. It doesn’t work that way, Mitt – it never has. The media cover a myriad of topics, and when an embarrassing tape is leaked, they’ll cover it. They covered Obama’s and Biden’s gaffes too. Remember all the play the Biden “in chains” comment got? These same critics and the Romney campaign were all over Biden for a week on that! And who made an out of context “you didn’t build that” quote the center point of their convention?
No matter how the right pushes the “media conspiracy” line, it’s a sure loser. It’s the Romney campaign’s fault that they’re in the position they are in. Only they can change it.