Romney's Big Problem?
That a New York Times reporter would assert that mainstream media bias is overblown really isn't news. In this case, we're talking about egregiously skewed media coverage favoring President Obama and disfavoring Mitt Romney. But New York Times reporter David Carr's article ("Tired Cries of Bias Don't Help Romney") does contain a kernel or two of truth -- truths that conservatives should consider.
Is mainstream media coverage hamstringing Mitt Romney more than Mitt Romney himself?
Carr quotes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who sums up why media bias can't be a primary thread in a campaign's narrative:
I'm not going to sit here and complain about coverage of the [Romney] campaign. As a candidate, if you do that, you're losing.
Republican candidates have had the mainstream media stacked against them for decades. As the likes of Michelle Malkin have pointed out, the mainstream media's bias in this presidential election is the most pronounced in memory.
Yet in 1980, when the Big Three networks and the big dailies still dominated news cycles, when there was no real alternative media to speak of, when the airwaves were Rush Limbaugh-less and Sean Hannity-less, Ronald Reagan went over and around the mainstream media to connect with voters to win a landslide, topping Jimmy Carter.
There are those who'll say that it's unfair to compare Mitt Romney to Ronald Reagan. Reagan, after all, was charismatic, affable, and a heckuva communicator.
That's true, and comparing Reagan to any of the subsequent GOP presidential nominees is like comparing sons to a very accomplished father. It's often hard on the boys. But what Reagan had much more of than charm and speaking ability was a deep commitment to a core set of conservative principles that defined and drove his campaign. Reagan's messaging was well-honed and sustained. Ronald Reagan didn't shy away from offering a critique of President Carter and his dismal policies, regardless the media's reaction.
What Reagan's efforts required weren't, as mentioned, charm or talent. They required Reagan's will -- his tenaciousness -- borne from clarity of purpose and a determination that his principles -- the conservative worldview -- needed to triumph over Carter's half-baked liberalism and floundering governance, for the sake of the nation's welfare and security (lest we forget that the U.S. was still fighting the Cold War).
Are voters seeing anything similar from Mitt Romney? Can the mainstream media, regardless its biases, prevent Romney from standing up and speaking out, whatever the media's disapproval?
You say the electorate that Reagan faced a generation ago was different from that faced by Romney today. The electorate is more evenly divided. Romney needs to soft-pedal his campaign, or the mainstream media could tilt the election, given the electorate's close division.
In 1980, pre-election, it wasn't at all evident that voters would break in a landslide for Reagan. Reagan trailed Carter most of the autumn. Reagan's lopsided victory wasn't sure until the very waning days of the election. Watergate and Richard Nixon's shadow hadn't receded entirely, either. Reagan had significant disadvantages and faced enormous hostility in the media and from all quarters of liberaldom ("amiable dunce" and "rightwing reactionary" ring bells?).
But you insist that Romney needs to tread carefully. While Barack Obama is arguably a bigger failure than Jimmy Carter, his being the nation's first black president, and liked by voters, and so much a media darling means that Romney can't afford to go crosswise by making a sustained case against the president's governance and his policies. Backlash, you know.
Backlash? Says who? Mr. Obama is untouchable...only if he isn't touched. The president can be whittled down to size if he's treated like a man doing a job -- poorly. Voters aren't as touchy as characterized.
The great -- and it should be great -- frustration is that the nation is facing big, big issues and getting a little election.
Indeed, Mr. Obama has every incentive to play small ball; he's failed on the big issues. The economy is anemic and headed for another deep-dip recession (or can we start using the D-word: depression?). How about a Federal Reserve that's "all in" with the president on debasing the currency and setting up the nation for an even worse economic calamity? A $16-trillion debt and counting -- does one need to say that if the nation stays on this course, collapse is inevitable (the daffy Paul Krugman, dissenting)?
The president's appeasement policies toward Arabs and Muslims are disasters. The Muslim world is aflame. America's Afghan "allies" are fragging U.S. soldiers because the president has given a date-certain for a U.S. pull-out from Afghanistan. Hey, some Afghan soldiers are hedging their bets; they don't want to be on the wrong side of the Taliban when the latter return to power. The Iraqis confer with the Iranians, who are pushing ahead with nuclear weapons capability and delivery.
Europe's elites are down to using baling wire and chewing gum to plug holes to keep the EU together. But that's not going to do the trick much longer. Insolvency and recession loom across Europe. The Great European Welfare State and Bureaucrat-dominated Experiment in Statism is failing. Its collapse will have a thunderous impact on America's shores.
Huge issues, these -- course-of-history-changing issues -- yet, an itsy-bitsy presidential election.
Yes, the mainstream media is culpable in downplaying the dangers confronting the nation. Airing said dangers would lead any semi-reasonable voter to question President Obama, his performance, his policies, and his plans. Not on the liberal media's agenda, for sure.
But how does that preclude Romney from speaking out -- unflinchingly, persistently -- about the nation's grave situation?
In other words, talk turkey to voters, Mitt. Consider saying something like this: "If the nation continues on this track under Mr. Obama's leadership we're headed for even worse times -- perilous times. The president's leadership is wanting because his ideas, beliefs, and principles are wrong, because the way he sees the world is based on false assumptions and old ideas and policies that have failed before and are failing us again now. The nation needs a return to the principles, ideas, and beliefs that have made America great -- made it a light of freedom and prosperity in a dark world dominated by tyranny, oppression, and deprivation."
Then, Governor, discuss how you'll turn things around.
Perhaps Romney will find his inner Churchill at this Wednesday's debate with President Obama. In the 1930s, Winston Churchill wasn't exactly a media darling, nor did he find much favor with large swaths of the British public, who wanted to believe Neville Chamberlain in the worst way in that the Führer was really a pussycat.
But in the teeth of outright hostility, ostracized, Churchill kept speaking out, dauntlessly, and with stubborn persistence.
Romney finds himself much better off than Churchill. Americans have a lot of horse-sense; they want Romney to acknowledge what they fear: that the nation is in deep trouble, that President Obama has made these troubles worse, and that Mitt Romney offers a way out consistent with those basic beliefs and principles that have made America great.
With thirty-odd days left before the election, Mitt Romney has time to turn the presidential contest on its head and change the course of history. No matter the liberal media's biases.