Media Power Defining Santorum

Over the past thirty years, a strange thing has happened on the path to the presidency.  With the advent of the twenty-four-hour news cycle and the proliferation of media outlets, potential presidential nominees can no longer control or establish their image in the minds of the public.

This is particularly true of someone whom the public does not know.  Barack Obama was a virtual unknown when he decided to run for the White House in 2007.  But he had three major characteristics that worked in his favor: 1) he was of African-American descent; 2) as Joe Biden put, it he was "clean and articulate"; and 3) he was a liberal Democrat.  He thus became the darling of the mainstream and entertainment media and nearly all the cable news outlets as well as many websites.  This set the stage for the image which settled into the minds of the majority of the public.

This image was of not only a candidate who could deliver a good speech, but also of a person who had a positive vision for America, had the interest of the people at heart, and because of his unique racial background could heal the age-old racial wounds in the country.  Obama did little beyond read his teleprompter-assisted speeches, which were full of inane platitudes, and hold his own in debates to achieve this lofty image in the minds of the people.  The overall media, Hollywood, and the entertainment press did the rest.

It is vital that presidential candidates, particularly in the Republican primary process, understand the vital importance of not allowing the overall media/entertainment cabal to establish their image in the minds of the public.  The vast majority of this group is hostile to any Republican, but in particular to conservative candidates.  

This is particularly important for anyone who is not well-known to the public and has not been on center stage for many years.

In this primary election cycle, virtually all the candidates with the exception of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were virtual unknowns, and all were easily defined and caricatured based on faux pas made during the campaign, or by personality quirks or actions and statements made in the past.  Nearly all the news reports and commentary were gross exaggerations or intentional demagoguery but nonetheless effective, as the individual candidate was unable to counter these innuendos and attacks.  Thus, these candidates were defined, and an image was embedded in the minds of the electorate.  All with the exception of Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have had to drop out of the race.

Now Rick Santorum, who was also a virtual unknown, is in the process of being defined.  His image is being cast in stone, as is often the case with first impressions.  The overall media alliance, with a major assist from the Democrat machine, is successfully painting a portrait of Santorum as a rigid theocratic ideologue whose primary motive and determination will be to move the country toward a theocracy.  That he is therefore unstable and extreme.  This is a grossly unfair and disgusting bit of character assassination, but it will be effective.

Why?  Because Rick Santorum is aiding and abetting this characterization by his willingness to discuss religious and social issues to the near-exclusion of what is the primary issue of this campaign: Barack Obama and what has happened to the country and its future under his leadership.  Unfortunately, Santorum has made many statements over the years that are easily obfuscated and taken out of context as well as confusing and difficult to explain whenever he is asked to justify them.  This is not to say that the social issues are not vital and important to the future of the country, but they are much too confusing and arcane when discussed within the context of theology and religion.

Santorum should have understood that he, if he ever became the frontrunner, would be defined as a dogmatic religious ideologue in a nation that is increasingly secular.  He did not, and he has allowed his dogged and determined campaign to now be totally focused on issues that are extraneous to this election cycle.  All the while, Barack Obama continues to sail on in calm waters while the Republicans have become bogged down in the swamp that is the agenda set by the Obama Obfuscation Alliance (the overall media, the Democratic National Committee, and the Obama re-election machine).

If it is not too late for Rick Santorum, he must, along with Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, stop being so easily manipulated and refuse to get snared in the traps set for him.  All of these candidates must focus on Obama, the economy, energy prices, unemployment, and the dangerous state of world affairs made worse by Barack Obama.  As for Santorum winning the nomination and beating Obama, that prospect has dimmed enormously, as the image of Rick established by the Alliance is becoming more set in stone by the day.