Friday, February 23, 2007

Vanity Radio -- Rebuttal to Michael Medved's RINO love letter

Michael Medved is one of the most astute and persuasive hosts on conservative talk radio. Occasionally, individuals call into his show to champion hopeless third party candidacies—usually on “disagreement day”. These conversations are always good for a chuckle as Michael lays into the callers and disparages them as members of the “Losertarian” or “Constipation” parties. As Michael rightly points out, these parties are generally populated by cranks, weirdos, and guys who like to pretend to be part of the process by doing the political equivalent of “playing house.”

As a result, votes cast for third party candidates are wasted, Medved opines. If one has a problem with the candidates fielded by the major parties in a general election, the proper time to dispose of them is in the primaries.

Surprisingly, we now find out that Mr. Medved isn’t even all that big a fan of the primary process.

In his latest article, posted here on, Medved argues that Republicans always nominate their frontrunners. Well, always, at least, since 1960. And only if you assume that Dole was actually still the frontrunner after early loses in New Hampshire, Alaska, and Louisiana to Pat Buchanan in 1996. As a result, it is necessary—so the argument goes—that conservatives become slaves to history and rally around our so-called frontrunners right now, a full year before the first primaries.

Of course, Mr. Medved is selective in his use of history. When was the last time an out-and-proud pro-abortion extremist got the Republican nod for the presidency and won? When was the last time a bona-fide gun control advocate won the Republican nomination? When was the last time the GOP standard bearer was a fellow whose last elective office was mayor? I suspect that Mr. Medved will cavalierly lay aside those bits of history when considering the candidates, however.

It happens that our so-called frontrunners at this point are three fellows whose names usually evoke revulsion among the conservative activists who know them best. And what made these three the front-runners over a year from the first primary? Name recognition (much of it negative) and their connection to big money interests. The fact that all three of these guys hold, held, or are in the process of changing positions on key issues that will make them about as popular as the Hanta virus with the Republican base apparently has no bearing on the equation. To summarize:

Simply put, Mr. Giuliani is unelectable as a Republican. Perhaps that’s why his campaign at first didn’t bother to check off the “Republican” box on the official paperwork. To those of us here in the Northeast who remember his tenure as mayor of New York City, we know precisely what kind of creature Mr. Giuliani is—a hard-core liberal. He enacted some of the most stringent anti-2nd Amendment laws in the country as mayor of New York and helped kick off the spate of lawsuits against gun manufacturers. He is arguably more pro-gay-agenda than Hillary Clinton herself. Some advocates like to tout his record of tax-cutting in New York, but it’s a no-brainer to cut taxes when they’re already well passed the peak of the Laffer Curve. If being a tax cutter were the only criteria for getting the Republican nomination, we could simply hand Ed Rendell the job as he did much the same thing in Philadelphia. Giuliani has gladly accepted campaign contributions from the National Abortion Rights Action League, opposed banning partial-birth abortion, and advocated taxpayer funding for abortion. The Pro-Life Federation of Michigan has already given Giuliani an “F” on the issue and more will no doubt follow.

John McCain’s got a different set of problems. While his organization may be good, and his record is rather more conservative than Mr. Giuliani’s, Mr. McCain was the leader of the infamous Gang of 14 that hampered Republican efforts in the Senate and made the party leadership look weak and pathetic. As a result, his antics must bear partial responsibility for the subsequent loss of the Senate, which to many Americans appeared to be a feckless do-nothing body while in the hands of the Republicans. McCain also has his name on one of the most nefarious pieces of legislation ever to escape the Congress, get signed by the president, and not get knocked down by the Supreme Court: McCain/Feingold. That he’s the darling of the mainstream media and one of the first people Tim Russert runs to when he needs a Republican to bash his own party doesn’t endear him to the Republican grassroots either.

As for Mitt Romney, he may well turn out to be the Republican version of John Kerry—a Massachusetts pol with nice hair who will say anything, take any position, or repudiate any past position to get elected. And it might be enough to get him the Republican nomination. But we should all cringe when that thought crosses our minds. Democrats were phenomenally effective in the 2006 election cycle running issue ads against good Republicans attacking them from the right. We saw that locally in Pennsylvania with Rick Santorum who was attacked relentlessly and disingenuously for being soft on illegal immigration based on some legislation he had supported earlier in his Senate career. Mind you, these ads didn’t claim that his opponent would be any better—but they were horribly effective at making conservatives think that Santorum had “sold out.” A guy like Mitt Romney has a lot more liberal baggage than Rick Santorum ever did, having tried to out-liberal Ted Kennedy when he ran against him in 1994. Should he win the nomination, the media attack machine will have plenty of ammo to make him completely toxic to the Republican base starting the day after the convention.

Our three anointed “frontrunners” all have feet, legs, and torsos of clay. Despite this, Mr. Medved believes that we have no choice but to remain slaves to his version of history and line-up behind one of them. Of course, our opponents in the Democrat party are under no such obligation. When has a former First Lady been nominated for president? What about a one-term Black Senator?

I say hogwash. This is a strange election cycle. There is no Republican heir-apparent and the so-called front-runners are all out of phase with the base of the party. That there are three of them means that they will split the moderate vote and those fear-motivated conservatives who can be stampeded into their camps. A dark-horse candidate with authentic conservative credentials could easily emerge and win this race.

My choice for dark horse at this point is Duncan Hunter. A solid conservative and decorated Vietnam Veteran, Hunter could not be written off as a chicken hawk on the War on Terror—his son served two tours in Iraq. He’s been strong on abortion issues and would rally the pro-life segment of the base. He has received a solid 100 rating from Concerned Women for America since 2003. He’s got an “A” rating from the NRA. He’s a “fair trader” in the style of Ronald Reagan which means he’s got a shot at blue-collar Democrat and Independent voters, and has been a powerful advocate for a strong military since he was first elected in 1980.

The fact that hosts like Mr. Medved have already written off such a seemingly strong candidate is alarming. I noticed in the list of “minor” candidates Medved has invited to appear on the show, Mr. Hunter’s name wasn’t on there. I’m guessing this was an oversight on his part. (Surely, Mr. Hunter has been invited, right Michael?) Hosts like Medved, Hannity, and of course, the big kahuna of them all, Rush Limbaugh, could put a second tier candidate with a strong conservative resume and low name-recognition on the map in a fortnight simply by treating them the same way that they treat the so-called “front-runners” and not writing them off as “vanity candidates.”

Based on his last two columns, it seems fairly clear to me that Michael Medved is about to go into the tank for political snake-oil salesman Rudy Giuliani and that’s a shame. If he does so, he should be careful considering where his bread is buttered. The audience for his show could very well dwindle to the point where it becomes “vanity radio.”