Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why media conservatives hate John McCain

One of the most frustrating aspects of this election season has been the willingness of our allies in the conservative media to outsmart themselves by supporting liberal Republicans. Some of them latched on to one of these "moderates" from day one. The most egregious example of this tendency is Sean Hannity, who must feel a bit foolish for his slavish promotion of Giuliani, given Rudy's inglorious performance at the polls.

Hugh Hewitt also gets raspberries for becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Romney, Inc. One wonders if the FEC will be investigating Hewitt for all the free advertising he has given the Republican version of John Kerry. Personally, I'm more than a little insulted by Hewitt's shameless pumping of liberal Mitt under a micro-thin pretense of impartiality. I hope his audience share has suffered accordingly.

Other hosts, not nearly so audacious in their error (Rush Limbaugh most predominant among them), withheld their support from good conservative candidates until it was too late to do much good.

So now three weak sisters remain, with John McCain appearing as the most likely to limp to the nomination. Yet somehow, someway, the media conservatives have decided to rally around Mitt Romney who is perhaps the most liberal of the remaining three in terms of his record. With the sole exception of Michael Medved who, after a worrisome start, has been a level-headed, equal-access paragon of Republican impartiality throughout this extended campaign, the vast majority of media conservatives are now going after McCain hammer and tongs.

Which brings me to a quesiton that's been haunting me for the past month: What's so bad about John McCain that the supposed lights of the conservative movement would rather support a pandering, phony, northeastern liberal like Mitt Romney? I'm no fan of McCain, myself. Indeed, I've called him just about every name in the book over the past eight years. But at least with McCain, you know what you're getting and we can gear up for a serious fight after he gets elected.

With Romney, the GOP base is likely to be lulled into a false sense of security--until he goes Arlen Specter on us. Mitt had a strange propensity in Massachusetts to allow liberalism to advance on all fronts--and help it from behind the scenes--while putting on a dog-and-pony show of opposition. A crypto-liberal like Romney in the White House would be infinitely more dangerous to conservative causes than a mushy moderate like McCain. And given what has happened to the GOP in Massachusetts post-Romney, conservatives could be looking at another 40 years in the wilderness following a Romney term.

So why are these intelligent, plugged-in media conservatives willing to get on board the Romney bandwagon and reject McCain with extreme prejudice? It has to be more than mere political differences. Here's a theory that popped into my head to explain this phenomenon: the animus displayed by media conservatives toward McCain comes not from any true ideological difference, but mainly from fear that McCain would threaten their livelihood.

Last night, I got a bit of confirmation of this theory. A talkshow host who frequents a major forum posted the following:
McCain is a disaster...This should concern all conservatives, in and out of talk radio....At least the best in talk radio, and most of talk radio’s audience, have tried to stop this day from coming....But you go ahead and attack talk radio. I am sure McCain, with his great regard for the First Amendment and the Constitution, will be working with Kennedy, et al, to punish it.
I'm not saying this statement is wrong. McCain has shown himself to be on the wrong side of this issue with his ludicrous campaign finance "reform" act. But let's remember, McCain & Feingold may have been the catalysts for this piece of legislation--but President Bush signed it. I don't recall too many media conservatives holding a similar long-standing grudge against the President for his part in limiting their speech.

What I want to know from our friends in conservative media is this:

1. Is your extreme negative position on McCain based predominantly on worries about your ability to continue to make a (very) comfortable living in a McCain administration?

2. Has Mitt Romney made any soto voce promises to leave talk-radio alone?

I think we, your audience, have a right to know. If that's the case--fine. Come out and say it publicly and make it clear that you are not simply making a political case for "anyone but McCain" but are also lobbying to preserve your livelihood. Otherwise, all this vitriol about how awful and liberal McCain is and how conservatives need to rally around an even bigger liberal like Mitt Romney makes no sense...

...unless you guys really have become more media than conservative.

1 comment:

Jeff Miller said...

I listen to Hugh and I am not a Romney fan, but he pratcies what he preaches. He always tells journalist that they should be above board with their biases and preferences so that the audience can judge what they say.

I doubt that talk radio conservatives angst against McCain has anything to do with their livelihood. After all it is not just media conservatives that are upset with McCain, though I think they blindly see Romney as carrying the conservative flag. It is McCain's tendency to be more flattering of liberals than conservatives.

I don't think any major hosts are concerned that McCain will enact a new fairness doctrine.