Politics & Media
Sep 14, 2012, 09:54AM

Romney Needs To Ignore Unfriendly Media Fire

The GOP candidate is right about the Mideast, and shouldn’t shy away from Obama criticism.

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Mitt Romney, unfathomably, is still unaware that as a Republican presidential candidate he’ll never get a fair shake from 90 percent of the media. It’s a fact of life for GOP pols and the sooner Romney becomes more aggressive in this campaign, understanding that by and large the electorate has diminishing respect for the self-appointed Beltway cognoscenti, the better his chances are of defeating a feckless Barack Obama on Nov. 6.

It’s hard to believe now, but George W. Bush—a far superior politician than Romney—received better notices in the media in his two presidential campaigns. One reason is that reporters, despite their political leanings, actually liked Bush; no one, even his supporters, has warmed up to Romney. Two, Bush’s opponents, Al Gore and John Kerry, never connected to their media base: Gore with his earth tones, condescension and unspoken moral castigation of Bill Clinton, came off as a prig; Kerry, the windsurfer who could’ve cut a commercial for Dijon mustard, was privately held in ridicule as a “kept man,” an aristocrat living off his flinty wife’s fortune.

But Obama’s nothing like Gore or Kerry. Yes, he’s seen as aloof, but the man’s still a cool dude. Why else would Michael Lewis, the excellent author and Vanity Fair reporter, sacrifice his dignity (and integrity) by giving Obama a rim job in the current issue of that magazine, even allowing the White House to vet the quotes in the long buddy profile?

So, what’s Romney to do, especially after the media’s mass condemnation of his comments following the attacks on U.S. embassies in Benghazi and Cairo earlier this week? (The eruption of violence and anti-American hatred continues—Yemen, Tunisia, Sudan, London—as I write, with no end in sight.) Hit harder on the ongoing turbulence, and criticize Obama for playing hide and seek on the issue. Domestically, Romney’s blown the chance to speak about the teachers’ union strike in Chicago: the smart play would be to have the media’s boogeyman, Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker by his side and condemn that union for leaving Chicago’s public school kids out in the cold. Never mind that Romney will never win the votes of the dwindling union members, he could advocate replacing those striking teachers with young and unemployed college graduates, proposing a decent salary in exchange for a three-year commitment. The lines would be around the block.

It was left to The Wall Street Journal on Thursday to put the true nature of the media’s Romney condemnation into perspective. The editorial concluded: “Throughout his candidacy, Mr. Romney has supported the necessity of America’s global leadership, sometimes against the wishes of Republican voters. His comments this week are consistent with that worldview, which is also consistent with that of every recent conservative President. His political faux pas was to offend a pundit class that wants to cede the foreign debate to Mr. Obama without thinking seriously about the trouble for America that is building in the world.”

Just a sampling from The New York Times this week demonstrates the “offense” against the “pundit class,” as the Journal suggests.

Timothy Egan (9/13): “Romney’s craven attack [on Obama] was fundamentally dishonest, riddled with errors, and premised on notions that a kook would harbor. His response was no more accurate than [the anti-Islamic film]… Romney was left sputtering in the gutter with the dredges of his party.”

Gail Collins, a Times op-ed columnist who’s poked Romney for this or that offense for over a year now, weighed in on Sept. 12: “It didn’t seem to be a lot to ask, but when the crisis in the Middle East flared up, Romney turned out to have no restraining inner core. All the uneasy feelings you got when he went to London and dissed the Olympic organizers can now come into full bloom. Feel free to worry about anything. That he’d declare war on Malta.”

Romney could make the mistake of wearing a clashing tie and shirt combo and Collins would find that a reason for his disqualification as president.

Oh, and of course Paul Krugman (9/12): “[N]ow Romney has really ensured that everyone in the news media, the GOP propaganda organs aside, is going to view him with distaste and alarm—as well they should. Romney could still win, but he has just made it harder for anyone to consider him suitable for the job.”

Amazingly, here’s what Romney may or may not realize: Democratic enablers like Krugman, Collin or Egan have continually denigrated his candidacy and that won’t change. The media is not his constituency. Presumably, Romney—unlike John McCain and Bob Dole—really wants to win the election: to make that happen, he has to speak out forcefully every day, on domestic and international issues, and ignore the vitriol.

  • Russ,Romney injected himself into an ongoing tragedy, didn't have his facts straight and generally screwed up this week. That's what the media was reacting to.//If Obama has had such an easy ride, explain that whenever I turn on Fox news some nitwit is finding something to say about him, from his Kenyen roots to his pastor. Finally, if Romney wants to be president,it would be nice if he told us why. He is bleeding support because he doesn't way what he would do, he just offers vague platitudes. It's painful to watch him and Ryan dance around, for instance, any specificity on what tax deduction they would end. They just don't do it because they don't know or to say so would hurt them with this or that demographic or special interest group. Yes, there are democratic leaning journalists. But their are just as many republican leaning journalists, probably more. The simple truth is that Romney is a disaster for the republican party.

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  • Russ, your last sentence couldn't be more on. The problem is that Romney has never expressed an interest let alone any knowledge of foriegn affairs. Other than calling Obama an appeaser and saying he, mitt, believes in a strong military, what has he ever said about specific policies or doctrines? If he wants to have a shot you are right that he needs to be forceful and vocal on a daily basis, I'd just add factual and insightful to the list. Two things he has yet to demonstrate either domestically or internationally. By the way, why haven't Putin's comments been a story? He thanked Romney for helping Putin fund a more aggressive "defense" system.

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  • So essentially you are both saying that in order to have a chance,Romney has to be a good politician. The fact remains that he isn't, that he probably is hiding a lot in his tax returns, etc. etc. If a good politician with a good organization was running against Obama--if Obama was running against Obama, so to speak--he would have a chance. There is nothing in this guys past to make it seem that he is anything but minor league.

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  • Let me ask you both this: Why do you think Romney want to be president?

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  • Romney got pushback from Republican commenters too, though, Russ. And he got pushback because when he spoke out, he got basically everything wrong, blaming Obama for something he hadn't said and for saying it when he didn't say it. He also looks ridiculous because he doesn't have any coherent criticism. What would he do differently from Obama? He hasn't said because he doesn't know. Advocating global leadership is all well and good, but what exactly should the US do? Bomb Egypt? Or what?//Making multiple errors of fact and whiningly criticizing the president without being able to offer any specifics just makes him look like a fool...which is what I fear he is.//Carl, Romney wants to be President because he's ambitious to the point of pathology. But that's true of anyone who seeks that office.

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  • I agree with what you wrote here Noah. My point in the question is that clearly anyone who would run for president is ambitious. The others also stand for something at least in most cases. Reagan stood for something. Obama stood for something. Both Bushes did. McCain did. But Romney is only the ambition. Otherwise, he couldn't have repudiated everything he seems to have stood for in public life. I truly believe the hollowness of Romney is something new. It allows him to be a psuedo birther, blow racist dog whistles, etc. The funny thing is that I don't if it makes him more or less dangerous than the others. We'll never know, since he won't be elected. And, in a strange way, I am confident that he won't be elected because I think enough people sense the vacuum, though it is verbalized by saying that they don't trust him or like him. What I think they really are saying is that they sense that there simply isn't anything there,

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  • Back to the Libya flap. The GOP's Peggy Noonan and Mark Salter both said Romney pulled a blooper. Noonan even said Romney came off like Nixon during Mitt's Libya press conference. Mark Halperin, a centrist horserace journalist, said Mitt's Libya press conference was "one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign." So, sure -- it's just the liberals complaining.

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  • But also, I agree w/ Carl about Romney's non-thereness. For me it comes with a very painful sense of someone who is trying to pass and is panicked about being found out.

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  • Noonan walked back her Romney criticism two days later, saying neither MR or Obama distinguished themselves. Salter, the former McCain confidante, is a loose cannon. The less said about Halperin the better. The larger point, I think, is how instantaneous commentary, as in minutes or a few hours after some event, is a tossed-off observation. And that's what the media's become. But still, it was liberals who comprised the vast majority of Romney-bashing on the "Libya flap."

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  • Russ, the conservatives were just as upset about what Romney did than the liberals, because what he did was stupid. What Noonan initially said undoubtedly is what she believes. Halperin leans way right. Salter is a conservative, loose cannon or not. It was just a major gaffe,period. Almost as bad as being taped saying that 47 percent of the country are dependent on the government.

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