Romney Must Go on Offense on Media, Middle East

Mitt Romney is not going to win the White House if he doesn’t speak in plain terms about the true nature of this election campaign.   

That is, if Romney doesn’t stand up and point out the obvious--that he’s not going one on one with Barack Obama, but rather one on two, with Obama being helped by the Main Stream Media--then he has no chance of rallying the support he needs to win the election. In a football game, a team can’t win if the referees are helping the other team. And in the Romney vs. Obama Bowl, the refs aren’t just calling the plays in favor of Obama; they are out on the field trying to tackle Romney themselves.  

If Romney were to call out the media, he would not only get points for telling the truth, but he would also get points for courage. In other words, in standing up to the press on the national stage, Romney would upend two damaging clichés about his own persona: first, that he is a truth-shading maneuverer, and second, that he is not a bold and courageous leader.

It’s one thing for the media to strongly favor President Obama over Mitt Romney. We’re used to that. And if the issue at hand was merely partisanship, that wouldn’t be such a big deal to most Americans--I, to name one, am not a Republican.   

However, the real issues we face are, in fact, much bigger and more serious than mere red vs. blue political combat. To put the the matter as starkly as possible, America faces a crisis of media legitimacy at home and a crisis of national security abroad.  

Let’s look at each in turn: 

The crisis of media legitimacy is the willingness--make that eagerness--of the press to walk away from its own proper mission in a free society and instead take on the guise of partisan cheerleading--and interfering.  

So it’s one thing for the MSM to strongly favor Obama over Romney. We’re used to that. But when Obama favors the media over the Constitution--when for example, the administration ignores Congress’s legitimate role in foreign policy-making--that’s a different story. Or it would be a different story, if the media were to put any real focus on it. But of course, reporters are so busy helping Obama that they ignore Constitutional foreign policy concerns in their rush to praise Obama and kibosh Romney.    

Yet even now, with just six weeks to go before the election, Romney could turn this election around if he could go on the offensive on multiple fronts, against Obama supporters in the media, and--even more crucially--against Barack Obama on the Middle East. In the paragraphs to follow, we will explain how Romney could do it.  

A recent small item in the news--it shouldn’t be small, but it is--illustrates, yet again, the media’s mendacity. A headline in Saturday’s edition of The Hill was plain enough: “Senate GOP furious NYT got better Obama briefing on Libya attack.” That is, the administration gave more information to the media than to the US Senate.  

To put it another way: the Administration does not want to provide Congress with details on events in Libya that led to the death of the US ambassador. In other words, ignoring the clear Constitutional mandate for the executive branch to consult closely with the legislative branch, the Obama administration does not want to share information with the so-called loyal opposition. Instead, the Obamans are happily sharing information with their loyal supporters in the media, counting on those friendly journalists to provide the best possible spin on the Libya story.   

Admittedly, this is a bleak interpretation. But don’t take my word for it. Here are quotes from US Senators themselves, expressing outrage at the “briefing” they received on Thursday from top Obama officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:  

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee: “That is the most useless, worthless briefing I have attended in a long time.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “You pick up The New York Times and you get a blow-by-blow description of what supposedly went on.” In other words, the Times was able to provide, thanks to the administrations helpfulness, a detailed chronicle of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ last moments before he was killed in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11. 

Sen. John McCain of Arizona: “If that isn’t an incredible disrespect to the members of the United States Senate, I don’t know what is. It’s an example of the disdain with which this body is held by the administration, including, I’m sorry to say, the Secretary of State. She didn’t talk about anything.” 

These three Senators are all Republicans; the Democratic Senators attending the same briefing were not so overtly critical. Yet it’s hard to imagine that Democratic Senators found the briefing to be more informative; in the past, Democratic Senators such as Dianne Feinstein have been willing to denounce uninformative intelligence briefings. Yet because November 6 is drawing near, it’s easier to imagine that Democrats simply chose to hold their tongue, rather than be accused of damaging Obama’s re-election. 

Yes, of course, all Senators of both parties should be more interested in our national well-being than in partisan politics, but senatorial actions speak for themselves. Thus the American people would do well to remember this conspiracy of silence among top Democrats, because it means that administration incompetence will not be held to account. And that lack of accountability is not only an injustice to the four dead Americans in Libya but also a future risk-factor for Americans everywhere.       

Yet the MSM were happy mostly to ignore the story of this non-briefing briefing, which is why we had to find it in The Hill, a worthy but decidedly niche publication. 

Such incidents of media abuse occur daily, of course. The larger phenomenon is that the MSM wishes to decide what truth we can know and what truth we can’t know. And so it is that on the “round table” portions of the MSM Sunday morning interview shows this past weekend, the hosts and guests devoted their political “analysis” commentary to Romney’s campaign miscues while ignoring the political impact on Obama of Americans being killed and embassies on fire.   

Still, facts are stubborn things, and the facts increasingly point toward the conclusion that the Obama administration has made huge blunders in the Middle East, starting with Libya.  

And so we come to the second crisis, the crisis of national security. Even this media are having a hard time keeping that story under wraps.  

Eli Lake, writing for Tina Brown’s left-leaning website, The Daily Beast, wrote on Friday of the “continuing collapse of the official US line”--that is, the line that Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in a spasm of violence caused by a stupid little Mohammed video, as opposed to a well-planned terrorist operation. In other words, unanswerable questions have arisen, and the evidence that media are colluding with the Obama administration continues to mount.  

Why is this distinction between the two versions of Libyan events important? It’s important because if, in fact, the US was hit by another terrorist attack on September 11, 2012, for which it was unprepared, what does that say about the Obama administration? Can anyone say that the State Department was well prepared for danger--on an obvious, neon-sign anniversary?    

Maybe that’s why it took more than a week for the administration to acknowledge that the Benghazi violence was terrorism, because it didn’t want to admit its own failings, preferring to portray the violence as just-one-of-those-things. Indeed, we now know, nearly two weeks later, that the attack was possibly masterminded by the released Gitmo prisoner Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamouda--which is to say, it was indeed hardcore terrorism.    

The administration is hoping that if it can put enough time between the actual events of 9/11/12 and the ultimate public understanding of those events, the impact of the realization--that the US was unprepared for terrorism on an obvious terrorism anniversary--will be thereby softened. And if, in the meantime, the public consciousness can be cluttered up with a mostly non-story--made into a big story by a servile media--about Romney’s off-the-cuff comments at a Florida fundraiser four months ago, all the better.  

Oh, and should we mention now that the Obama administration seems poised to release--oops, make that “transfer” to non-secure facilities--another 55 Gitmo prisoners? Or does that bit of news need to be mostly ignored, too, in the service of Obama’s re-election?  

If this had been any other president--including a Democrat I worked for, Jimmy Carter, and another Democrat, Bill Clinton--the coverage would have been dramatically different. Consider: on September 12 of this year, the day after the killings in Libya, Obama does a little Oval Office work and then hops on Air Force One to Las Vegas for a fundraiser and rally. Vegas! And the press is cool with that.  

But now let’s time travel back seven years, to the notorious moment when, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush chose to fly over flood-stricken New Orleans. It was perhaps the worst moment of Bush’s presidency; 43 was rightly cudgeled for it. And so, of course, the incident haunts Bush to this day. But one big reason that the Katrina flyover picture haunts 43 him is that the media never fail to rub it in. And the media could have rubbed in the point that Obama flew to Vegas in the middle of a national crisis--but, of course, reporters chose not to. Nothing Obama does wrong get any sort of attention in the middle of his re-election campaign, including his foolish “bump in the road” comment.  

So there we see how the two crises--the crisis of media legitimacy, and the crisis of national security--come together to both mislead and endanger the American people. Standing up to that does not require partisanship; it requires patriotism. 

Yet even amidst this MSM pile-on against Romney and its cover-up in favor of Obama, something interesting is happening. According to two different pollsRomney finds himself in a tie with Obama. Other findings, to be sure, show Obama to be ahead, but all the polls, collectively, show the national race to be tight, even as the press continues to savage Romney.    

However, the MSM, always eager to find new ways to help Obama, have hit upon a new polling strategy. They take polls in key states that assume a 2012 electorate more Democratic than the 2008 electorate. And then they hype those findings, which always show Obama to be ahead. That’s what The Washington Post did just on Tuesday when it found Obama to be ahead of Romney in Ohio by eight points and ahead, too, in Florida by four points.   

So what we are seeing here is a new kind of negative advertising, and it’s undeniably effective. Good polls for Obama understandably motivate both donors and volunteers, while bad polls for Romney are de-motivating. And of course, the MSM then come along and publish stories that feed the narrative, such as the Post’s story on Tuesday, headlined, “Obama lead in Ohio, edge in Fla. hamper Romney path to victory.” These “news” stories thus become the new narrative.   

The Washington Post and The New York Times are exceptionally egregious on this point; they are polling, seemingly, as often as the campaigns themselves. And these polls are not cheap; each one for a state costs thousands and thousands of dollars. In a just world, these would be counted as in-kind contributions, and even inattentive Americans would see the MSM for what it is--an adjunct to the Obama campaign.   

Yet we might ask: aren’t the newspapers supposed to be broke nowadays? Nonetheless, they find money for endless polling. Either political affection for Obama has reached new heights, or maybe Fourth Estaters really do think that Obama will engineer some sort of bailout for them after the election. 

Yet even so, Romney is still in the game, even if he is behind. Yes, the journalists and pundits--including some on the right--have declared his campaign to be “over,” but Romney could still win.  

Why? We can identify two possible explanations: 

First, the public is more concerned about real things--the slow economy and the sharp erosion of the US position in the Middle East--than about mostly media-concocted “controversies” over various Romney statements. That is, people are more interested in economic and geopolitical reality than they are in mere teapot-tempest words.  

Second, the public is finally on to such media shenanigans, and that’s good news for Romney. Indeed, a new Gallup poll shows that Americans believe that the journalistic establishment is more biased than ever.

The survey found that distrust of the news media is at an all-time high; 60 percent of Americans say that they have “not much” or “none at all” confidence in the media, compared to just 40 percent who have “a great deal” or “a fair amount.” It’s interesting to note that the percentage of undecideds is exactly zero; evidently, everyone has an opinion of the news media. And for good reason. As Gallup put it: 

The current gap between negative and positive views -- 20 percentage points -- is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher, and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 -- as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.  

Indeed, Gallup further shows that trust in the media is well below 40 percent not only for Republicans but also for independents; it’s only the strong support for the media among Democrats that pushes the trust factor even up to the meager levels that Gallup records.

And this we-don’t-trust-the-media dynamic could be helping Romney a little. What makes us think this is possible? Because, after three weeks of especially withering and one-sided press coverage, much of the public is not only rejecting the MSM narrative but also sticking by Romney, perhaps as a way of showing independence from the MSM. In other words, as folks watch the MSM pound on Romney, they are thinking to themselves, well, if the despised MSM despises Romney, then Romney can’t be all bad. As the proverb says, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And so the media’s ham-fisted attempts to knock Romney out of the race are, instead, boomeranging--building up more public support for the Republican challenger.

Yet as we have seen, Romney is no better than tied in the polls with Obama. If he wants actually  to win in November, he needs to step up his game--and name names. 

Yes, he has to keep attacking Obama for his failings on the economy. But since Romney’s own economic message has been garbled by Romney’s own business record, the economic message will not be enough. So in addition, he needs to open up a “second front” on foreign policy--specifically, the Middle East.   

In addition, Romney needs to keep reminding the American people that the MSM are trying to decide this election for them, handing another four years to the incumbent. And so, Romney could argue, if people don’t want to live under a media dictatorship, they should disclaim the media and vote for him. While it might seem counter-intuitive for him to divide his fire, attacking both Obama and the MSM, the reality is that the political energy he would gain from attacking the unpopular media would more than compensate for any division of fire.    

It’s important to pause and make the point that Romney can’t just whine about his press coverage--by itself, that just makes him look weak. Instead, he needs to name names. He needs to be very specific, point by point, and then, at the same time, cast all of those points into a picture. He needs to connect the dots. And of course, he needs allies, among politicians and in the media, to help reinforce his argument. It’s the creation of this counter-narrative that could turn the tide. Romney needs to say something like: 

The media aren’t just being unfair to me--they being unfair to you, the voters. They are doing everything in their power to steal this election from the voters so that they can decide it by themselves. They want to have all the power, and to get it, they have to hide the truth from you.  

If Romney can do that, he can still change this game. If the reporters are on the field trying to tackle the Republican candidate, he needs to point that out to the fans in the bleachers. After all, ordinary folks don’t like to see a fixed fight. 

So this is Romney’s mission in two parts, if he is able to accept it: 

First, go on the offensive on foreign policy. To help bolster his case, the Republican  could pluck out the writings of his few friends in the media. For example, he could read aloud to audiences Charles Krauthammer’s latest column, bluntly entitled, “Collapse of the Cairo Doctrine,” referring to Obama’s ill-fated speech in Cairo three years ago. And he could also read aloud an editorial from The Wall Street Journal, “The Post-American Middle East,” lamenting the dangerous eclipse of American power in that crucial region.  

Indeed, from Tunisia to Pakistan, the whole premise of Obama’s foreign policy--that through his charm and charisma, the President could achieve a new era of good feeling with Muslims--has collapsed. That’s the best word for it: collapse.  

And at the center of it all, like a spider in the middle of its sinister web, is Iran, a sworn enemy of the United States and its allies. So while the Obama administration seems content with a “containment” strategy--that is, hopefully containing Iran’s nuclear program and definitely containing Israel’s anti-nuclear efforts--a new poll for Secure America Now (SAN), a group with which I am associated, finds that Americans are much more concerned about Iran and national security than the MSM would have us believe.

The SAN poll surveyed voters in two key swing states, Florida and Ohio, finding that 76 percent of Floridians and 70 percent of Ohioans fear that a nuclear-empowered Iran would deliver a nuclear weapon to terrorist groups in order to attack the US. Meanwhile, two-thirds of voters in both states think that the Obama administration’s approach of diplomacy and sanctions will not succeed in thwarting Iran’s nuclear efforts. 

Indeed, as one digs through the SAN cross-tabs, we see other compelling points. For example, pluralities of both Floridians and Ohioans think that Obama’s Middle East diplomacy has made the situation worse. 

And it’s not just the Middle East that people are worried about; majorities in those two states think that Obama has underestimated the threat from China.  

So it’s little wonder, then, that significant majorities in both states oppose the looming defense “sequester” that Obama seems to support.   

We might note, further, that these national and homeland security issues resonate strongly with Democratic women and Hispanic men; Romney could use this issue to chew into Obama’s base. 

So are these issues--the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the threat from China, deep defense cuts--the most important issues Americans think they face in 2012? No, they aren’t; although maybe they should be. 

Still, Romney would benefit if could find it within himself to take all the events in the Middle East and Muslim world today--two dozen embassies under siege, the failure of the Obama surge in Afghanistan, the loss of a major ally in Egypt, and yes, the rise of a nuclear Iran--and, coming to a politically useful conclusion, weave a narrative of American weakness and failure that would be compelling to millions of security-minded voters.   

Moreover, Romney could link those failed Obama security policies abroad to failed security policies at home. And these failed policies at home are multiple: Eric Holder’s abortive attempt to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan, the Fort Hood shooting amidst the political-correctness-ification of the US homeland security apparatus, the administration’s unwillingness to defend the free speech rights of Molly Norris, and its quiet support for the Ground Zero mosque.  

Of course, even if these security issues were all woven together, they still would not displace the economy as the #1 issue--and yet a cogent Romney riff on these topics would garner votes and put the candidate back on the offensive.  

I believe that the American people can walk and chew gum at the same time--that is, they can be concerned about the economy and they can be concerned about national/homeland security matters. The question is, can the Romney campaign operate on two fronts at once?

The answer is clear: if he really wants to win, Romney will have to do both, and more. He will have to double-barrel the economy and national/homeland security, and he will then also have to call the media spade a spade.  

And so we come to the second point: Romney needs to go after the media. 

The media are trying to fulfill their own hoped-for prophecy--that Romney is a loser. And yet the media are so obvious in their efforts to attack Romney, and Republicans overall, that the public has noticed and reacted. So that’s the additional Romney opportunity: to attack the media for attacking him. If he does so, he will generate the sort of excitement and electricity around his campaign--firing up the base, gaining attention from swing voters--that he desperately needs. 

In other words, if Romney were to attack the MSM, he would rock the American media and roll the American electorate. Such attacks would make him look not only strong but also shrewd, because he would be demonstrating that he understands the true dimensions of the multi-front battle he is fighting. 

After all, the media are trying to destroy Romney. The standard pattern of the broadcast-network news last week was this: five or ten minutes of coverage of the Romney videotape, then mentions of the disastrous news from the Middle East--but no mention of the possibility that the Obama administration might be responsible for the disaster.  

Once again, the issue is not that the media aren’t covering the news from the Middle East and the Muslim world--although they should indeed be covering it more. Instead, the issue is that the bad news from that part of the world is not being assembled into a compelling or memorable narrative. One could say, of course, that it’s not the job of the media to put together such narrative assemblies, but, as we know, the media are assembling a different narrative--that Romney is an out-of-touch nincompoop--on behalf of Obama’s re-election. So Romney will have to do it himself, connecting together all the dots of Obama’s foreign-policy failure. 

For example, Romney will have to jump on stories such as this Reuters headline from last Thursday: “U.S. doesn't support tying Iraq aid to cooperation on Iran.” That is, even after it’s been demonstrated that the Iraqis are helping the Iranians ship weapons to Syria, the Obama administration doesn’t want to intervene.

What’s that all about? Isn’t Iran our enemy? And isn’t Iraq supposed to be our ally? So shouldn’t Iraq be helping us against Iran, not vice versa? 

Asked about the proven fact that Iraq was helping Iran to fly weapons to Syria, bolstering the murderous Assad regime, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declared:

We've been very clear about our ongoing conversation with the government of Iraq, and our view that they either need to deny overflight requests for Iranian aircraft going to Syria or to require that such flights land in Iraqi territory for inspection.

Okay, fine, the Obama administration opposes Iraq helping Iran. That’s nice. But are the Obamans willing to do anything to stop the Iraqis from helping Iran? Would the US consider, for example, reducing or eliminating its aid to Iraq if the Iraqis don’t comply? No, that wouldn’t be possible, according to Nuland: 

We do not support linking U.S. assistance to Iraq to the issue of Iranian overflights precisely because our assistance is in part directed towards robust security assistance including helping the Iraqis build their capability to defend their airspace.

Translated: We don’t take what the Iraqis are doing seriously enough actually to do anything about it.  So no reduction in foreign aid to Iraqis, no matter what they do. Indeed, we want to help the Iraqis get stronger, so that they can defend their own airspace. Never mind, of course, that such greater Iraqi capability to defend its airspace could well be used against Israel if the Jewish State were to overfly Iraq on its way to bomb Iranian nuclear sites.   

In other words, it would appear that the Obamans are anxious not to provoke the Iraqis in any way, lest the American people be reminded, just before the election, that this administration withdrew from any meaningful role in Iraq two years ago. And so we have no influence. The Obamans can deal with that lack of influence; they just don’t want the voters to know about it.   

So the failure of our Iraqi policy could be one more knot in the Romney narrative string of administration failures. And the resulting strengthening of Iran could be another alarm-raising knot. In fact, many such knots are waiting to be tied together--including the all-important anti-media-bias knot.   

If Romney wants to win, he had better get busy tying all of these negative narratives together--and soon.  


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