The surest sign that Democrats know they are in trouble after Paul Ryan’s nomination to the Republican presidential ticket behind Mitt Romney is the desperation with which they are trying, desperately, to steer the conversation away from the economy, entitlements, and the Constitution–with the help of the media, of course. This is the substantive debate that President Barack Obama always said he was ready for, and which the media always calls for in high-minded tones, but once it is here they are suddenly trying to change the conversation.
The latest distraction is a side show in the Missouri race for U.S. Senate, where Republican nominee Todd Akin attempted to defend his opposition to abortion and made the ridiculous statement that the female body has a way to prevent conception in cases of “legitimate rape.” He later retracted, as he ought to have done. There is room for diversity in the GOP of views on the moral aspects of abortion; there’s no room for disagreement on the questions of whether rape is ever welcome or how babies are made.
Meanwhile, Democrats and the media have inflated Akin’s comments to a grand scale, as if they represent the thinking of Republicans as a whole: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, predictably, is fundraising off Akin’s gaffe. That’s where Democrats’ desperation becomes most painfully obvious. Wasserman Schultz writes:
And what do Romney and Ryan think of Akin’s latest statement? They’ve been trying to distance themselves from it — but Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women’s ability to make their own health care decisions.
So because Rep. Ryan is opposed to federal funding for abortion, that means he agrees with Akin, even when he doesn’t? And note, too, how Wasserman Schultz, who wants government to control health care decisions for women and everyone else, attempts to define Ryan as the one who wants government to intervene.
The next distraction is the revelation by Politico that the Federal Bureau of Investigation looked into “a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee [pictured above] that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff — and one nude member of Congress [not pictured above]” a year ago on a trip to Israel while Congress was in recess. Politico does not reveal, until late in the article, that “The FBI looked into whether any inappropriate behavior occurred, but the interviews do not appear to have resulted in any formal allegations of wrongdoing.”
En route, Politico invokes Weinergate, sexual assault, and an extramarital affair that eventually led to a federal indictment–all of which is ridiculous. The representative who jumped unto the water nude–Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)–may have behaved inappropriately, but to equate that with criminal, deceitful or even sexual misconduct is ridiculous. (This morning, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC even compared the incident to the Mark Foley scandal of 2006, in which Foley sent sexual messages to young, teenage congressional pages–an outrageous comparison.) It’s not what we want members of Congress to do on official business–but frankly, if you haven’t jumped naked into some significant body of water at some point in your life, you haven’t lived. To play this incident up into the stuff of major, election-changing scandal is quite plainly wishful thinking.
Finally, there is the Newsweek cover story by Niall Ferguson: “Hit the Road, Barack: Why We Need a New President.” It comes across as a refreshing sign of media even-handedness, after Newsweek‘s beatification of Obama just three months ago. And yet there is something disingenuous about the magazine’s sudden lurch into the anti-Obama column–not an appeal to new readers, after repelling many over the past several years with countless examples of left-wing bias, but just an appeal for attention, plain and simple. Ferguson’s article hits the mark, but what comes across in the online version of the piece–interspersed with Newsweek‘s self-promoting Tweets–is the eagerness with which the editors want to make themselves the topic of conversation.
That is best understood as a cry for help–for Romney’s selection of Ryan, which defied expectations, and which is proving every day to have been a success, is a harsh reminder that the liberal orthodoxies imposed by the mainstream media and the Democratic Party have lost their control over the popular imagination. The Romney campaign has learned to speak past the media, directly to the American people. The mainstream media is beginning to understand that–which is why the first cracks are appearing in the uniform edifice of media support for the Obama campaign. More than losing an election, what the left-dominated media fear is losing their power over public discourse. And so they, like the Democratic Party itself, are throwing up distractions. If those cost votes–so be it, as long as the media are still able to direct the conversation.
Could there be any stronger signs that the Romney/Ryan ticket is winning, and on its way to victory?