Reince Preibus’ ultimatum to NBC and CNN regarding what appear to be Hillary Clinton infomercials is certainly refreshing evidence of some testosterone within the halls of the GOP establishment, indicating that perhaps there is more than just the starch in their button down shirts — there may even be some courage.
Having said that, this ultimatum is at least one election cycle and one “War on Women” too late, and begs the question: why in the world did the Republican Party ever think it was a good idea to have liberal Democrats moderate – and dominate – GOP primary season debates?
Take the 2011-2012 season, for example. The objective of the entire 14 month primary circus should have been to see who was most capable of running effectively against Barack Obama and his liberal allies in Congress, the media, and his administration. Unless the nominee who emerged was to be capable of and willing to run hard against Obama, the entire effort would have been squandered.
In numerous columns, and as a consultant for the pro-Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future, I insisted time and again that there were but two objectives to focus on in the primaries – to find out who could beat Obama, and who would roll back the damage he had caused once that was done. I mused that a panel consisting of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin and Andrew Breitbart would have been perfect for vetting the candidates within these parameters.
These objectives, of course, were not at all on the mind of the Jurassic media mavens who populate the studios of NBC, CNN, CBS, ABC – not to mention Politico, The Huffington Post and NPR. No, what they wanted was a series of embarrassing intramural food fights, which they got on numerous occasions, including the cringe worthy spat Mitt Romney and Rick Perry had over the green card status of who was mowing whom’s yard, the details of Newt Gingrich’s consulting gig, and whether it was Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann who took the most slings and arrows for the cause. And let us not even bring up Gardasil in Texas.
Uh, excuse me. Does anyone remember a guy named Obama?
And yet, falling right into step with short sighted conventional wisdom, the RNC dutifully signed up for multiple debates moderated by the likes of John King, George Stephanopoulos, Diane Sawyer and Scott Pelley.
There is simply no need to subject conservative voters to this torture–and to quote the current ad campaign, it is not complicated. There is no law that the GOP must use the mainstream media for these events. Besides, this is not the NFL playoffs, where you beat the brains out of your immediate opponent so that you can tee it up with the score 0-0 in the next round. The key was to start putting points on the board against Obama, not each other, and allow Republicans to pick the winner based on that criteria.
For a while, Gingrich and Herman Cain understood this. They even assumed front runner status while embracing that strategy.
The consultant class, at least those within the Washington beltway, have not figured this out yet, however. This includes many who were advising Newt, not to mention Mitt, Perry and the others. Thus, the consultants, the RNC, and over-handled candidates played along with the media’s goal of turning attention away from Obama. The result was that a once a robust and dynamic primary process–peaking in South Carolina with record turn-out–limped home as a pathetic domestic squabble drawing less voters than McCain’s snoozer of a primary run in 2008.
This is what the Jurassic media wanted. This is what they always want, and this is what they will get as long as they control the show. So memo to Mr. Preibus: Putting an ultimatum to NBC and CNN was not a bad move, but you should go further. Ignore all of the liberal networks during the primary season, and insist that the focus remain on saving the country by defeating the liberals in the general election.
After all, anything else is just theatre of the absurd.
C. Edmund Wright is author of recently released WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost…Again.