Saturday, November 7, 2015

Message to the GOP and its candidates about the media and debates: Be careful what you ask for

That's the cut-to-it message in Catherine Rampell's editorial in the Daily Star this morning (Nov 7).

The GOP's presidential candidates are in a snit about the format of the Republican debates and the questions they have to deal with. Oh, how I feel their pain. Not.

Somehow these folks think that getting rid of media coverage would let their sterling qualities shine through. Like Carson's inflated claims about his past? Like the tax plans that do not compute? Like Bush's petulance? Like Trump's bombast? I could go on.

Here's the closing message from Rampell.

As much as Americans generally — and Republican voters more specifically — pretty much hate the media, I can’t imagine this collective hissy fit and any resulting concessions from the networks boding well for the candidates.

For one, all their whining about mean-spirited media bullying suggests the GOP candidates may not be equipped to handle the rough-and-tumble of a general election campaign, let alone the far more demanding presidency itself, despite tough talk about staring down dictators. A reasonable voter response to such bellyaching might be: If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Maybe to someplace below 67 degrees.

Secondly, the candidates need the media as much as we in the media need them.

We need them for our headlines, horse-race narratives and wry political portraiture — in addition to, you know, material for more wonkish policy analysis about tax plans that don’t add up. And the candidates need us to serve as arbiters of their ideas, values and records, and to help them more credibly fake their own "authenticity." It’s true that a lot of voters don’t trust the media, but it seems unlikely that voters would be more trusting of (or even interested in) the candidates’ unvarnished reports of their own unimpeachable greatness. Which is basically what voters already get from stump speeches.

Finally, of course, "the media" has proved a useful rhetorical enemy and whipping boy for almost all of these candidates. If the candidates transparently exert too much control over their own discourse and debates, it might be difficult to continue to bash, blame and scapegoat "liberal media bias" when candidates foul up and prove themselves unworthy of higher office.

The candidates, in other words, won’t have the media to kick around anymore. That’s riskier than they may realize.

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