Editorial: Lame Blame Game11/14/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Tune into any of the Republican candidate debates that have been
broadcast over the past several months and you are likely to hear one or
the other contenders try to deflect tough questions about their differences
on issues by saying they won’t fall for the media's attempt to get
Republican candidates to tear each other down or pick each other apart. We thought the idea of a debate was to find out
where candidates stand, particularly how they
differ and how they justify that difference. Unfortunately
as we all know, politicians ducking
tough questions is something that is equally pervasive
on both sides of the aisle.
Just last week, in a fund-raising e-mail, Michael
Krull, campaign manager for Newt Gingrich,
said that a poll of
likely voters in Iowa had
Gingrich “surging ahead,”
which was important because
the “media forces that
are terrified of this campaign
have been saying that
while Speaker Gingrich has
steadily risen in the national
polls, it didn’t matter because
he remained behind
in the early primary states of
Iowa, New Hampshire and
We would at this point
leap in and point out that
there have been recent news
stories recognizing Gingrich’s
strengthening campaign, but
Krull did it for us, in the next paragraph pointing
out a CNN headline, “Gingrich Amasses Largest
South Carolina Campaign Footprint,” as some of
the good news for the campaign being reported.
This strategy of blaming the media for getting
tough on the candidates has the underlying
message that the media is trying to weaken Republicans,
which plays better with the base than
suggesting the debates were revealing major differences.
But we have to ask, if the candidates
react this way to tough questions from the media,
how will they face that famous 3 a.m. call with a
decision to make about the fate of the free world?
Blame the phone?
This past week brought a new attack on the
media by a leading Republican candidate, Herman
Cain. When faced with multiple stories
about allegations of sexual harassment, the candidate
urged his supporters to “bypass the media
filter,” blaming “inside the Beltway media” for
launching “unsubstantiated personal attacks.”
Cain branded the political trade press—we
took umbrage by association—for being liberals
“casting aspersions on his character and spreading
rumors that never stood up to the facts….
Sadly, we’ve seen this movie played out before—a
prominent Conservative targeted by liberals simply
because they disagree with his politics.”
Frankly, we have seen this movie before, too—it
is called blame the messenger. As some Democratic
strategists pointed out, liberals would hardly be
clamoring to derail Cain at this point since they
generally view him as a weaker general election
candidate than, say, Mitt Romney.
But this is not about the candidates or Mr. Cain’s
current troubles, which may indeed be baseless
allegations by those alleging them, which as we
understand are several women (including one
who had gone public at press time) rather than
the media outlets reporting the charges. It is, after
all, up to journalists to report and let their viewers
and listeners decide, and to continue to update
the story when they get new information.
You can take it to the bank that all the outlets
now reporting the allegations would trade their firstborn
child—or at least house pet—for the chance
to break the news that the accusers had recanted or
evidence had surfaced. A scoop is a scoop.
We aren’t suggesting there aren’t some biased
media outlets out there, or a lot of things to blame
the media for. Don’t get us started on TV stations
pretending that how a contestant got chosen for
their network’s reality competition is a news story
in a world filled with real news. But being too
tough on the folks preparing for the toughest job
on the planet is not one of them.
Particularly during campaign season, candidates
from both parties may be looking to avoid
criticism or dodge issues by playing the media
blame game. We advise against it.