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Gingrich’s Implicit Challenge to the Media

Alana calls some attention to Newt Gingrich’s attempt to tag President Obama with the “Alinskyite” label. This, Alana notes, did not work for Republicans in 2008. If the argument didn’t work when it was new, why would Gingrich think it would work when it’s stale? It’s a fair question, but rather than believing Gingrich is undisciplined, I think he’s being more coherent than it might seem.

Central to the GOP’s message thus far has been the element of buyer’s remorse. Of course, that argument is used against every sitting president by the opposition, but the argument takes a slightly different form for each of its targets. In Obama’s case, Gingrich is not just offering unsatisfied voters a chance at redemption; he is, in keeping with his overall strategy, issuing a challenge to the media.

Could any reporter, no matter how invested in his own sense of self-righteousness, credibly and without shame argue that Obama was properly vetted by the media? Could they argue that the coverage was balanced? We’ve already seen discussion and dissection of Gingrich’s doctoral thesis, and we haven’t even hit the first caucus of the season yet. Obama’s missing college papers and transcripts shouldn’t be the central focus of any campaign, but a year after the election season in which Obama was practically dragged across the finish line in a hazmat suit we had to open the Washington Post every day (well I suppose we didn’t have to) and wade through the gallons of ink spilled over Bob McDonnell’s thesis.

Similarly, Obama was mostly protected from his close professional and personal relationship with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers (Ben Smith being a commendable exception), and this week video confirmation seems to have surfaced that proves conservatives right and liberals very, very wrong about the connection. This, too, will not be the central focus of the campaign. But Gingrich has no qualms about reminding the media that their behavior, by and large, during the 2008 campaign was the collective equivalent of Jon Stewart’s infamous interview with John Kerry in 2004. (Actual question from Stewart to Kerry: “How are you holding up?”)

There are much stronger arguments–as Alana points out–to use against Obama than “Alinskyite,” especially since he has a record now that includes historic deficits and unemployment hitting 10 percent. But this seems like Gingrich’s way of reminding the media how they behaved in 2008 without directly challenging them on it or sounding whiny. It’s a bit subliminal, but Gingrich obviously thinks it’s worth a shot.


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