Commentary Magazine


Topic: American Conservative Union

Palin Skips Out on CPAC Again

Sarah Palin is the latest in a string of prominent conservatives who have decided not to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which takes place in Washington D.C. next week. While this will be the third year in a row that Palin has skipped the event, this year she turned down the coveted keynote-speaker slot, which was filled by Glenn Beck last year and by Rush Limbaugh in 2009:

CPAC leaders invited Palin to deliver the closing-night keynote speech on Saturday Feb. 12, immediately following the announcement of the results of CPAC’s annual presidential straw poll, but after several days of negotiations, she declined.

“We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman on Thursday. He noted that Palin “expressed interest in wanting to come this year,” but said that it came down to “a scheduling issue.”

As ABC News noted, Palin “has a rocky history” with CPAC and skipped the event last year owing to some of the reportedly shady business dealings of the conference’s organizer, David Keene. But the fact that she hasn’t attended the event for three years in a row makes it seem like it could honestly be about scheduling issues, as opposed to any involvement in the social conservatives’ CPAC boycott.

Marco Rubio will also be absent, and it will be interesting to see if any other prominent politicians skip out. The Senate will be out of session next week — since Democrats will be away on a retreat — and it’s possible that some GOP senators slated to speak at CPAC will decide to head to their home states at the last minute. But at the moment, the conference apparently hasn’t been seriously impacted by the boycott, and organizers told ABC News that they expect around 10,000 attendees at the event.

Sarah Palin is the latest in a string of prominent conservatives who have decided not to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which takes place in Washington D.C. next week. While this will be the third year in a row that Palin has skipped the event, this year she turned down the coveted keynote-speaker slot, which was filled by Glenn Beck last year and by Rush Limbaugh in 2009:

CPAC leaders invited Palin to deliver the closing-night keynote speech on Saturday Feb. 12, immediately following the announcement of the results of CPAC’s annual presidential straw poll, but after several days of negotiations, she declined.

“We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman on Thursday. He noted that Palin “expressed interest in wanting to come this year,” but said that it came down to “a scheduling issue.”

As ABC News noted, Palin “has a rocky history” with CPAC and skipped the event last year owing to some of the reportedly shady business dealings of the conference’s organizer, David Keene. But the fact that she hasn’t attended the event for three years in a row makes it seem like it could honestly be about scheduling issues, as opposed to any involvement in the social conservatives’ CPAC boycott.

Marco Rubio will also be absent, and it will be interesting to see if any other prominent politicians skip out. The Senate will be out of session next week — since Democrats will be away on a retreat — and it’s possible that some GOP senators slated to speak at CPAC will decide to head to their home states at the last minute. But at the moment, the conference apparently hasn’t been seriously impacted by the boycott, and organizers told ABC News that they expect around 10,000 attendees at the event.

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Jim DeMint to Boycott CPAC

The last time I wrote about social conservatives’ boycott of CPAC due to the participation of GOProud, a Republican gay-rights group, I predicted that it would have little impact on the success of the event unless major speakers or financial backers began to pull out. But now Sen. Jim DeMint, a regular speaker at the conference, has announced that he’ll be skipping it this year:

“With leading conservatives organizations not participating this year, Sen. DeMint will not be attending. He hopes to attend a unified CPAC next year,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said in an e-mail.

Prominent social conservatives have dropped out of the event and criticized it for its inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud. Rep. Jim Jordan, who heads the House’s Republican Study Committee, also has joined the boycott.

This in itself isn’t a huge blow to CPAC. But it could be a sign of more problems to come. DeMint is highly influential in the conservative movement, and his decision could make it easier for other speakers to drop out of the conference as well.

And while it’s unlikely that prospective candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will drop out of the event — they wouldn’t want to risk alienating disparate segments of the conservative movement at this point — it could make it more difficult for the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, to book prominent speakers next year.

CPAC makes a good deal of its money off students, who attend the event to hear speeches from top conservative leaders. If the conference isn’t able to draw as many big names, it may start to lose out on student fees.

Over at Slate, Dave Weigel also notes that Rep. Mike Pence hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll be speaking. Pence is considered more mainstream than DeMint, and if he’s a no-show, that would be a major indicator that the conference’s influence in the movement is waning.

The last time I wrote about social conservatives’ boycott of CPAC due to the participation of GOProud, a Republican gay-rights group, I predicted that it would have little impact on the success of the event unless major speakers or financial backers began to pull out. But now Sen. Jim DeMint, a regular speaker at the conference, has announced that he’ll be skipping it this year:

“With leading conservatives organizations not participating this year, Sen. DeMint will not be attending. He hopes to attend a unified CPAC next year,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said in an e-mail.

Prominent social conservatives have dropped out of the event and criticized it for its inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud. Rep. Jim Jordan, who heads the House’s Republican Study Committee, also has joined the boycott.

This in itself isn’t a huge blow to CPAC. But it could be a sign of more problems to come. DeMint is highly influential in the conservative movement, and his decision could make it easier for other speakers to drop out of the conference as well.

And while it’s unlikely that prospective candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will drop out of the event — they wouldn’t want to risk alienating disparate segments of the conservative movement at this point — it could make it more difficult for the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, to book prominent speakers next year.

CPAC makes a good deal of its money off students, who attend the event to hear speeches from top conservative leaders. If the conference isn’t able to draw as many big names, it may start to lose out on student fees.

Over at Slate, Dave Weigel also notes that Rep. Mike Pence hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll be speaking. Pence is considered more mainstream than DeMint, and if he’s a no-show, that would be a major indicator that the conference’s influence in the movement is waning.

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Is CPAC Going to Be Hurt by the Recent Calls for Boycott?

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

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“The True Neocon”

If there are still conservatives out there fretting that John McCain (lifetime American Conservative Union voting record: 82.3%) is “too liberal,” they should check out this hit job from the house organ of the American left, The Nation. After reciting the tired clichés about what a terrible temper McCain supposedly has (something said about many other Presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman), author Robert Dreyfuss recounts with horror McCain’s plans to “carry the ‘war on terror’ deep into the twenty-first century.”

He provides a brief overview of some ideas McCain has put forward, from reorganizing the CIA to creating a League of Democracies as a supplement to the UN. All of these come with a gloss of horrified quotes from the usual suspects, such as Larry Wilkerson (Colin Powell’s former chief of staff who has been one of the Bush administration’s most vociferous critics) and liberal foreign policy scholars Larry Korb and Ivo Daalder. Daalder is quoted as calling McCain “the true neocon,” which isn’t intended as a compliment–but may well be seen that way by some nervous conservatives.

Dreyfuss highlights McCain’s support for tough action to combat America’s foes, from Russia to the Middle East. But he doesn’t even mention a host of other positions McCain has taken that should horrify Nation-ites. The Republican nominee is in favor of the Patriot Act. He’s in favor of  reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with immunity for telephone companies that cooperate with the government. He is opposed to limiting the CIA to the interrogation techniques laid out in the Army interrogation manual. And while he wants to close the detention facility at Guantanamo (which has become, rightly or wrongly, an international embarrassment), he hardly wants to let the inmates go free. He proposes to move them to the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth (where conditions would probably be more grim) and to try them through military tribunals, not through the normal criminal courts so many leftist activists want.

Perhaps these other positions could be the subject of a future expose in The Nation. As a supporter of (and foreign policy adviser to) Senator McCain, I can only hope for more such attacks, which should help to solidify the Right around his candidacy without alienating any centrists.

If there are still conservatives out there fretting that John McCain (lifetime American Conservative Union voting record: 82.3%) is “too liberal,” they should check out this hit job from the house organ of the American left, The Nation. After reciting the tired clichés about what a terrible temper McCain supposedly has (something said about many other Presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman), author Robert Dreyfuss recounts with horror McCain’s plans to “carry the ‘war on terror’ deep into the twenty-first century.”

He provides a brief overview of some ideas McCain has put forward, from reorganizing the CIA to creating a League of Democracies as a supplement to the UN. All of these come with a gloss of horrified quotes from the usual suspects, such as Larry Wilkerson (Colin Powell’s former chief of staff who has been one of the Bush administration’s most vociferous critics) and liberal foreign policy scholars Larry Korb and Ivo Daalder. Daalder is quoted as calling McCain “the true neocon,” which isn’t intended as a compliment–but may well be seen that way by some nervous conservatives.

Dreyfuss highlights McCain’s support for tough action to combat America’s foes, from Russia to the Middle East. But he doesn’t even mention a host of other positions McCain has taken that should horrify Nation-ites. The Republican nominee is in favor of the Patriot Act. He’s in favor of  reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with immunity for telephone companies that cooperate with the government. He is opposed to limiting the CIA to the interrogation techniques laid out in the Army interrogation manual. And while he wants to close the detention facility at Guantanamo (which has become, rightly or wrongly, an international embarrassment), he hardly wants to let the inmates go free. He proposes to move them to the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth (where conditions would probably be more grim) and to try them through military tribunals, not through the normal criminal courts so many leftist activists want.

Perhaps these other positions could be the subject of a future expose in The Nation. As a supporter of (and foreign policy adviser to) Senator McCain, I can only hope for more such attacks, which should help to solidify the Right around his candidacy without alienating any centrists.

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Some Thoughts on Last Night

1. John McCain has ended up where, at the start of this process, he was supposed to be: as the presumptive nominee of his party. But what a wild, strange journey it’s been. He was the frontrunner in late 2006 and early 2007 — and then lost altitude at a speed that could induce the bends. Broke and with his campaign barely on life support, McCain headed to New Hampshire, the site of his greatest political moment in 2000. He won the New Hampshire primary on January 8 — and that was enough to propel him to where he is today.

2. McCain’s victory is a tribute to his grit and skill — but his wins have not been overwhelming. According to the Washington Post, exit polling showed that among self-described conservatives voting yesterday, McCain lost to Romney or Huckabee in many states. And McCain didn’t do well in the South, which underscores his continuing weakness with the GOP base.

McCain benefited enormously from a fractured field which generated little enthusiasm. No conservative alternative to McCain ever emerged. Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson tried to rewrite the rules of politics and flamed out. Mike Huckabee received strong support from evangelical Christians–but his support, while intense, was also narrow. Mitt Romney never caught on. An impressive man in many ways, he presented himself in a manner that seemed contrived and artificial–and the support he did receive seemed tepid and qualified. Out of all this John McCain emerged. He was able to cobble together the support he needed–just barely.

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1. John McCain has ended up where, at the start of this process, he was supposed to be: as the presumptive nominee of his party. But what a wild, strange journey it’s been. He was the frontrunner in late 2006 and early 2007 — and then lost altitude at a speed that could induce the bends. Broke and with his campaign barely on life support, McCain headed to New Hampshire, the site of his greatest political moment in 2000. He won the New Hampshire primary on January 8 — and that was enough to propel him to where he is today.

2. McCain’s victory is a tribute to his grit and skill — but his wins have not been overwhelming. According to the Washington Post, exit polling showed that among self-described conservatives voting yesterday, McCain lost to Romney or Huckabee in many states. And McCain didn’t do well in the South, which underscores his continuing weakness with the GOP base.

McCain benefited enormously from a fractured field which generated little enthusiasm. No conservative alternative to McCain ever emerged. Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson tried to rewrite the rules of politics and flamed out. Mike Huckabee received strong support from evangelical Christians–but his support, while intense, was also narrow. Mitt Romney never caught on. An impressive man in many ways, he presented himself in a manner that seemed contrived and artificial–and the support he did receive seemed tepid and qualified. Out of all this John McCain emerged. He was able to cobble together the support he needed–just barely.

3. If McCain becomes the nominee of the party, as it appears he will, the burden is on him to unite it. We’ll see how well he does. Some conservatives are very wary or outright hostile to him. This is due not simply to his stand on the issues, from opposing the Bush tax cuts to McCain-Feingold to federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to illegal immigration to conferring constitutional rights to terrorists. It is that over the years McCain has seemed to take great delight in antagonizing conservatives. He seemed more taken with his image as a maverick than his loyalty to his party or the conservative movement. The fact that he seriously considered bolting the party after his loss to George W. Bush in 2000 and that a top aide reportedly spoke to John Kerry about the possibility of McCain running as Kerry’s vice presidential running mate tells one a great deal.

McCain’s voting record and American Conservative Union rating look good on paper — but his passions and energy have often been directed in ways that did not advance conservatism, and sometimes impeded it. He often showed a graciousness toward liberals and Democrats that he didn’t demonstrate to fellow Republicans and conservatives. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were good friends who would make fine presidents – while leaders of the religious right were “agents of intolerance.” And so, not surprisingly, there is considerable opposition to him from some important quarters.

4. The overwhelming thing McCain has in his favor is that he was both principled and right on the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq — and he took his stand when it was deeply unpopular. In a match-up between McCain and either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton, we know this: if he is elected president, we have a good shot at a decent outcome in Iraq. And if Obama or Clinton is elected president, the war will almost surely be lost. Both Democratic candidates have made is perfectly clear that their goal is to end America’s involvement in Iraq rather than to prevail there. The Iraq war and its broader implications remain the most important issue before us — and McCain is the best our side can offer.

5. Illegal immigration remains a puzzling political issue. It is clearly near the top of concerns for many conservatives – and fierce opposition to illegal immigration defeated immigration reform legislation last year. There is a passion surrounding this issue that cannot be denied; its advocates see it in terms of upholding the law and assimilation. On the other hand, those who carry high the Tancredo banner on illegal immigration don’t do well in congressional or presidential primary elections. The GOP candidates who made illegal immigration a cornerstone of their campaign, including Romney and Thompson, never took flight. And the two candidates in this year’s GOP race whose governing records were most sympathetic to illegal immigration have done the best. The issue of illegal immigration isn’t as potent as some believe – but it’s not as irrelevant as some insist.

6. The Republican race is nearing its denouement; the Democratic contest is not. And a bitter race between Obama and Clinton, now essentially tied for the lead, is almost guaranteed. The love-fest we witnessed during last week’s debate will soon be a distant memory; because this contest involves the Clintons, baseball bats and billy clubs will soon be swinging. This will help Republicans in a year that looks very challenging.

Democrats are better positioned by many metrics: voter turnout and enthusiasm, fundraising for the presidential candidates (Obama hauled in more than $30 million in January alone), party identification, public support on key issues, and much else.

I’ve been struck in my conversations with Republicans over the months by how dispirited and unenthusiastic they have been — about the candidates specifically and politics more generally. That has to change, and quickly, if Republicans hope to retain the presidency.

It’s a long way to November and America remains, in important respects, a center-right country. Senators Obama and Clinton are completely conventional liberals – and Mrs. Clinton is radioactive when it comes to Republicans. Nevertheless John McCain, who continues to win but in a manner that does not inspire much love or loyalty, has his work cut out for him.

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Coming Around To McCain

In this report, some of the biggest conservative critics of McCain seem to be making lemonade out of lemons (from their point of view). Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist says: “He has moved in the right direction strongly and forcefully on taxes.” Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, remarks “I have no residual issue with John McCain.” (He also tells McCain antagonist Rush Limbaugh that he “needs to get out of the studio more and talk to real people.”) David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union and a Mitt Romney backer, says he’s “resigned” to McCain winning (Gee, thanks for the vote of support, Romney must be saying.). He’s honest at least, noting  “There are people who don’t like the idea of a being off a campaign or being on the bad list if the guy gets into the White House.This is a town in which 90 percent of the people balance their access and income on the one hand versus their principles on the other.”

But, alas, not everyone has seen the light. Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert goes after McCain for the sin of being an “undependable vote”and for all of his anti-conservative heresies. RedState suggests the anti-McCain forces could use a better spokesman. What’s next? Trent Lott grumbling “I had to leave the Senate because of him–how’s a guy to keep a political favor with him hanging around?” (You can almost see the ads in November.)

Meanwhile, Romney does not give some fiscal conservatives reason to rally to his cause. The Wall Street Journal editors tear into Romney for his lack of convictions, declaring:

[W]e haven’t been able to discern from his campaign, or his record in Massachusetts, what his core principles are. Mr. Romney spent his life as a moderate Republican, and he governed the Bay State that way after his election in 2002. While running this year, however, he has reinvented himself as a conservative from radio talk-show casting, especially on immigration.

The Journal editors then excoriate him for his mandate-based healthcare plan, a frequent source of their ire toward him, and suggest this bodes poorly for his devotion to free-market principles and willingness to take on Democrats in Congress.

Given all this, it is not surprising that Romney, too, may be less than fully devoted (at least financially) to his own cause.

In this report, some of the biggest conservative critics of McCain seem to be making lemonade out of lemons (from their point of view). Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist says: “He has moved in the right direction strongly and forcefully on taxes.” Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, remarks “I have no residual issue with John McCain.” (He also tells McCain antagonist Rush Limbaugh that he “needs to get out of the studio more and talk to real people.”) David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union and a Mitt Romney backer, says he’s “resigned” to McCain winning (Gee, thanks for the vote of support, Romney must be saying.). He’s honest at least, noting  “There are people who don’t like the idea of a being off a campaign or being on the bad list if the guy gets into the White House.This is a town in which 90 percent of the people balance their access and income on the one hand versus their principles on the other.”

But, alas, not everyone has seen the light. Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert goes after McCain for the sin of being an “undependable vote”and for all of his anti-conservative heresies. RedState suggests the anti-McCain forces could use a better spokesman. What’s next? Trent Lott grumbling “I had to leave the Senate because of him–how’s a guy to keep a political favor with him hanging around?” (You can almost see the ads in November.)

Meanwhile, Romney does not give some fiscal conservatives reason to rally to his cause. The Wall Street Journal editors tear into Romney for his lack of convictions, declaring:

[W]e haven’t been able to discern from his campaign, or his record in Massachusetts, what his core principles are. Mr. Romney spent his life as a moderate Republican, and he governed the Bay State that way after his election in 2002. While running this year, however, he has reinvented himself as a conservative from radio talk-show casting, especially on immigration.

The Journal editors then excoriate him for his mandate-based healthcare plan, a frequent source of their ire toward him, and suggest this bodes poorly for his devotion to free-market principles and willingness to take on Democrats in Congress.

Given all this, it is not surprising that Romney, too, may be less than fully devoted (at least financially) to his own cause.

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What Hath Talk Radio Wrought?

Michael Medved, the polymathic conservative writer, has worked for the past dozen years as a radio talk-show host. Unlike many of his fellow conservative talk-show hosts, he has not spent the past year and a half in a toxic rage against immigration. Nor has he concluded that John McCain represents a dagger aimed at the heart of the Right.

In a brave post on his blog, Medved posits that McCain’s victory in South Carolina (along with the strong showing of Mike Huckabee) represents a threat not to conservatism but rather to the viability and influence of talk radio, and that the wound is self-inflicted:

For more than a month, the leading conservative talkers in the country have broadcast identical messages in an effort to demonize Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If you’ve tuned in at all to Rush, Sean, Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and two dozen others you’ve heard a consistent drum beat of hostility toward Mac and Huck.

As always, led by Rush Limbaugh (who because of talent and seniority continues to dominate the medium) the talk radio herd has ridden in precisely the same direction, insisting that McCain and Huckabee deserve no support because they’re not “real conservatives.”

A month ago, the angry right launched the slogan that Mike Huckabee is a “pro-life liberal.” More recently, after McCain’s energizing victory in New Hampshire, they trotted out the mantra that the Arizona Senator (with a lifetime rating for his Congressional voting record of 83 percent from the American Conservative Union) is a “pro-war liberal.”

Well, the two alleged “liberals,” McCain and Huckabee, just swept a total of 63 percent of the Republican vote in deeply conservative South Carolina. Meanwhile, the two darlings of talk radio — Mitt Romney and, to a lesser extent, Fred Thompson—combined for an anemic 31 percent of the vote….In other words, even among the most right wing segment of the South Carolina electorate, talk radio failed – and failed miserably – in efforts to destroy and discredit Huckabee and McCain.

As the campaign moves forward, my colleagues in talk radio (along with program directors, general managers, advertisers and the other segments of our industry) ought to reconsider the one-sided, embittered negativity toward two of our four surviving candidates for President….

South Carolina demonstrates the utter ineffectiveness of concerted efforts by the conservative media elite to derail the campaigns of two popular candidates. Continued efforts in that direction will prove no more effective, and will hurt both our industry and the Republican Party.

In other words, the talk radio jihad against Mac and Huck hasn’t destroyed or even visibly damaged those candidates. But it has damaged, and may help destroy, talk radio.

Michael Medved, the polymathic conservative writer, has worked for the past dozen years as a radio talk-show host. Unlike many of his fellow conservative talk-show hosts, he has not spent the past year and a half in a toxic rage against immigration. Nor has he concluded that John McCain represents a dagger aimed at the heart of the Right.

In a brave post on his blog, Medved posits that McCain’s victory in South Carolina (along with the strong showing of Mike Huckabee) represents a threat not to conservatism but rather to the viability and influence of talk radio, and that the wound is self-inflicted:

For more than a month, the leading conservative talkers in the country have broadcast identical messages in an effort to demonize Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If you’ve tuned in at all to Rush, Sean, Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and two dozen others you’ve heard a consistent drum beat of hostility toward Mac and Huck.

As always, led by Rush Limbaugh (who because of talent and seniority continues to dominate the medium) the talk radio herd has ridden in precisely the same direction, insisting that McCain and Huckabee deserve no support because they’re not “real conservatives.”

A month ago, the angry right launched the slogan that Mike Huckabee is a “pro-life liberal.” More recently, after McCain’s energizing victory in New Hampshire, they trotted out the mantra that the Arizona Senator (with a lifetime rating for his Congressional voting record of 83 percent from the American Conservative Union) is a “pro-war liberal.”

Well, the two alleged “liberals,” McCain and Huckabee, just swept a total of 63 percent of the Republican vote in deeply conservative South Carolina. Meanwhile, the two darlings of talk radio — Mitt Romney and, to a lesser extent, Fred Thompson—combined for an anemic 31 percent of the vote….In other words, even among the most right wing segment of the South Carolina electorate, talk radio failed – and failed miserably – in efforts to destroy and discredit Huckabee and McCain.

As the campaign moves forward, my colleagues in talk radio (along with program directors, general managers, advertisers and the other segments of our industry) ought to reconsider the one-sided, embittered negativity toward two of our four surviving candidates for President….

South Carolina demonstrates the utter ineffectiveness of concerted efforts by the conservative media elite to derail the campaigns of two popular candidates. Continued efforts in that direction will prove no more effective, and will hurt both our industry and the Republican Party.

In other words, the talk radio jihad against Mac and Huck hasn’t destroyed or even visibly damaged those candidates. But it has damaged, and may help destroy, talk radio.

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