Commentary Magazine


RE: Palin and the Media

Pete, I want to pick up on one point you made. There is no doubt that the liberal media is, well, liberal. The evidence is overwhelming, and Newsbusters and bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds do a fine job pointing it out on a regular basis. It’s important to do so and to pressure the media to play it straight, for the ombudsmen who populate most outlets rarely, if ever, conclude that there is bias at work.

But conservative candidates generally should not whine about the media. It’s not going to help them, and it often makes things worse. When John McCain’s 2008 campaign went on the attack against the New York Times, it was a low point in the campaign and only reinforced the sense that McCain was angry and thin-skinned.

Moreover, conservative candidates today have less to complain about than Ronald Reagan did. Reagan won the governorship of California and two presidential elections without the benefit of talk radio, the Internet, and social media, which have provided new outlets for conservatives and robust competition to the liberal media. And, of course, Fox News wasn’t around either. I sometimes get the impression that candidates use the media as an excuse for why they don’t do well and why their own difficulties are getting aired. Rand Paul tried this tact when his own words landed him in trouble.

The model for how conservatives should deal with the media is Chris Christie — pointing out the bias (for example, what an alternative headline would sound like), not complaining of being a victim, smiling, and exuding jovial confidence. That’s the way for candidates and elected leaders to handle the press — and to endear themselves to voters.

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