Media bias has been a fact of political life for such a long time that many conservatives can’t remember a time when the media wasn’t listing hard to port. At least we could, until quite recently, take solace that we had our own conservative media bastion, although it was nowhere near the size and the scope of the “lamestream media” (a term coined by Bernard Goldberg and made popular by Sarah Palin).
But at some point after the turn of the century, just as a majority of Americans began to visualize the true proportions of the larger media’s malpractice, our own little conservative press safe house had suffered a nasty termite infestation. Out of sight and out of mind behind the virtual walls of our conservative citadel of communications, hungry little pests were devouring the very foundation of that once proud citadel. There were signs that the framework was being eroded, but just a few on the right were paying enough attention to notice. Two yardsticks by which to measure just how deep into establishment Republican waters the erstwhile conservative press has drifted are Reagan conservatives Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.
The first two-by-four to crumble was National Review. When founder William F. Buckley’s son Christopher endorsed Barrack Obama for president in 2008, that act of apparent treason to the conservative cause was largely viewed as an aberration, not a symptom of a problem which ran much deeper. It was not until 2011, after an NR editorial attacked Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, that Rush Limbaugh observed that the publication had morphed from being the voice of conservatism into the voice of Republicanism, or to be more precise, the voice of Beltway Republicanism. And the new motto of the GOP establishment was unmistakable: “In Mitt Romney We Trust.” That message has been reinforced by numerous NRO articles and blog posts, with only occasional opposing views being published on the website and fewer still in the print version. National Review has criticized Sarah Palin in editorials, and contributors such as Mona Charen have lambasted the former Alaska Governor in columns and on NRO’s The Corner blog. Among the few contributors at NRO who have been generally fair to Palin and Gingrich are Andrew McCarthy and Robert Costa.
Another stud in the conservative media framework showed that it had been compromised in mid-December when The Washington Examiner not only endorsed Mitt Romney, but viciously went after Gingrich while doing so. The Examiner is owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, who contributed the maximum legal amount to Romney’s 2008 presidential run.
Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator, has never shied away from expressing his disdain for Gingrich, dismissing the former Speaker of the House as “conservatism’s Bill Clinton, but without the charm.” Quin Hillyer, a senior Spectator editor, has railed against Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Stacy McCain, a Spectator contributor, has also attacked Gingrich while hopping from bandwagon to bandwagon among the GOP not-Romneys. Most of the Spectator’s writers finally settled on Rick Santorum as their candidate of choice, but now with the former Pennsylvania Senator out of the race and Gingrich the last conservative standing, find themselves in the curious position of having enabled Romney by default. To the credit of TAS, the publication did allow dissenting opinions to be expressed in favor of Gingrich by Jeffrey Lord and Peter Ferrara, but like some other outlets on the right, either willfully or unwittingly painted themselves into Romney’s corner.
Michelle Malken is a conservative pundit whose animosity for Gingrich borders on pure hatred. Though Hot Air is no longer operating under her ownership, most of HA’s contributors share her anti-Gingrich opinions. Allahpundit and Tina Korbe have been writing screeds very critical of Gingrich from day one. The remaining main page HA contributor, Ed Morrissey, was once fair to Gingrich, but has in recent months joined the chorus. Though Malkin has always defended Gov. Palin, Korbe and Allahpundit have been much less supportive.
Human Events has been more favorably disposed toward Gingrich and Palin. The former speaker still writes a column for what was Ronald Reagan’s favorite publication, and Gov. Palin was named the magazine’s Conservative of the Year in 2008. Ironically, the HE contributor who did the write-up for the ’08 award was Ann Coulter, once considered to be a conservative firebrand. Somewhere along the way, however, Coulter embraced moderates Mitt Romney and Chris Christie, and she turned the venom she used to reserve for hapless liberals on Gingrich and Palin. Of the two HE contributors who have been most positive about Gov. Palin, only John Hayward remains, as Tony Lee is no longer with the magazine.
Even RedState.com seems to have lost its way. Erick Erickson’s once well-respected website placed its bets on Rick Perry, but when the Texas governor dropped out of the race and threw his support to Gingrich, Erickson was not inclined to follow suit. The more influential RedStaters have for years judged all of Sarah Palins supporters by the rabid few, an unfortunate and unfair mistake. RS attacks on the Paliniste were so trenchant that the fallout which settled on the site has been nothing less than radioactive, and as a result, RS has deprived itself of page hits by the millions.
Of the relatively few major right-of-center sites which have remained supportive of Gov. Palin and at least fair to Speaker Gingrich, the Breitbart “Bigs” stand out. Though we mourn the passing of the Bigs’ namesake, Andrew Breitbart’s former colleagues are helping to keep Reagan conservatism alive. If only more so-called conservative news and opinion outlets shared their courage and determination. There is still hope, however, as the Bigs are a shining example of what advocacy journalism should be doing to advance the conservative cause.
As for the columnists the lamestream media they write for touts as “conservative” (and are anything but), most all of them treat Gingrich and Palin with equal contempt. We’re talking about a bunch here who devote at least twice as much of their column space attacking conservatives as they do criticizing the left, if they ever find themselves so disposed. Textbook examples here are Peggy Noonan, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, David Brooks and Jennifer Rubin, just to name a few. Among them, Noonan and Brooks are so far to the left that even Mitt Romney wasn’t “moderate” enough for them; they made no secret of their admiration for the one they also voted for: Barack Obama. There’s no shortage of vitriol from this group for Gingrich and Palin, but Jen Rubin is such a Romney sycophant that she has literally become a caricature of herself, even to the extent that a “Fake Jen Rubin” identity has become a popular joke among the Twitterati.
Even among “right wing” talk radio hosts, there are cracks in the conservative foundation. Hugh Hewett has long been a Romney booster, and Laura Ingraham has finally ended all pretense of being anywhere but in the tank for Romney. We got a preview of where her true feelings lie a few months back when, with Coulter on her show, she joined in with her guest in piling on Palin with non-stop ridicule of the first woman named to be a running mate on a Republican party presidential ticket. Glenn Beck has also stooped to ridicule Gov. Palin, and his criticism of Gingrich has been scathing. Michael Medved is another less-than-conservative voice on talk radio.
Judging by the shabby treatment of Palin and Gingrich by so many on the right, I’m prompted to ask, “What conservative media?” And why the rush by so many erstwhile conservatives to embrace a moderate for president? The argument given most often is “electablity,” but John Hawkins and Milton Wolf have provided plenty of evidence that Romney’s purported electablity is little more than a myth. Too many conservatives have either forgotten Ronald Reagan or have turned their backs on his principles. That’s a shame, because although Reagan’s time has passed, his principles are eternal. One of the principles espoused by the great president was to reject “pale pastels” and settle for nothing less than “bold colors” from the candidates we support and the issues we espouse. Those colors have become so watered down that it’s difficult to distinguish them in this day and age. And that doesn’t bode well for the future of the conservative cause.