No worthwhile speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) can exclude an attack or two on the American news media, and the festivities at yesterday’s kickoff hardly disappointed. For instance: Wayne LaPierre, the top executive at the National Rifle Association, said, “One of America’s greatest threats is a national news media that fails to provide a level playing field for the truth.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went perhaps a bit further, suggesting the Republicans have been held hostage by the media’s quest to “define” them. “We have to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for. Because when we talk about what we’re for, no matter what state we’re in, our ideas win.”
At that point, the governor launched into a discussion of his state’s fiscal discipline. The talk, however, returned to that great whipping boy of conservative politicians: “This is what I mean about the media, I got asked the question last year, ‘Governor, you’re very popular in a blue state, how can you export that to the rest of the country given the intolerance on social issues in your party?’ ” Speaking of intolerance, Christie said he told the reporter, ” ‘Tell me, sir, when was the last pro-life Democrat who was allowed to speak at a Democratic convention?’ Then I said, ‘By the way, don’t strain yourself, ’cause there’s never been one.’ They’re the party of intolerance, not us,” Christie boomed at CPAC yesterday.
The media pursuit continued, as the governor bellowed, “fact is that we have to take these guys on directly. And you know I’m shy and retiring and I don’t like to speak my mind, especially regarding the media. But, you know, what we need to start saying is, what we need to start saying is that we’re not going to put up any longer with them defining who we are.”
Right on! The media is sabotaging us! It’s hijacking our image! It’s all their fault!
Or maybe not. As he continued his well-received oration, Christie made note of some things that Republicans can do to put forth a more appealing brand of politics. For starters, he said that Republicans should clarify that “pro-life” means a lot more than “when that human being is in the womb.” It means advocating for education, job opportunity, drug rehabilitation and the like.
And later, Christie delivered this broadside against Republican messaging: “We need leaders now who are willing to say not only that we’re against Obamacare, which we are. We need leaders who aren’t only going to say that we’re against higher taxes, which we are, we’re against a bigger government, we’re against more intrusion into our constitutional rights. We’re against all those things, but we need to also talk about what we’re for. We need to talk about the fact that we’re for a free-market society that allows your effort and your ingenuity to determine your success, not the cold, hard hand of government determining winners and losers.”
So, which is it? Is the media defining the party? Or is the party defining itself through this string of “anti” positions? Perhaps both?
The contradiction in Christie’s line of reasoning recalls something that Ann Romney told an interviewer after her husband lost the 2012 presidential election. The candidate’s wife professed that she was “happy to blame the media” for not showcasing the human side of her husband over the course of a protracted electoral contest. At the same time, her husband’s campaign kept a tight lid on access to Mitt Romney. Media-blaming, of course, has never concerned itself too much with the facts.