Jon Stewart had great fun in mid-August with the national media’s coverage of the Republican presidential race. Just after hopeful Ron Paul nearly knocked off then-consensus top-tier contender Michele Bachmann in the Ames straw poll, Stewart lampooned all those who hadn’t taken Paul seriously.
Stewart’s treatment included a clip from Fox News in which this discussion takes place:
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: There’s now a top tier in this race, at least for now, of Romney, Perry and Bachmann.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: And I think that’s fair to say.
Stewart springboards off that comment:
Really, fair to say? You’re not forgetting . . . I don’t know, anyone? Say, an ideologically consistent 12-term congressman who came within less than 200 votes of winning the straw poll?
Those funnies kicked off a much-talked-about backlash in which the news outlets attempted to recover from their “mistake” in ignoring the 12-term congressman. Piers Morgan got in on it, as did The Washington Post’s ombudsman, Fox News, and many, many others. In one format or another, these outlets examined what became known as the Ron Paul media “blackout” and engaged in a discussion of politics with the candidate. Just as the stock market makes periodic corrections after it overswings, so does the media.
Well, Wednesday night’s debate proved that the country’s news gatekeepers were right to begin with — best to ignore this chap. The media “correction” is what now requires a correction. As The Washington Post’s Charles Lane explained yesterday, Paul’s ideas are loopy and baseless. The “silver dime” moment, the air-conditioning-FEMA moment, the Sept. 11-guns moment — how close to the White House could a guy with these ideas ever get?
And that bundle doesn’t even include Paul’s gold nugget of nuttiness — the part about how a border fence could be used to “keep us in.”
After the fence thing, no longer will any media outlet in this race get spanked for marginalizing Ron Paul. He’s done that to himself. The conspiracy talk about America as a caged nation should embarrass anyone who campaigned to take him seriously. Have a look at what radio talk show host David Sirota said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” when asked why the Texas Republican wasn’t getting his due:
Because Ron Paul doesn’t fit the narrative. And we were talking about other narratives that are embedded in our media debate in this country, our political debate.
Ron Paul is an antiwar, pro-drug legalization, pro-civil liberties Republican. That doesn’t fit into not just Republican politics, it frankly, unfortunately, doesn’t really fit into Democratic politics either. And so he’s being sort of written out of the story because he can’t be put through the prism, necessarily, of that red versus blue, summer-camp-color-war idea that dominates so much of our politics.
It’s really sad, because here is a guy who has had political success, who, by every other metric that any candidate would be judged by, would be included as a front-runner, or at least in the debate about who is going to win or could win the Republican nomination.
To her everlasting credit, Roll Call’s Christina Bellantoni dismissed that nonsense, saying that Paul is a creation of the national media to begin with — “because we all got web traffic off of it any time you put Ron Paul in a headline.”
Ron Paul will get put in headlines less and less over the coming months. In his segment last night looking back on the Republican debate, Stewart suggested why. After running tape of the candidate’s fence comments, the comedian/pundit went off:
I’m telling you, this is why we need this guy in the race. He is the only guy in any political party who realizes that at some point we might want to sneak into Mexico. . . . I don’t know if he should be president or have any kind of power, but I like him as our idea guy. He generates a lot of ideas. He could be like America’s Kramer.
No mention of the “ideologically consistent” political icon of a few weeks ago. That’s how “The Daily Show” handles corrections.
The summer’s Ron Paul saga amounts to a bunch of wasted energy. Instead of trying to correct for some lack of attention, the media should have felt less constrained in just calling Paul a nut. The Post’s Lane did call him a “gold bug,” which is progress.