The Ron Paul folks have a Goldilocks issue with respect to the American media.
There was a time when the press was too cold. That was before the candidate’s strong showing in the Ames straw poll back in August, when there was something known as a Ron Paul “media blackout.” His supporters screamed about it. He went on cable TV to address it.
How things have changed.
As the actual voting neared, the press became too hot. It started covering how Paul had somehow allowed racist, homophobic and downright kooky scribblings to go out under his name in a series of newsletters decades ago. Old news, asked and answered, Paul and his supporters cried.
Now, in the midst of New Hampshire politicking, the porridge is still scalding. That, anyway, is the impression that the candidate gave in a revealing interview yesterday with CNN’s Dana Bash. In tight quarters with aides looking on, Bash pressed Paul on his Florida strategy, where the campaign isn’t going to make a big play. That went fine.
The next part didn’t, despite its banality. Bash asked a routine campaign question in a professional manner. It went like this:
At the last stop where you just were, it was it was just madness. But there was a woman there who was a New Hampshire voter. She voted for Barack Obama in the last primary.. . .She told me that if she would have been able to shake your hand and look you in the eye, you would have gotten her vote. But now she’s turned off because you left. Does that say anything about your ability to connect?
From the reaction of Paul and aide Jesse Benton, you’d have supposed that Bash had asked the candidate about “Hate Whitey Day.” Benton rushed in to tear Paul from Bash. “These are junky questions,” he said.
Paul, meanwhile, resorted to bashing the media via Bash: “You, the media, did that to her,” said the candidate, referring to the nameless woman who wanted face time with Paul. “She should have been furious with you.”
Shuffling ensued, as Benton and the candidate slid over to an interview with Fox News. To the question how or why the media was responsible for the woman’s view of Paul, Benton said this: ”Because there were 100 reporters just like you and your crew” at the event. The New York Times throws a different spin on things, saying that the woman “even approached Mr. Paul’s S.U.V. as he prepared to drive off and began shouting at him through the closed car door to return to the diner and meet her and her mother.”
A statement from the Paul campaign explains its version of events: “This morning, [Paul] attempted to hold an event at Moe Joe’s Diner in Manchester, to speak with patrons and supporters in the last push before the New Hampshire primary. Unfortunately, Dr. Paul and his family were forced to leave early after over 120 members of the press created a mob-like atmosphere that was deemed to be unsafe for the candidate, Moe Joe’s customers, and reporters themselves.”
Reading that, you might just suppose that the Paul campaign is at the mercy of its own campaign events. That somehow these events can grow fangs and endanger the principals. Reality: The Paul campaign controls its events; if it wants to make sure the media doesn’t crush everyone, set aside an area for the cameras or choose a more hospitable spot. Just don’t complain about your own event.
Whatever their organizational capabilities, Paul and his handlers want a level of media attention that’s just right. Let’s see whether South Carolina delivers.
A footnote: Isn’t there a class in Political Handler School that teaches up-and-coming operatives not to bigfoot an interview between your candidate and a member of the press while the cameras are rolling? The sum total of impressions cast by Benton’s intervention between Paul and Bash: 1) He looks like a thug; 2) Paul looks like a creature of his handlers and not someone who’s in charge of his own campaign; and 3) The entire enterprise looks defensive.