Dear Republicans, reject the premise early and often.
I know everyone is spending time on why we lost, who we lost and what we can do to improve, but I think the media should also be part of the discussion. Poll after poll shows that the media isn’t trusted, and yet, they still keep veering further left. They’ve become active participants in the political process, and the sooner Republicans treat them that way, the better.
On January 27th, 2009 Politico broke a story about a daily conference call between, Rahm Emanuel, Paul Begala, James Carville and ABC’s own George Stephanopoulos. Shortly after the story broke, ABC defended it as standard practice and that he was a “independent journalist” who is “just friends” with these guys. The author who broke the story even defended Stephanopoulus. The whole “they are good buddies and they don’t talk policy” excuse is just ridiculous. That’s what political hacks say, not news organization heads and fellow journalists. Let’s all imagine if David Gregory had a daily conference call with Erick Erickson, Rick Perry and Karl Rove and see how that one would play out.
Republicans should have said no to having George Stephanoloulos as a debate moderator. The Politico story should have been a warning sign. Debate moderators matter. Clinton operatives like George Stephanopoulos should not be allowed to moderate a Republican primary debate, nor should anyone at NBC. Democrats would never agree to a former Bush staffer as their moderator, and neither should we.
Which leads to me to the Republican primary debate in New Hampshire. George Stephanopoulos’s asked the candidates if they thought States could ban contraception. We all laughed, but it worked as planned. That one question planted the seed for the “war on women” meme.
No one anywhere was talking about contraception, but for some reason Stephanopoulos thought it was a pressing GOP issue, or so he pretended. Romney called the question “silly” and the audience laughed. Bizarrely, Stephanopoulos even asked a follow up question. Romney seemed taken back by the follow up and told him that contraception was “doing fine.” Later, Stephanopoulos, on Colbert’s show, said his follow up was a bet with Diane Sawyer. Why are they making childish bets during a presidential primary debate? We’ve got trillions in debt, Obamacare and millions of people unemployed and a “serious” journalist is asking about birth control and making side bets during the debate. That’s not journalism.
Less than two weeks later, the White House announced it’s new HHS Mandate on contraceptives. At first it was reported as a Religious Liberty issue, but when the White House offered a non compromise compromise, the advocacy journalists followed Obama’s lead and made it about denying women coverage. They knew this was about Religious Liberty, but made an activist choice to frame it in the left’s talking points. That’s not objective journalism, that’s advocacy journalism.
The White House had decided back in January that contraception would be their opening in the fake war on women and the media happily played along. Romney sort of implied that Stephanopoulos had coordinated with the White House, but after that, he was always on defense for one of the dumbest questions ever asked. Sure, the candidates at the debate laughed at the question, but the stupid contraception strategy worked. The “war on women” was born. Code Pink kooks showed up at the RNC dressed as vaginas. Celebrities made an ad for Obama about Romney wanting to ban contraception, and by the end of the campaign, lefties were actually saying Romney wanted to ban tampons. One stupid little question at a debate, opened a whole war chest of lies and accusations.
I know Stephanopoulos is not responsible for everything, but he did plant the seed. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a push back from the Romney campaign. Republicans are going to have to find a way to be effective communicators and stop accepting ridiculous questions. Reject the premise early and often. Once you’re backed into corner and have to reiterate your support for women, you’ve pretty much lost. I hope Republicans learn this before the next election, or better yet, the next Sunday show.