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Jewish World Review March 8, 2000 /31 Adar I, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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The media, the establishment and the people -- THIS HAS BEEN a fascinating primary season, especially the seesaw battle between George Bush and John McCain. It has been so fast-paced and so defiant of historical patterns that analysts are reduced to scratching their heads in bewilderment. Despite the morass of unconventional and inscrutable data, one truth has emerged with sparkling clarity: The influence of the press is alarmingly formidable.

The profound impact of the media can be seen in the development of both the Republican and Democratic races. Let's consider them in turn.

When the Republican campaign began, everyone was complaining about the insurmountable power of the establishment and its efforts to coronate George Bush as the Republican nominee.

The media was all too eager to pile on, alleging that the Republican nomination was wired for Bush and that campaign finance reform laws were needed. Since they couldn't enact those laws themselves, they did the next best thing. They began to engage in a de facto coronation of their own.

Their golden boy was John McCain -- a champion of reform who promised to eradicate the systemic corruption of the iron triangle and the establishment's impenetrable lock over the nominating process. McCain-Feingold was the panacea that would purge the corruption and restore the government to the people.

Ironically, in the very process of trying to make their case, the media disproved their own argument. McCain started out with so little money -- the fruit of the poisonous campaign finance tree -- that he was said to have no chance of competing with Bush for the nomination.

Almost overnight, due to nonstop media glorification, McCain exploded in the polls and began to threaten Bush's inevitability. Suddenly, Bush's millions were impotent to compete with the power of a unified media fawning after his opponent.

When pressed about this, media representatives rationalized that they had given McCain favorable treatment because he was more accessible to them. Nonsense. The truth is that they gravitated toward McCain because of his anti-Republican positions and because his reform proposal was a media twofer: It rankled Republicans while promising to give the media even more power. McCain's accessibility made the press' job easier, but they haven't written favorably about an accessible Alan Keyes now, have they?

The media has exerted an enormous influence over the Democratic presidential race as well. During the weeks preceding the New Hampshire primary, Bill Bradley began to close in on Al Gore. After being hopelessly behind in the polls, Bradley almost upset Gore in New Hampshire when he began to expose his duplicity.

In a fantasy world of media neutrality, Bradley would have received a major bump from his New Hampshire comeback. Instead, the biased media adopted the Gore spin and painted Bradley's near upset victory as a crushing defeat.

Just contrast their treatment of Bush's victory in Iowa. He beat his next closest contender, Steve Forbes, by 10 points but the media treated it as a Bush defeat. Yes, Bush was the frontrunner, but Gore was, too, as well as being the sitting vice president during times of peace and prosperity.

Instead of Bradley's campaign taking off after New Hampshire like McCain's, his valiant comeback was the beginning of the end for him. The media would have us believe that Bradley's campaign was a casualty of the McCain machine hogging the Independent voters Bradley desperately needed to compete with Gore. But this ignores the obvious reality that Bradley was running to the left of Gore, and in that sense, not even competing for the center.

The only way to account for Bradley's demise is the media's comparative treatment of him with Gore and McCain. They downplay his successes and emphasize his shortcomings, including his recurring heart arrhythmia.

Both the Republican and Democratic races demonstrate that it is the media's power that we ought to be concerned about -- not the "establishment's."

But as powerful and misguided as the media is, there is a force even greater. In the end, on the Republican side at least, the grass roots is finally rearing its head against John McCain's frontal assault on their principles and the efforts of the media-establishment to anoint him.

Though they are sometimes slow to wield it, the power remains with the people.

TO JWR READERS: I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who graciously sent notes of sympathy and condolences for the death of my mother. I really appreciate your kindness, your prayers and your support in this difficult time.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
02/28/00: Bush's silver lining in McMichigan
02/24/00: A conservative firewall, after all
02/22/00: Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?