Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Media Backlash Against Newt?

In South Carolina, Prof. Gingrich has combined theology with science: When a snake, i.e. the media, drops a bitten apple on you, deflect it back and reverse the momentum of your campaign.

Not quite Sir Isaac’s formulation, but Dr. Karl Rove, Newt’s former colleague at Fox University, validates the theory, “John King couldn’t have set up the question in a more positive way for Gingrich to just nail it and haul it right out of the park.”

Credit this new formulation to a series of earlier debate experiments, starting with his attack on Chris Wallace for a “gotchya” question and “playing Mickey Mouse games” about the disarray of his campaign last summer, followed by jousting with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo about health care in November and a racially charged encounter with another Fox questioner Juan Williams earlier this week.

Gingrich’s war against the press recalls the final year of Nixon’s presidency and his conflict with CBS’ White House correspondent Dan Rather after Watergate. At a news conference during the reelection campaign, when Rather stood up to ask a question, there were boos from Nixon supporters and cheers from fellow correspondents.

At the noise, Nixon looked down at him and asked sarcastically, “Are you running for something?” Rather snapped back, “No, sir, are you?”

The question now is how journalists respond at future debates. Few of today’s are as feisty as Dan Rather, but then again, Gingrich is not a president but an aspirant clearly bent on using media questioners as whipping boys.

They may not be as highly motivated as Woodward and Bernstein, along with Rather, were back then but, as the Romney campaign starts to hit Gingrich on details of his rosy picture as House Speaker, which actually ended with a cloud of ethics violations and a $300,000 fine, the media will be highly motivated to join in with pointed questions at the debates and, outside the halls, by reporting with gusto on exactly what happened.

If Gingrich is confident about beating back attacks from former wives, wait until he has to deal with the bruised feelings of platoons of media people. Unlike ex-spouses, they never retreat into silence.

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