Thursday, July 19, 2012

Panic And Denial: The Right Wing Media's Summer Of Campaign Discontent

ERIC BOEHLERT/Media matters for America

Fevered corners of the Republican Noise Machine produced two distinct reactions this week to the turbulent news cycles that Mitt Romney has faced following revelations about his time at Bain Capital.
One response came in the form of stripped-down anger and disturbing hostility aimed squarely at President Obama, and the prospect of four more years of the Democratic administration. With Fox's Sean Hannityinsisting that a second Obama term "will end America" as we know it, while Rush Limbaugh spent the weekexplaining how Obama "hates" America, the right-wing's freaked-out factor rose, yet again, in response to campaign developments.
The other puzzling reaction to Romney's troubles came in the form of blanket denial, which was championed by the likes of Washington Post's GOP blogger Jennifer Rubin. She announced that contrary to conventional wisdom regarding the state of Romney's campaign, it was really the Obama team operating in full "panic" mode this month and that Romney's campaign had the Democratic incumbent right where it wanted him; outsmarted and outraised.
Neither conservative response was grounded in reality, yet both nicely captured the parallel universe mentality that anchors so much of the far-right press. The GOP-media bubble, especially portions of the Internet and AM talk radio, is mostly a place where followers go to hear pleasing tales about how monstrously un-American Obama is and how his campaign has careened off course and remains stuck in a ditch.
The one-part-panic, one-part-denial message may soothe obsessive Obama-haters, but it does little to prepare conservatives for the reality of the current campaign season. 
I mean, who else but right-wing bloggers like's Joel Pollak would assure readers that the controversial discrepancies surrounding Romney's time at Bain Capital hadn't done any damage to the Republican's reputation (it has), and that the story represented good news for the Romney camp because it had damaged Obama's "credibility."
Meanwhile at the Post, Rubin hyped the President's "frantic" July "panic," claimed his campaign had "shot its wad" with the Bain attacks, and said Obama needed a "miracle" to win re-election in November.
Far-right blogger Rick Moran applauded Rubin's analysis, claiming "If they [Democrats] aren't beginning to panic, perhaps they should be." And that same day on Fox, Megyn Kelly echoed Rubin's Obama's-doomed rhetoric, with Kelly improving upon Rubin's column by claiming mysterious, unnamed Democratic campaign aides were "starting to panic" about their election chances.
This week, ABC News' political insiders reported they couldn't find a single Republican strategist "happy with the Romney campaign" in recent days. "Not one."
And among more realistic conservative commentators, there was widespread agreement that Romney's campaign had stumbled. As former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote, "By any measure, the Mitt Romney for president campaign has had a painfully bad week. What went wrong?"
Still, the denial aspect was telling because since Inauguration Day the name-calling GOP media has spent each passing day demonizing Obama in every way possible. (i.e. Nazicommunistsocialist.) But according to the polls, Obama currently enjoys a comfortable lead in the all-important Electoral College race.
If Obama's such a monster of historic proportions, and if he's dedicated to destroying the American way of life ("brick by brick," as Limbaugh put it), why do a clear majority of Americans think Obama will win a second term? Why has the right-wing hate message and the dire warnings about the dangerous Democrat been ignored by voters?
Well, according to players in the Noise Machine bubble, their warnings have not been ignored because, in fact, Romney's winning the election and has had Obama on the run all summer.
If you say so.
The flip side to the far right's serene state denial? Pure panic. On Monday, Hannity beseeched the Romney campaign to punch back and slay the Fox nemesis. Or else [emphasis added]:
In other words, you better fight hard and you better know the stakes are high because four more years of Obama will end America, the country that we love, as we know it.
That same day this week Rush Limbaugh weighed in with one of his trademarked temper tantrums:
I think it can now be said, without equivocation -- without equivocation -- that this man hates this country. He is trying -- Barack Obama is trying -- to dismantle, brick by brick, the American dream. There's no other way to put this. There's no other way to explain this. He was indoctrinated as a child. His father was a communist. His mother was a leftist.
This is what we have as a president: A radical ideologue, a ruthless politician who despises the country and the way it was founded and the way in which it became great. He hates it.
Did I mention the likes of Hannity and Limbaugh and the entire Fox News complex have been demonizing Obama every day of his presidency in a way we have never seen before in this country? Yet the Democrat who stands poised to "end America" as we know it and who "hates" and "despises" the United States, continues to campaign strongly for re-election while his opponent struggles to answer basic questions about hisemployment past.  
The unfolding campaign, including Romney's performance, has driven the GOP Noise Machine to distraction in recent weeks.  Panic and denial are just two of the outward symptoms. 
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