(NOTE: Due to a error, the first version of this post said Cindy McCain and not Meghan McCain. It has now been fixed. TMV regrets the error.)
First it was Rush Limbaugh versus RNC Chair Michael Steele. Then it was Newt Gingrich versus Rush Limbaugh versus Michael Steele. Now it’s Laura Ingraham versus Meghan McCain.
Is this the Republican party — or the Donner party?
Yet another conservative talker is on the attack again and, once again, against someone perceived to be not as conservative (a REAL Republican) as the attacker. Here’s the background and video.
What’s notable in several of these cases? It’s conservative talkers going after Republicans deemed to not be pure enough in terms of the prevalent conservative talk radio culture’s definition of conservative…and therefore Republican…authenticity. The conservative talkers are using the same audience-garnering weapons of ridicule, exaggeration and stereotyping that they’ve used against Democrats for years. Only now these potent tools — particularly when used by skilled broadcasting pros such as Limbaugh and Ingraham — are being used against other Republicans.
The ultimate goal seems to be to make the GOP tent smaller and smaller — and yet somehow win elections.
Or is the latter a goal anymore at all?
FOOTNOTE: Another notable factor. Meghan McCain is not of the same generation as Ingraham. And she seems dismayed at the way the game is played. A lot of young people scratch their heads when they see the way the talk radio political culture operates.
I’ve noted here repeatedly: I do a lot of travel in my other incarnation and often talk to young people and younger adults of all ages. Quite a lot of them have a completely different way of looking at the country’s challenges and politicians. It isn’t that they don’t “get” the talk radio political culture — which involves showing contempt, disdain or hatred for people, officials or writers with whom they disagree on policies and often discussing politics in an angry tone — but they think its a lame game.
The BAD NEWS is that we are still enmeshed in a baby-boomer-rooted talk radio culture. The GOOD NEWS is that many young people are more serious and smarter than many of the people who wield the microphones and get attention in the new and old media by gleefully perpetuating it and using it. The issue here wasn’t John McCain and Cindy McCain; it’s how to seriously discuss issues. And McCain dared state that people who differ CAN discuss issues in a civil way without detesting each other. A cardinal sin to some…
UPDATE: Laura Ingraham responds to the criticism and offers her perspective. Here’s part of it but go to the link to read it all:
Now the Left is seizing on one satirical line from our show to paint Meghan as the victim of a right-wing hate crime. This comes from the same playbook responsible for the ongoing demonization of Rush Limbaugh — where his take on President Obama’s economic policies are misrepresented as some kind of attack on America. Their goal is to malign outspoken conservatives (specifically in talk radio) as members of a radical fringe movement whose right to free speech is questionable at best.
The left’s indignation in this instance is manufactured and totally phony. If any off-the-cuff remark about a woman’s size was condemnable, then where was the outrage when President Obama made a passing reference to Jessica Simpson’s “weight battle” during his Super Bowl interview with Matt Lauer? And of course they look the other way when obvious personal attacks are levied against conservatives. Remember when Al Franken was the toast of all media for his book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot”? Last month The View’s Joy Behar called him a “fat guy”; and when I was a guest on The View a few years back she ridiculed Ann Coulter and me as “peroxide” blondes on Fox. I laughed it off. If you can’t stand the heat…get out of the punditry business.
The problem: the issue really isn’t about a fat joke. Fat jokes have been used for years, in varying degrees of intensity, both witty and cruel. Some think they’re OK, others detest them.
The larger issue here is that some Republicans who don’t pass a conservative litmus tset and now being test treated by talk radio culture Republicans as Democrats have been treated on these shows for years. Meanwhile, the bigger issue is this whole style of discussion, which everyone admits is entertainment but some listeners take far more seriously: if someone disagrees with you, they are mocked or demonized — because it’s fun for some people to listen to.
Ingraham seems genuinely amazed that this is an issue, but that perhaps comes from how when you are in a certain world you see things from that perspective and can be stunned about the perception from another world. If you go to the link and read her heartfelt response, it’s clear what really set her off was the fact that McCain’s daughter DARED suggest that the GOP needs to moderate some of its positions.
There are strong segments now in the Democratic and Republican parties that genuinely consider “moderate” a filtthy word — reflecting someone who sells-out of principles. Several excellent books document how this has not been the case in American history and that there can be strong centrists and “muscular” moderates…and truly independent independents.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.