Republican strategists should generally be wary of campaign advice from liberals – and when it’s from the media, generally becomes definitely. Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza recently suggested Mitt Romney’s general-election strategy should start with getting a “positive first introduction” to voters through the liberal media because “only the national media can provide that megaphone and serve as a sort of validator for him.”
How hard did he laugh after he wrote that?
No Republican should think he can end-run the liberal media establishment entirely and not suffer damage. Ask Dick Cheney. On the other hand, no Republican can expect fairness from these people, either. Romney should enter the national-media coliseum fully aware he’s designed to be food for the lions.
Exhibit A comes from ABC’s Diane Sawyer. This is how Sawyer probed Obama just after the 2006 elections: “Do you think that residual resistance is greater for race or for gender? Is the nation secretly, I guess, more racist or more sexist?”
In keeping with that line, Sawyer would be expected to ask Romney today if he felt his wealth would be used against him by those who begrudge success. Not even close. Instead, she implied Romney should be dismissed as a Richie Rich or Thurston Howell type who can’t connect to the Little People. On “World News,” she hammered Romney with five questions about his wealth and his tax returns.
Sawyer announced “the Obama campaign is working overtime to paint the portrait of a man whose riches have put him out of touch.” She then offered the Obama spin: “The speaking fees, the Cadillacs, the story out now that there's an elevator for your cars in the new house you’re planning in La Jolla. Are you too rich to relate?”
There’s an obvious answer that Romney did not give. “Diane, you make $12 million a year. The ritzy Manhattan penthouse, the wealthy movie director husband, the estate on Martha’s Vineyard. Does that make you too rich and elitist to relate to your audience?”
Romney’s actual answer wasn’t bad. “We don't divide America based upon success and wealth and other dimensions of that nature. We're one nation under God. We come together. This is a time when people of different backgrounds and experiences need to come together.”
Sawyer simply replied by calling it “fairness” to resent the rich: “Do you think the fairness question is about envy?”
Romney adroitly tossed the fairness issue right back. “I think it's unfair that this President has been in office three and a half years and 93 percent of the people who lost their jobs have been women.”
Sawyer hammered him about the tax returns: “Why not release 12 years, as your father did?” She said Romney gave 23 years of tax returns to the McCain campaign during the vice-presidential vetting process in 2008, so why not release those?
Do you recall Sawyer even asking for this from John Kerry?
By contrast, Sawyer’s last interview with the current president ended with her asking how much Kentucky would win by in the NCAA basketball tournament and she compared Obama to Lincoln as she encouraged him to talk about his prayer life: “What about the famous quote from another beleaguered President, Abraham Lincoln, who said he had been driven many times to his knees because his own wisdom and that around him ‘was insufficient for the day’?”
Obama replied: “I do a lot of praying.” Actually, he does a lot more golfing on Sundays.
Sawyer asked Romney about Mormonism and whether he “could really about something that holds a lot of curiosity for people? So, do the people think you're reluctant to talk about being Mormon?” Sawyer did not ask Obama, “Your mother was an atheist who married two Muslim men. Are you reluctant to talk about that?” Never mind Jeremiah Wright.
Sawyer even stooped to raising that stupid – and 29-year-old – story about Romney putting his incontinent dog Seamus in a cartop carrier on a family trip. “First about Seamus-- which as you know is out there forever-- would you do it again?”
One host on NPR actually called Romney “the Michael Vick of presidential candidates.” Sawyer underlined the vulnerability: “You said it was the most wounding thing in the campaign so far.” That’s why she wanted to ask it.
So, for the record: Bill Clinton was never asked by a TV anchor if he raped Juanita Broaddrick in 1978. But they can ask Mitt Romney if he shouldn’t have put the doggie in a cartop carrier in 1983.
If anyone can point to anything Sawyer has ever asked the Obamas that compares to this low personal blow, they should speak up. This is just the opening mudbath. It’s going to get only worse for Romney as we get closer to November.