October 28, 2009

I'm starting to like this guy Latimer...

Matt Latimer, Running Away From Rush — The Daily Beast:

...Time and again during the Bush administration, folks on talk radio warned the White House and Congress about grassroots discontent over a divisive immigration bill, would-be Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, and the administration's spending sprees. GOP leaders didn't listen. They should have. Conservatives abandoned the party in droves. (Of course, there are limits to talk radio's influence on the grassroots. Just last year, Rush advised listeners that John McCain would be a disaster for the Republican Party if he was the nominee. He came just short of endorsing practically anyone else—Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, none of the above. Listeners decided differently. That didn't mean Rush was wrong.

As an eyewitness to the final days of the Bush administration, I can report with assurance that the absolutely last people the powers that be listened to were conservative activists on radio and TV. If Chief of Staff Josh Bolten happened to catch Rush or Laura, it likely was only on his way to finding NPR. And Condi Rice wouldn't take her marching orders from Glenn Beck if he renamed his program The Glenn and Condi Variety Hour and let her play piano concertos between segments. Meanwhile, talk radio's remaining White House hero, Vice President Dick Cheney, was all but gagged and tied to railroad tracks while Bolten, Rice, and others did their impersonations of Snidley Whiplash waiting for a train to arrive.

It is true that White House communicators, led by clever sorts such as Karl Rove, cared about their relationships with talk radio and cable news. But as the controllers, not the controlled. Like savvy publicists stuck pitching a mediocre movie, Team Rove furnished select talkers with extravagant perks (tickets to special events, invitations to exclusive dinners, close-hold meetings with the president) to get favorable reviews. When that didn't work, they'd use another old publicist trick of threatening to deny access to Bush, Cheney, or various other administration "stars."

Some of the more popular talkers, like Rush, were too powerful for them to intimidate. (Rush being our equivalent of Tom Hanks.) But the approach worked on others....
Posted by John Weidner at October 28, 2009 6:57 PM
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