On talk radio, Fox News, and National Review Online, prominent voices are lamenting the dearth of strong GOP candidates for 2012. Do they understand the parts they've played in shaping the contest?
The 2012 contest for the GOP nomination is vexing everyone who wants to see President Obama defeated. Right-leaning, civil liberties loving independents like me are depressed. The conservative base is nervous. Rush Limbaugh, Fox News commentator Juan Williams, and National Review's Rich Lowry all agree: it's a weak field. As leading lights of talk radio, cable news, and The House That Buckley Built, these men represent institutions unsurpassed in their influence on the American right. Perhaps it's too much to expect them to acknowledge their part in shaping the Republicans on offer. But in their own ways, talk radio, Fox News, and National Review have impacted the candidates that emerged this year, often for the worse. Right-leaning voters should grasp the pathologies their ideological allies have encouraged. Get angry. And demand better.
THE ROGER AILES FACTOR
Lots of commentators have remarked on the Fox News primary - the fact that numerous potential Republican candidates have lately drawn paychecks from the conservative cable news network. Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum. Sarah Palin. Mike Huckabee. Roger Ailes has tremendous power to raise the profile of whoever he likes by giving them a highly paid gig on television - the candidates we get are determined even more completely by how skilled they are on screen - and these people are suddenly operating partly under the entertainment industry's incentive system: they've got a substantial financial stake in increasing their ratings share among the network's right-leaning audience. The result is a lot of on the record commentary that isn't targeted at winning over the average voter, or telling the unvarnished truth about what would be best for the country. Should the eventual GOP nominee have a long history of Fox News appearances, expect to see their most absurd clips in Barack Obama's campaign commercials.