James Oliphant of National Journal is running around with his hair on fire because the non-conservative blogosphere is not conservative:
Progressive Bloggers Are Doing the White House's JobReally, it's hard to get past the subhead of this piece. "No other" administration in American history was ever able to take advantage of "a partisan media that has its back, minute-by-minute"? Did I hallucinate that Fox News and AM talk radio existed on January 20, 2001, and continued to exist continuously through January 20, 2009? According to Oliphant, I did:
This administration enjoys an advantage afforded no other: a partisan media that has its back, minute-by-minute.
While the bond between presidential administrations and friendly opinion-shapers goes back as far as the nation itself, no White House has ever enjoyed the luxury that this one has, in which its arguments and talking points can be advanced on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute basis. No longer must it await the evening news or the morning op-ed page to witness the fruits of its messaging efforts.(Since there were apparently no news-cycle-busting media outlets prior to the Obama presidency, I guess we all hallucinated the entire Monica Lewinsky story.)
Oliphant's argument is that left-leaning journalists and bloggers -- shockingly! -- are advancing arguments unfavorable to conservatives, a development that threatens civilization as we know it. He further argues that these non-conservatives are totally in the tank for the White House -- an argument belied by the existence of pieces critical of the administration or favorable to Republicans written by some of the people he names.
But even if Oliphant's characterization of what's going on were accurate, it wouldn't matter. Unabashed liberals have spoken with more or less one voice on various issues throughout the Obama presidency, in ways that echoed administration concerns -- and most of the time it was to no effect. The national minimum wage still hasn't been raised. Immigration law still hasn't been reformed. Federal gun laws still haven't been tightened. There's been no jobs bill. There'sd been no legislative remedy for the Supreme Court's gutting of campaign finance laws or the Voting Rights Act. And on and on. Liberals have tried to turn these into top-priority, unignorable issues on the national agenda, and have failed.
In large part, that's because liberals and Democrats don't have an effective noise machine. So even if everything Oliphant observes were the result of sinister collusion rather than just a shared set of beliefs, it wouldn't matter, because Dems and libs suck at messaging.
Except there may be an exception to that rule right now. What particular issue is sticking in Oliphant's craw at this moment? It's the political world's Topic A, of course:
When Jay Carney was grilled at length by Jonathan Karl of ABC News over an email outlining administration talking points in the wake of the 2012 Benghazi attack, it was not, by the reckoning of many observers, the White House press secretary's finest hour. Carney was alternately defensive and dismissive, arguably fueling a bonfire he was trying to tamp down.I think this is getting up Oliphant's nose right now because the Democratic/liberal message is actually getting through. "Benghazi is a circus" is already being talked about as a meme. A meme! Democrats actually got something to be a meme! And there isn't even a presidential election going on!
But Carney needn't have worried. He had plenty of backup.
He had The New Republic's Brian Beutler dismissing Benghazi as "nonsense." He had Slate's David Weigel, along with The Washington Post's Plum Line blog, debunking any claim that the new email was a "smoking gun." Media Matters for America labeled Benghazi a "hoax." Salon wrote that the GOP had a "demented Benghazi disease." Daily Kos featured the headline: "Here's Why the GOP Is Fired Up About Benghazi -- and Here's Why They're Wrong." The Huffington Post offered "Three Reasons Why Reviving Benghazi Is Stupid -- for the GOP."
If our message is getting through, I don't think it's because we now have a well-oiled noise machine. I think it's because we've hitched a ride on the GOP's noise machine. It's the GOP, after all, that made Benghazi the only issue we're supposed to talk about. So we're riding that propaganda wave with our own messaging (y'know, pretty much the way we did in the Lewinsky era).
Republicans execute propaganda campaigns with Prussian efficiency on a regular basis -- this happens so regularly that people like James Oliphant think it's some sort of natural occurrence, and not the result of strict message discipline throughout the Republican Party and GOP media outlets. It only starts to look sinister when Democrats pull it off, because that's rare. Who knows -- someday we may even manage to build a noise machine of our own. Though I'm not holding my breath.