Out of the things that I begrudgingly respect about Republicans is how they have historically worked the refs. They’ve screamed about the “liberal media” for so many decades, the end result are television pundits who feel the need to create false equivalency orgies – pathetic excuses for human beings, who actually studied journalism for Christ’s sake, using some shrug-worthy indiscretion of a Democrats as cover so they can point to an honest to goodness Republican indiscretion without getting accused of being a part of the dreaded “Liberal media“. Not for nothing, but the Republicans’ penchant for “Working the Refs” has also enabled a Sunday host or two to unflinchingly ask their Democratic guest questions that seem as if they came straight from the RNC Headquarters.(Pick any Sunday Show really, but “Meet the Press” immediately comes to mind.) We won’t even get into how hosts of news shows routinely give their Republican guest more time to make their case. The unease on said host’s face whenever the Democratic guest is on any kind of rhetorical roll, always prompting some sort of awkward interruption to follow. The weird booking calculation where these shows feel that a straight down the middle journalist counts as a liberal, while they book a fire breathing partisan Republican as counterpoint – but since they aren’t particularly countering anything, it becomes a free seminar on Frank Luntz talking points.
Mitt Romney, whether its him claiming that the auto bailout was his idea, that the President apologizes for America abroad, or that clusterfuck of a debt crisis speech that he gave a couple of days ago that even the AP had to call “Bullshit” on – I think Team Romney’s confidence that they media won’t hold him accountable is that campaign’s best gut instinct. If you add to that the Republican Presidential nominee’s penchant for ducking questions, trying to proverbially run the clock out, his strategy couldn’t be more clearer.
Sure, through messaging – via the President and the Vice President, surrogates, campaign ads – Team Obama can do its best to call Romney out on his incessant dishonesty, as well as providing a clear contrast between the two candidates. That’s a start, but it isn’t enough. Muddying the waters is what Republicans do best. Its what routinely gets them elected. That’s why Team Obama needs to take a page out of the Republican playbook and “Work the Refs”. Stop interviewers in their tracks if they’re line of questioning is rife with republican frames, very sternly pointing that out to them. Openly ask news hosts why they let Mitt Romney, or anyone on his team, openly lie to their faces – going as far as questioning their journalistic bona fides for allowing that to happen. Openly scold and shame the shit out of them for clumsily playing the “Both sides“, false equivalency game – and on air, casually break down in a factual manner how much they are embarrassing themselves. Even put out campaign videos television of the offending parties either failing to do their job or flatly getting something wrong – the last caption of the video saying something like, “CNN, your viewers deserve better. Please correct the record.”
Sure, its an aggresively antagonistic strategy. The press will surely accuse the campaign of whining, but who gives a shit? Anything that may get them to actually earn they’re paychecks is well worth it.