As I explained in “THE BIZARRE BEHAVIOR OF CONSERVATIVE PUNDITS” I have been perplexed by the vehement and vitriolic attacks against Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee by a virtual echo chamber of normally thoughtful conservative radio hosts.
I could tell they are shocked at the backlash by their defensiveness on the radio today. The only conservative radio host not marching in lockstep with Rush and Sean is Michael Medved, and he hits the nail on the head with this column:
The big loser in South Carolina was, in fact, talk radio: a medium that has unmistakably collapsed in terms of impact, influence and credibility because of its hysterical and one-dimensional involvement in the GOP nomination fight.
For more than a month, the leading conservative talkers in the country have broadcast identical messages in an effort to demonize Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If you’ve tuned in at all to Rush, Sean, Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and two dozen others you’ve heard a consistent drum beat of hostility toward Mac and Huck. As always, led by Rush Limbaugh (who because of talent and seniority continues to dominate the medium) the talk radio herd has ridden in precisely the same direction, insisting that McCain and Huckabee deserve no support because they’re not “real conservatives.” A month ago, the angry right launched the slogan that Mike Huckabee is a “pro-life liberal.” More recently, after McCain’s energizing victory in New Hampshire, they trotted out the mantra that the Arizona Senator (with a life-time rating for his Congressional voting record of 83% from the American Conservative Union) is a “pro-war liberal.”
Well, the two alleged “liberals,” McCain and Huckabee just swept a total of 63% of the Republican vote in deeply conservative South Carolina. Meanwhile, the two darlings of talk radio — Mitt Romney and, to a lesser extent, Fred Thompson—combined for an anemic 31% of the vote.
Another conservative columnist, Debra Saunders, made similar points. Obviously, I wasn’t the only conservative annoyed by these radio hosts. Let me reiterate — the point here is not that McCain or Huckabee are perfect conservatives. They are not. But neither are Romney, Thompson or Guiliani. The voters in South Carolina, who are very conservative, are not stupid.
Now I guess we’ll find out whether Limbaugh, Hannity, Hewitt and the rest realize they have been insulting and kicking their core audience of conservatives in the teeth for the past few weeks. As Medved put it:
Isn’t it about time for the nation’s other high profile talkers to join me in acknowledging that we’ve got a group of outstanding candidates each of whom, in his own way, represents different aspects of the Reagan legacy?
There’s no need to pretend that the candidates are identically conservative (they’re certainly not), or equally qualified, or similarly appealing. But they’re all solid Republicans, dedicated public servants, and worthy contenders for the party’s nomination. Most important, each of them is vastly preferable to Clinton or Obama.