If USA Today is right, Rick Santorum should make, "That's bullshit!" his official catchphrase, if not his campaign slogan. This report suggests that the Pennsylvanian struck a chord, or maybe a key on a cash register, when he turned on a New York Times reporter who had confronted him with an alleged misquotation of something he had said about Mitt Romney. From what I understand, Santorum had some right to feel he'd been misrepresented. He had said that Romney was the "worst Republican in the country to run against President Obama" because of Romney's record on healthcare insurance issues. The reporter later asked Santorum if he truly believed that Romney was "the worst Republican in the country," -- period. Give Santorum credit for recognizing the difference, if not for a dignified response to the question. But while the Romney camp predictably spins this as a discrediting moment for the intemperate former Senator, Santorum has said something many Republicans have long wanted to hear. His base, like the supporters of Newt Gingrich, want a confrontational Presidency. They want someone who'll speak their minds in frank, uncompromised language. They want someone who will denounce liberalism in all of its manifestations, including "the media," with the same degree of vituperation they'd use if they knew what that word meant. They want "straight talk." They might call it "calling a spade a spade" if they didn't think that might get them in trouble. They want the Presidency to be a literal bully pulpit from which liberals will be insulted and shamed until, like the sinner terrified of hell at the camp meeting, they crawl crying to the anxious bench and beg to be saved. In short, as I've written before, they want a President with the rhetoric of a radio talker. They feel pretty certain that Mitt Romney won't be that President, no matter how satisfactory he may otherwise prove, and that only intensifies their rage.
Much of that rage, predictably amplified by Ex-Gov. Palin, is directed at "the media," which the ragers now see, in a predictably paranoiac paradox, as backing both Romney and Obama, as if those two were the Elite Party ticket in the general election. But I wonder whether these raging Republicans have thought through their anger at "the media" and the implications of dealing with it. They presume intractable media bias in favor of liberal Democrats and establishment Republicans. But what can they do about it? What can they do about it while remaining true to their alleged principles? Would they censor the "twisting" of conservatives' words? Would they require equal time for authentic verified and vetted conservatives on all news programs or in all newspapers? Would they take the media out of the hands of biased private citizens and put it under state control to prevent misrepresentation of the ruling party? These are not the solutions we'd expect from the partisans of limited government, yet how else can they make the "liberal media" respect them? Without assuming that all reporters are objective, I can still say that the profession's basic commitment to objectivity inevitably puts it at odds with ideologues and partisans of superstition. Any reference to Republican policies that doesn't reflect Republicans' own view of them will be deemed hostile. Nothing short of an ideological takeover and conversion of the news media into a propaganda vehicle for Tea Party Republicanism (as opposed to the "elitist" Romney sort) would satisfy them. They may say that all they want is more fairness -- but that's bullshit.