When a distant Obama controversy was resurrected last week by the president's most fervent media foes, the New York Times noted how Mitt Romney's campaign distanced itself from the debate, and from the president's extreme critics.
The Times reported [emphasis added]:
On Thursday, the Drudge Report posted a link on its Web site to a report that sought to revive the long-discredited assertion that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States.
The Romney campaign has kept a considerable distance from the anti-Obama fringe. It only turns off moderate and independent voters, while stirring up Mr. Obama's base.
But has the GOP campaign really kept its distance? It's true that with last week's resurrection of the long-debunked conspiracy theory about Obama's true birthplace, the Romney campaign showed no interest in embracing the story.
In general though, the Republican Party's presumptive nominee has gone out of his way to embrace the anti-Obama fringe, in the form of today's right-wing media complex. The Romney campaign has built strong ties with Fox News, The Drudge Report, and with an array of far, far-right websites that traffic in every imaginable type of anti-Obama hysteria, and do it on a daily basis.
Indeed, the Romney campaign seems determined to wage a general election campaign battle alongside the anti-Obama fringe, in a way that Sen. John McCain did not four years ago.
Recall that earlier this month the Huffington Post reported that in effort to reach out to right-wing bloggers and online journalists, Romney met with dozens of conservative writers for two hours during an on off-the-record gathering in Washington, D.C. The bull session centered around ways the bloggers and writers could help Romney's campaign with its messaging, and how they could most effectively distribute opposition research on Obama.
In other words, the Romney campaign deputized the right-wing blogosphere. And yes, the bloggers whom Romney so graciously met with represent a Who's Who of the anti-Obama fringe. Among those assembled for the Romney meeting were representatives from American Spectator, Human Events, RedState, Townhall, Powerline and PJ Media, among others.
Here's a sample of their recent work:
- On Fox, American Spectator's Tyrrell Says Obama Is A "Stealth Socialist" Who Is "Going To Lose" Re-Election
- Townhall's D'Souza speculates that Obama used religion to "move up the greasy pole of Chicago politics"
- Powerline defends the belief that President Obama is Muslim, insists: "he certainly isn't one of us"
That represents a tiny sliver of the anti-Obama fringe machinations that double as right-wing blogosphere content. And it's that kind of content the Romney campaign specifically wants to partner with for the general election.
It hasn't just been a single, two-hour blogger meeting, either. Romney, who rarely grants interviews with traditional news reporters, recently gave an "exclusive interview" to Townhall.com. That followed a recent sit-down with Breitbart News, a decision that Rush Limbaugh heartily approved of. The Breitbart sites, of course, double as the online Mecca for the anti-Obama fringe, as they churn out an endless steam of mostly forgettable attacks and hard-to-follow Obama-centric conspiracies.
And then there's Fox, the mother ship of the anti-Obama fringe. As expected, the Republican leader is using the "news" channel like his own personal communications tool, regularly turning to it to get out unfettered campaign messages.
Last week, Romney set up a hastily arranged interview with Fox's Brian Kilmeade to address the Washington Post story about the candidate's high school classmates who recalled him bullying a presumed gay student. And in February, Romney found a safe heaven on Fox's Hannity show when the candidate had to deal with the controversy that erupted after he said he was "not concerned about the very poor" in America.
The Romney camp has made clear that it's eager to wage a campaign with the help of the anti-Obama media fringe. News outlets like the New York Times ought to take note.