WHY ROSEN-GATE MATTERED AND NUGENT-GATE WON'T
It was utterly predictable: When Hilary Rosen took note of the fact that Ann Romney never worked outside the home, the press fell all over itself to discuss the remarks. When Ted Nugent made violent, hate-filled, threat-like remarks about President Obama and Democrats at the NRA convention, Politico decided it was time to ... discuss how silly all these surrogate-driven kerfuffles are. So Rosen deserved to be taken very, very seriously -- but now that Nugent has spoken, if he's taken seriously, that's just the media being its tiresome tail-chasing self, because it's suddenly time to stop taking any of these surrogate outbursts seriously. (I sure wish it had been that time during Rosen-gate.) Heck -- the poor candidates can't control these folks! (As we've just noticed now that it's a Romney surrogate we're talking about.) So better to just move on:
... Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are free to crack down on staff or paid operatives who violate the rules of iron-clad message discipline. Not so some of the freelance bomb-throwers, who have little incentive to stick to the script, especially when the most outrageous comments garner the most attention....
For all the hand-wringing by the campaigns about the debased nature of the debate, both Democrats and Republicans are as culpable as the press for turning the shouting into the storyline of the spring campaign -- by pushing their rivals for new disavowals each day and blasting out the greatest hits from controversial supporters....
"The media think the media is very important," observed Weekly Standard editor William Kristol....
See? Now that Romney's campaign is endangered by a sociopathic surrogate, just paying attention to these things is really, really pathetic and unprofessional!
Yes, I know that the press gleefully jumped on remarks by GOP surrogates (Foster Friess, Rush Limbaugh) during the primaries. But the press has turned a page -- it wants to protect Romney now.
And this, I think, explains why:
"Those moments have the greatest resonance when somebody affiliated with the campaign does or says something that is actually representative of the kind of unspoken thought within the campaign itself, or can be portrayed that way," said an operative who has worked on past presidential runs but asked not to be identified.
"These take on more significance as part of the political debate when they crystallize the differences between the left or right in a way that persuades the big middle of the electorate," agreed Romney adviser Kevin Madden.
I'd say a surrogate's remarks take on significance if the press merely believes the remarks represent one side's thinking. The press took Hilary Rosen's remarks very, very seriously, and warped them (with right-wingers' help) into a critique of stay-at-home moms in general, because the press really believes that right-wingers kinda have a point when they suggest that liberals want to drag all heartland Christian moms out of their homes and send them to forced high-powered arugula-eating lesbian reeducation camps -- or whatever the hell it is that right-wingers think. People in the "liberal media" take right-wing paeans to "traditionalism" seriously out of lifestyle guilt, and out of a sense that they themselves really aren't "real Americans."
But the press will shrug off Nugent because the press has been in denial for years about just how insane right-wingers are. No matter what angry, extreme, menacing, paranoid thing right-wingers are up to, the press is always looking for signs that it's all just a silly phase, all just the work of a few outliers.
Mainstream journalists don't want to admit that the vast majority of people in the right-wing base agree with every word Nugent said.
They certainly don't want to believe that there's any genuine connection between what Nugent said and Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney! Such an upstanding, responsible man! (Never mind that Romney has done the gang initiation and become one of the right-wing crazies. Never mind that his campaign actively sought out Nugent's endorsement.)
The press acknowledged that Limbaugh's Sandra Fluke remarks were extreme, and mocked Santorum surrogate Foster Friess. But now it's Romney we're talking about -- the guy who reassures the press that the GOP is perfectly safe and responsible. Unless Romney picks a Palinesque running mate, no one in the press is ever going to believe that any right-wing extremism has anything to do with him -- or his voter base, even though what Nugent said precisely captures that base's thinking.