On Saturday night, former Vice President Mike Pence addressed the annual Gridiron Club dinner, a white-tie gathering of Beltway media and political insiders. He took the opportunity to praise the D.C. media, attack Tucker Carlson, and condemn Donald Trump.
“History will hold Donald Trump accountable for Jan. 6,” Pence said. “Make no mistake about it: What happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way,” Pence said of Tucker Carlson’s journalism, which is at odds with the official narrative.
Pence praised the corporate media as well, saying, “We were able to stay at our post in part because you stayed at your post. The American people know what happened that day because you never stopped reporting.”
As if Pence’s views on the virtues of the propaganda press weren’t disappointing enough, his handlers bragged to the same media that he had lavished them with praise and attacked Trump and Carlson as part of his long-shot campaign to win the Republican nomination for president.
Really. According to a new Politico article, the Pence team intentionally crafted their remarks because they “believed it would help Pence win over his most skeptical audience these days: Washington insiders and journalists.”
No offense, but how are these people political professionals? How many decades of political history have taught everyone with a pulse that Republican pandering to the media is a fool’s errand? In what world does this strategy make sense?
The strategy has never worked and will never work.
Consider the media’s most beloved Republican presidential contender, 2008 nominee Sen. John McCain. The Arizona senator was treated so well by the media for his self-styled “straight-talk” and attacks on fellow Republicans that he used to refer to them jokingly as his “base.” It’s true that their support of him did help him obtain the nomination. But the moment he posed even a tiny threat to Sen. Barack Obama, the true object of their devotion and affection, they turned on him in a heartbeat. He might as well have been Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, or Mitt Romney.
Nothing about Pence suggests he would receive even a short honeymoon of the type McCain benefited from. He should have learned this lesson when, as governor of Indiana, he caved to media demands that he decrease religious freedom in his state. His cowardice did not result in favorable media coverage then or while he was vice president. They loathe every single thing about him. They even mock him for how he and his wife protect their marriage!
It’s true that attacking fellow conservatives or Republicans will always generate some favorable media coverage. It’s the only way a non-leftist can be published in The New York Times, for instance. It’s the primary way to get airtime on NBC or CNN. It’s self-abasing and a dereliction of duty to your voters, but, hey, a fleeting moment of non-hostility from the corporate press is worth it, right?
Contrast Pence’s effort with how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis handles corporate media. He treats them as if he understands they are Republicans’ most steadfast political opponents. In press conferences, he points out the flaws in their assumptions and lies in their questions. He does not give them breaking news in the futile hope that they will be nicer to him later. He treats non-leftist press the same as or better than he treats the corrupt propaganda press. His communications team publicly posts the ridiculous questions they’re asked, and how they answer those questions. He refuses to treat requests as legitimate if they come from media who have lied about him.
The only thing worse than a Republican who impotently complains about “media bias” instead of understanding that the country is in the midst of an all-out information war is a Republican who actually praises the press for its war on Republican voters.
The other main problem with Pence’s pandering to the corporate press is that it was substantively in error. It rewrites his own history in the chaos and drama of the 2020 election. Here is Mike Pence in December of 2020, for example:
And as our election contest continues, I’ll make you a promise: We are going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We are going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out! We are going to win Georgia, we are going to save America, and we will never stop fighting to Make America Great Again!
And here is Mike Pence on Jan. 4, 2021, just two days prior to the big rally and subsequent riot at the Capitol:
I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. I promise you, come this Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress. We’ll hear the objections, we’ll hear the evidence!
Moments before that “day in Congress” began, Pence issued his letter to Congress saying he believed his role that day would be only ceremonial. However justified, it was something of a shock to the voters who had supported him and the president in their battle over election irregularities. If he wants to blame third parties for riling up the masses, he may want to consider his own role.
Pence is also wrong to attack Carlson for showing video footage of the riot at odds with the official narrative put forth by Nancy Pelosi and her cronies in the press. Tucker’s footage did not deny the violence that Pelosi and her fellow Democrats showed day after day for years for partisan gain. But it did show that Jacob Chansley was given something of a tour of the Capitol that day and was not viewed as violent by any of the many police officers he encountered. It showed that mysterious witness Ray Epps gave testimony about his whereabouts that contrasted with video evidence. And it showed that the Jan. 6 Committee’s show-trial had lied by omission when it falsely conveyed Sen. Josh Hawley’s behavior as the riot unfolded.
Calling these journalistic revelations a “disgrace” to reporters who lack Carlson’s independence and courage is shameful and reprehensible.
Finally, Pence was wrong to effusively praise the corporate press for its behavior in the aftermath of Jan. 6. The media never “reported” or covered the event or its circumstances so much as it exploited them for political purposes. The very same media that excused and vociferously defended the violent and deadly Black Lives Matter riots that besieged the White House, a federal courthouse, and police precincts, turned on a dime to treat the Jan. 6 riot as a literal insurrection, an absolutely absurd claim. The same media that reacted with abject horror and hysteria to the suggestion that order should be restored in cities across America as violent rioters terrified the citizens suddenly decided in the case of Trump supporters that First Amendment protections of speech, press, and assembly were negotiable, constitutional rights to a defense were unimportant, and certain citizens didn’t deserve speedy trials or due process.
No American should praise such behavior from the propaganda press. And no man seeking the votes of Republicans should pander to the propaganda press for political reasons, even if it weren’t delusional to think it would work.
The country is in the midst of an information war. The corporate media are a more formidable political opponent of Republicans than any Democrat running for office. Any candidate for the Republican nomination had better have a plan to protect and defend Republican voters and their goals. And any candidate who is playing footsie with these political opponents, in an incomprehensible ploy to curry favor with them, disqualifies himself from contention.