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Picking 'winners' in moderation

| Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009

The New York Times editorial page is a perfect weather vane for the way the liberal media's hot air is blowing.

In an Oct. 25 editorial called "Torching the Big Tent," they lamented: "The feeble pulse of moderation in the Republican Party is in danger of flat-lining in the Nov. 3 congressional election in upstate New York."

The feeble "moderate" The Times was backing for Congress was Dede Scozzafava -- pro-abortion, pro-union power, pro-tax hike. The Times found these positions to be proof of "refreshing tinges of centrism." The Times lectured the conservative movement to embrace this candidacy, since "creative ideas and candidates, not right-wing zeal, are the obvious way to get back in the game of democracy."

Any New Yorker foolish enough to follow the political advice of The New York Times deserves what he gets.

What if The Times portrayed this battle for the 23rd District of New York the opposite way• What if the campaign of conservative Doug Hoffman was portrayed as "Revenge of the Irate Moderates?" Liberals would rub their eyes in utter disbelief. But just three years ago, The Times editorial page was using those exact words to describe the hard-left forces behind Ned Lamont, who upset moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman in the primary, only to lose to him in the general election.

The idea that Lamont was a leftist was downright ludicrous to The Times. Lieberman "tried to depict Mr. Lamont and his backers as wild-eyed radicals who want to punish the senator for working with Republicans and to force the Democratic Party into a disastrous turn toward extremism. ... (I)t's hard to imagine Mr. Lamont, who worked happily with the Republicans in Greenwich politics, leading that kind of revolution."

Lamont was Cindy Sheehan in drag, lashing out at Bush. But the press corps as a whole couldn't have been water-boarded into acknowledging in their reporting that Lamont was even a "liberal." Instead, he was consistently described as merely an "anti-war" idealist.

A non-ideological national media would acknowledge that both Democrats and Republicans over the last several decades have shunned centrism and embraced a bolder ideological approach. A nonpartisan press corps would report that self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals in a landslide. But our liberal media are transparently partisan. Instead we get two very differing and self-serving portraits.

The Republicans are in a "civil war," on a "disastrous turn toward extremism." For Democrats, their embrace of hard-core leftists is an "opportunity" and revenge of the "moderates" upset by "deeply unmoderate" conservatives.

Conservatives have heard enough of this siren song over the years to ignore it. The same cannot be said for the Republican Party, with its Helen Keller approach to the obvious. In presidential elections, every time Republicans nominate the kind of moderation-embracing D.C. deal-maker the media would select for them -- think Bob Dole or John McCain -- they've been trounced.

Yet they continue heeding the advice of The New York Times by endorsing the likes of Scozzafava. How thoroughly embarrassing it was for them when Scozzafava petulantly left the race and endorsed the Democrat. She was even less than a Republican In Name Only.

The biggest head-scratcher in this game was Newt Gingrich, who embraced this Democrat-in-GOP-clothing as the "best" the Republicans could do. Is this the way Gingrich built a majority in 1994, by identifying a "revolution" of Arlen Specter wannabes across America• No. Through his lectures and cassette tapes, Gingrich built a cadre of conservative candidates who could stand behind the idea of rolling back an overweening federal government.

Gingrich didn't lead a slithering surge of centrists eager to go to Washington and stick their fingers in the wind to protect their own careers.

Every Republican should know that there are two divisive forces in the Republican Party that always threaten to break it apart and ruin its chances. The first is the insincere consultants in the "news" media who try to rule it from the outside. The second is the consultants in the party who listen to them.

L. Brent Bozell III is president of the Media Research Center.

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