Clift to Republicans: Avoid Being Gingriched, Meet Obama Without Conditions on Health Care

Always beware when a liberal journalist praises a conservative. It's almost always for when said conservative (or in this case neoconservative Bill Kristol) says or does something that is or can be spun to be helpful to liberal Democrats.

Case in point, yesterday's The Gaggle blog post by Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, in which the liberal veteran journalist praised Bill Kristol for, you guessed it, saying something critical of House GOP leaders:

When Republican stalwart Bill Kristol calls what GOP leaders are doing “silly,” that gets my attention. Kristol is a rare beacon of intellectualism in a party intent on embracing its lowest common denominator, and he rightfully criticized House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor for setting “preconditions” before they would meet with President Obama at a White House summit to discuss health-care reform. Boehner and Cantor sent a letter to the president suggesting they might not attend the event unless Obama and the Democrats set aside their health-care bill and agreed to start over, a precondition no more likely to be met than demands made by Israel or the Palestinians as a prelude to peace talks.

I'm guessing the House GOP are the Palestinians in this example.

At any rate, Clift fails to consider that it's hardly silly to capitalize on the president's weakness, given the unpopularity of the Democratic bills before Congress and Obama's sinking approval rating. Indeed, if the Democratic House majority can't get its act together and Obama needs Republicans to put some bipartisan lipstick on the proverbial health care pig, why should Republicans go along? 

Better to capitalize on Democratic weakness, Republican unity, and the Republican-trending movement of independents in the polling data by playing hardball with the president, right?

But either this calculus doesn't occur to Clift or she doesn't care.

Instead, Clift closed her article by hearkening back to how the liberal media turned Newt Gingrich into a political villain in the Clinton era, implying of course Republicans risk being Newtered by negative media coverage:

The GOP duo backed down, perhaps prodded by Kristol and others who remember a sequence of events in 1995 when House Speaker Newt Gingrich, locked in a budget battle with President Clinton, complained to reporters that Clinton had ignored him on the flight aboard Air Force One to attend the slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral.

Gingrich expected their budget negotiations would continue aboard the plane, but instead Clinton spent the time playing hearts with aides. And what’s more, Gingrich and Republican leader Bob Dole were made to exit from the rear of the plane instead of from the first-class cabin. The reaction to his rant was swift and merciless. He looked petty and whiny, an impression that was captured on the front page of the New York Daily News with a caricature of Gingrich in diapers with a bottle, throwing a temper tantrum. The headline read: “Crybaby: He Shut Down the Government Because Clinton Made Him Sit in the Back of the Plane." When you get an invitation from the White House, you go, or you accept the consequences.

Of course, in that case the media played up Bill Clinton as the victim and the GOP Congress as the coldhearted bastards who shut down the government. In this case, Democrats run things across the board and still can't get their agenda through (albeit an increasingly unpopular one).

What's more, in the intervening years the media universe has grown far more diverse -- more conservative voices, rise of Fox News -- while the traditional powerhouses of print newspapers and magazines like Newsweek have seen a steady decline in circulation and influence. 

In many ways the media and political dynamic have changed since the mid-1990s, but one thing remains constant: liberals will praise conservatives when they make pronouncements that can be used to bludgeon conservatives and provide aid and comfort to liberals.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters