Well, my fellow conservatives, we’ve just about let the MSM win one. Rick Perry rolled out a solid economic and tax reform plan today, but many of my fellow conservative bloggers and even a trio of Republican governors have allowed the MSM to move the debate from that plan to trivia and nonsense.
Whether it’s Perry or some other candidate doesn’t matter. It’s not the candidate, it’s the fact that we have collectively let the media dictate the terms of debate, again. We should really smarten up and see this sort of thing coming.
It begins with Parade magazine asking Rick Perry about whether Obama was born in the US. Perry answers in a dismissive, straightforward manner (“I have no reason to think otherwise.”), but that’s not good enough for the reporter, so on a re-direct Perry answers more and gets playful about Obama continuing to hide so much of his past (which the MSM is still incurious about). That was a mistake, but his first answer should have stood. His answer to the re-direct is what generated the first round of “Perry wades into birtherism” nonsense. He didn’t “wade into” anything; the reporter asked him a series of questions designed to get something they could use to generate splashy headlines. Now Parade, a magazine that hasn’t been relevant in forever, is in the national conversation. Mission accomplished.
Now, John Harwood of CNBC asks Perry about it again, and Perry has some fun with it. But tucked in his answer is yet another rebuke of birtherism as an issue. It’s clear, as Ed Morrissey managed to notice before going on to rip Perry for a second straight day. Ed also noticed that The New York Times left that line out of their original transcript — a very important line — before proceeding to rip Perry. The salient line is in bold.
RICK PERRY: Well, look, I haven’t– I haven’t seen his– I haven’t seen his grades. My grades ended up on the front page of the newspaper. So, let’s– you know, if we’re going to show stuff, let’s show stuff. So. But, look, that’s all a distraction. I mean, I get it. I’m– I’m really not worried about the President’s birth certificate. It’s fun to– to poke and add him a little bit and say hey, how about– let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.
And then Perry lets loose the answer that should be getting all of the attention.
JOHN HARWOOD: Well so–
RICK PERRY: But here’s what’s really serious. Is we got people sitting around watching this interview while the president has killed 2 and a half million jobs. That’s serious. And that’s what we got to better get right.
Perry isn’t bringing birtherism up; reporters are. So he’s messing with them. The Times leaves out an important line, yet the pile-on from the right on Perry continues. The only reason reporters are asking about this at all is to fence Obama’s past off from scrutiny and at the same time, set up our candidates for gotchas. Sparking internecine attacks is surely a wonderful bonus for them. The next Republican asked about any of this has to hit back at the reporter hard enough to leave a mark. That’s likely to be Romney, who will have learned well from Perry’s example.
Maybe we don’t deserve to win in 2012. We’re clearly not smart enough to see what the media is doing to all of our candidates, let alone effectively counter any of it.
More: After further review, Cain is probably going to get these idiotic birther questions next. He’s the front-runner at the moment, and he’s shown a tendency to get a little off-track in recent interviews. So Team Hermanator had better get their man ready.
Update: Gov. Perry delivered more remarks on his flat tax plan in Charleston this afternoon, and the first reporter tried distracting him by first saying that Perry had raised the birth certificate (he didn’t, reporters did), and then asked him about it. Perry didn’t take the bait, he cut the reporter off and went right to his plan and made the reporter look a bit silly for asking. Good.