The Corner

Zell and Buchanan

The comparison is in the air, so let’s follow the parallel. On Tuesday, I had dinner with a veteran of the Republicans’ 1992 campaign, who reminded me that the convention planners initially thought that Monday night had been a success. They got a nice little bounce in the polls. Later the media made a caricature of Buchanan’s speech that night into a liability. Will that happen with Zell?

As in 1992, we have a press corps that thinks that the Republicans won the last election unfairly, by getting it to cover fake issues–prison furloughs and the Pledge of Allegiance then, Al Gore’s truthfulness in 2000. The press is determined not to be used (as it sees it) again. The swifties, Kerry’s drop in the polls, the so-far-seemingly-successful Republican convention, and now the Miller speech have the media frustrated to the point, in some cases, of flipping out.

But there are four differences between now and then.

1 Bush is in better shape than his father was.

2 A Wednesday night speech can’t dominate coverage the way a Monday night one can.

3 While parts of Miller’s speech were objectionable, what was objectionable was an excessive partisanship. Democrats who complain risk looking whiny.

4 The partisanship will probably not offend swing voters the way excessively strong rhetoric on a controversial policy or cultural issue would. Many people will just say, That’s politics.

Oh and one more thing: The media environment has changed in a way that makes liberal media apoplexy less effective.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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