Michael Medved is, bar none, one of the most intelligent, knowledgeable, and eloquent guys in all of talk radio—which is why it’s such a shame that he devotes so much of his skill to deflecting substantive criticism away from the Republican Party. Townhall’s Greg Hengler highlights the following exchange between Medved and a caller (h/t to Hot Air):
Here is a great exchange between a caller to Michael Medved’s radio show who’s obviously influenced by Glenn Beck’s daily mantras like “There is no difference between the two parties — they’re both ‘progressive’,” etc. Without naming Beck’s name, Medved goes off on this caller (read: Glenn Beck). Take a listen:
I’ll be the first to agree that Beck substantially overstates the similarities between Republicans and Democrats (in fact, I’ll go even further and say that Beck’s analysis often comes across as impulsive and poorly thought out), and this particular caller does not make his case well at all. But while Beck overstates the problem, that doesn’t exonerate Medved from understating it. He challenges the caller to provide a single example of an issue on which John McCain and Barack Obama were on the same page.
I’ll take that challenge, Michael: not only is McCain’s role in campaign finance reform the stuff of legend, but it could even be argued that he’s even more to the left here than Obama is.
I do believe that satisfies the original challenge, but let’s throw in a second, for good measure: immigration. McCain is also infamous for his left-wing zealotry in favor of amnesty, and though he may have backpedaled ever so slightly in 2008 for political expediency, he incredibly ran an ad running to Obama’s left here as well, accusing Obama of playing a role in killing 2007’s amnesty bill.
Besides, being somewhat better than the alternative is still not sufficient to rise to the level of good. Take abortion, for example—when your opponent gets caught red-handed on the wrong side of starving newborns to death in broom closets, it doesn’t take much effort to look good by comparison.
On almost every conceivable issue, John McCain’s conservative credentials have serious flaws, not the least of which was the mainstream conservative Club for Growth’s judgment that his “overall record is tainted by a marked antipathy towards the free market and individual freedom.”
I voted for McCain. I understand that half a loaf is better than no loaf. I don’t demand 100% ideological purity from every single politician. But the GOP’s lack of commitment to conservatism is bigger than a handful of isolated blemishes; it’s an identity crisis that caused and enabled many of the Bush presidency’s failings and led to the election of Barack Obama. Will Medved admit that this is a real, legitimate problem? How does he propose that we address it? (And no, throwaway admissions that “Republicans aren’t perfect” don’t count.)
As to the third party question: it’s true that anyone who expects a third party candidate to actually win the White House is delusional, and I’m not aware of any existing third parties that deserve to be taken seriously. But while many disgruntled conservatives may have mixed-up views of them, a decent third party might be useful in a different way: not as a replacement for the GOP, but as the catalyst for real GOP reform. As long as Republicans keep limping along on life support, the Beltway types will take their every victory as an affirmation that they’re doing enough right that they’re justified in maintaining the status quo. It’s doubtful that anything less than a real threat to Republican viability would be enough to force any real self-reflection.
What’s most shameful is Medved’s angry, impatient reaction to the idea that Republicans need to “get back to the Constitution”:
What does that mean? Stop with the slogans! Talk to me about reality! Americans are out of jobs, there’s 10% unemployment in this country. We are being spent into oblivion […] so why are you talking about pie-in-the-sky stupidity, fantasy land, kindergarten, childish idiot stuff? I mean, and you are!
Regardless of Brian’s inability to articulate his message, the fact remains there is no way Medved does not know exactly what “get back to the Constitution” means. He’s simply too smart, too informed, and too active a conservative intellectual not to. Take the courts—did the GOP put up much of a fight against Sonia Sotomayor? Federal influence in education, healthcare, and environmental & workplace regulations have obvious constitutional problems. In many cases, the GOP has been on the wrong side of these questions, and even when they haven’t, often they fail to make an issue of the constitutional aspect (though there are a few bright spots). Is restoring a proper understanding of & reverence for the Constitution no longer a major priority of conservatism, in Medved’s view?
This exchange was indeed educative, but not for the reason Hengler thinks. It demonstrates that, while talk radio personalities like Michael Medved are a tremendous asset in some ways, in others they’re part of the problem.