Tough times in Tampa for elites

Wesley Pruden

This has been a tough week in Tampa for the stars of the mainstream media, so called. The Republicans aren’t acting like the bigots, zealots and wild-eyed extremists the boys and girls on the campaign bus want them to be.

There was grumbling in the seats of the press elites when the Republicans put so many women, blacks and Hispanics at the podium that it was hard to make believable the stereotype invented by the left — that the Republicans are all old white guys out to send women pregnant and barefoot back to the kitchen, and blacks in chains back to the cotton fields.

Ann Romney. /Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The speeches at the Republican National Convention were nearly all good ones; some, including Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s were very good. One or two (or three), like those of Chris Christie, Condoleeza Rice and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico — were even better, rousing the fever pitch of the delegates as convention speakers are hired to do. If this is a war on women and blacks, bring it on.

We can expect Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (and, if we’re lucky, Joe Biden) to toss similar fatty cuts of red meat to Democrats next week in Charlotte.

But, alas, there were no calls in Tampa for lynch mobs, no appeals to baser instincts, no piping of dog whistles. The only ugly stuff, or even false notes, were from disappointed correspondents.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC, forever obsessed with race, tried to goad Republican guests to say nasty things about black folks, but nobody would. David Chalian, a correspondent for, was caught unaware on camera accusing Mitt Romney and the Republicans of being “happy to have a party with black people drowning,” presumably meaning black people in the path of Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana.

When Mr. Chalian offered the inevitable abject apology, tugged at his forelock and was sacked anyway by, his friends on the campaign bus rose at once to his defense. Gwen Ifill of PBS (naturally), channeling the wishes and dreams of lovestruck spinsters everywhere, was willing to overlook “one mistake” because “David Chalian is God’s gift to political journalism.” Her colleague from New Yorker magazine twittered a rebuke for managers (“terrible, cowardly decision”).

Nothing captured the zeitgeist of the glitteries (as they imagine themselves) like E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post, who reviewed his tender feelings and sensitivities at length, just short of discussing his prostate and nervous bladder, making a full report on how tough life was for the proper correspondents in Tampa. E.J. himself is a decent sort, well-meaning if a bit of an old woman. But his column speaks volumes about the closed loop where he and his like-minded colleagues dwell, illustrating once more that we’re afflicted not with a media conspiracy but worse, a media consensus, where everyone thinks identical thoughts, speaks in identical clichés, and writes with identical partisan inclination.

He writes that Chris Matthews’ assertion that Republicans are racist — not because of what they say but what they could mean by not saying anything — is fair comment. But criticizing Barack Obama as eager to expand welfare is racist. You want proof? His colleagues at NPR and his old friends at The Washington Post say Chris is good, and Republicans are bad. But he’s quick to reassure the rest of us that “of course the Romney folks have free-speech rights.”

For their part, the Republicans should live up to their reputation for the toughness that no one expects from Democrats. When Juan Williams of Fox News said he didn’t think Ann Romney’s speech was as good as everyone said it was, some Republicans demanded he apologize. But for what? It was only his mild opinion. He said she looked like “a corporate wife,” which she did.

She looked like a million dollars, carefully groomed, well-dressed and well-spoken with good hair, unlike the unwashed and unshaved look sometimes affected by feminist heroines on the left. Juan said she looked like “a woman whose husband takes care of her,” which is the kind of husband every woman wishes for, even if it mocks the Utopian dream of a woman’s right to act like a man and be treated like a woman.

Mr. Dionne writes that he felt “honor bound” to defend Juan Williams because when “Juan gave us the gist of what he had said, I emphatically agreed with him.”

The good news for Juan Williams, who was sacked by NPR for saying that he gets “worried” and “nervous” on airplanes when he sees fellow passengers in Muslim garb “identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims,” won’t be sacked at Fox News for expressing his opinion of Ann Romney’s wifely garb. It’s a cultural difference, E.J., you wouldn’t understand.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.