As usual, the agreement with the syndicators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
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TRUMPETING THE HORNS OVER THE BULL
BY BOB FRANKEN
“THIS IS ACTION EYEWITNESS NEWSCENTER BREAKING NEWS (audio of dishes shattering): RICK SANTORUM HAS USED A CUSSWORD!!!”
Bless you for cursing, Rick. We’ve run out of hyped stories, and we’re getting desperate. How many times can we talk and write about the same old narratives: Mitt Romney has a delegate lead, ho-hum; Newt Gingrich says he doesn’t care, he’s going to wrest them away at the convention, yawn; and Rick Santorum ... wait a minute; Rick Santorum has used profanity.
This is HUGE. This is almost an OMG! Santorum, the campaign goody-two-shoes, has snapped at New York Times correspondent Jeff Zeleny that his question was “bull----.” I can’t even use the word. Be still, my heart.
Santorum accused Zeleny of misquoting him during a question, “lying” is what he said, along with the “B” word. Again, palpitations. The world of politics has gone crazy. The stories and columns about this momentous development are popping up everywhere -- here, for instance. What does it all mean?
How about a big nothing? Notwithstanding the phony shock because the choir boy uses profanity, which merely means he’s a living, breathing human being, hostility toward the media has been a tried-and-true winner in GOP circles. It’s been a conservative favorite since the beginning of time. It’s almost as big an issue as how the beginning of time, uh, began.
Santorum is milking this for all its worth, telling Fox News it proves he is a “real Republican.” Romney got into the act, suggesting to Jay Leno that if he became president he might name Santorum his press secretary. What’s notable there is that the frequently tone-deaf Mitt Romney made a joke without embarrassing himself, or telling Leno that he’s friends with the owners of NBC.
Clearly, Rick Santorum has seen how Newt Gingrich has been able to sustain his candidacy by trashing the “elite media” pushing a “radical secular” agenda, etc. Granted, Rick wasn’t so creative, but “bull----” gets the job done. It’s right up there (or should that be “down there”?) with questioning where President Barack Obama was born.
What’s embarrassing is how those of us in the news biz get so bent out of shape every time someone makes it clear he or she doesn’t like us. When Sarah Palin makes fun of the “lamestream media” we take serious umbrage. Could it be that we’ve forgotten that we and public officials are not expected to be buddies, that the grand tradition of our profession is based on our roles as the “ink-stained wretches” of bygone days?
Is it that newsmakers and newsmakees have socialized too often, schmoozing at functions like the White House Correspondents’ dinners and the Gridiron Club bashes, and forgotten we’re supposed to be adversaries? The way it was designed to work is that they would be the advocates, and our role: the irritating skeptics.
Sad to say, that line has blurred badly. And it really fades on the campaign trail, where a candidate’s forces and those covering them are hermetically sealed in the same bus, traveling in packs together. A variant on peer pressure is hard to resist, so when a Jeff Zeleny goes off the reservation and points out something uncomfortable, he is ostracized. Once again, Santorum gets points for describing the Times as a liberal organ. Not only that, but he embellishes the image he has worked so hard to manufacture as “plain-spoken.”
Most importantly, though, he rescues those of us in the lamestream media. A little swearing replenished the bottoms we feed on. Otherwise, we’d have nothing and be starving.
Wait a minute. I spoke too soon. “THIS IS ACTION EYEWITNESS NEWSCENTER BREAKING NEWS (more dishes shattering): MITT ROMNEY IS MAKING JOKES ABOUT HIS FATHER’S CLOSING OF AN AUTO PLANT!” Now, THAT truly is bull----.
© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.