Why would New York Times national columnist David Brooks peek out of his Manhattan perch on Thursday, March 29, to offer up a Sweeping Pronouncement On All That Is Wrong With Modern Republicanism — and base it on obscure maneuvering days before in the San Diego mayoral primary, maneuvering that occurred long before the actual election? Why would the Huff Post’s Bill Bradley, a California analyst but far from a student of San Diego politics, write essentially the same column? Especially in Brooks’ case, the answer is almost certainly that the pundits were spun by former Bush 43/Schwarzenegger/McCain/Jon Huntsman media guru Matt David (pictured left). He’s Nathan Fletcher’s campaign manager, a sharp and funny guy who for years has cultivated California and national media (me included) with insider tales about his mavericky Republican clients. But David was too clever by much more than half in how he framed the tale of how his latest maverick — poor Nathan — was driven to leave the GOP by knee-jerk right winger Carl DeMaio. The result is that Brooks, Bradley and plenty of other pundits look like dopes for peddling Matt’s spin.
Here’s the headline on Welch’s piece about these journos’ attempts to make DeMaio seem like Rick Santorum West:
David Brooks and the Liberal Media Lament That a Gay-Baiting GOP “Moderate” Mayoral Candidate in California Can’t Beat an “orthodox conservative.” Who Is, uh, Gay. And Libertarian.
Take it away, Matt W.:
This is what happens when political narrative overrides journalistic impulse. Imagine how different this story might have been spun if the dominant opinion-journalism narrative going around was about how the Republican Party was at long last ditching gay panic in favor of robust fiscal reform.
Pretty amazing. Matt David convinces his pundit pals in Manhattan and Los Angeles that Fletcher was undone because he wasn’t conventional enough for the San Diego GOP — and the San Diego GOP has just endorsed someone utterly unlike anyone it has ever embraced for mayor.
And in doing so, DeMaio didn’t just beat the handsome war hero Fletcher. DeMaio also beat veteran District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, the favorite of incumbent San Diego Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders and someone prominent in San Diego politics for at least 20 years before DeMaio even came to town.
The next time David Brooks or Bill Bradley get a call from Matt David, I wonder what expletives they’ll greet him with. Getting these pundits to describe an immense outlier like Carl DeMaio as an “orthodox conservative” makes them look like fools.
Virginia Postrel delivers more deserved flaying of the spin victims here.
I’m not saying the Fletcher narrative about an inflexible GOP demanding orthodoxy doesn’t have some merit to it. But DeMaio is far too unusual in his own right for the narrative to hold up as it would in other circumstances.
If, say, Hillary Clinton had lost the 2008 Dem nomination to Joe Biden or some other veteran white male Dem pol, she could easily claim that she was just too different for her party to embrace — Dems just weren’t ready for the first woman leading the ticket. But when Dems nominated Barack Obama over Hillary, the they’re-scared-of-someone-different thesis doesn’t work.
If Nathan Fletcher had lost the party endorsement to an establishment Republican like Dumanis or San Diego Councilman Kevin Faulconer, then the narrative of they’re-scared-of-someone-different would have much more juice. But when 39 of the 55 Republican Party officials chose DeMaio over Fletcher and Dumanis, the they’re-scared-of-someone-different narrative looks weak.
But Brooks and Bradley couldn’t have known this. That would have required, yunno, actual reporting.