Cantor vs Gregory, An Observation about GOP Congressional Messaging

Watch this YouTube presentation of Eric Cantor’s contretemps with NBC’s David Gregory last Sunday.

It’s a good teaching lesson for the GOP Freshmen Class. It’s about the resurfacing of the Barack Obama-Hawaii birth certificate issue when the mayor of Honolulu said he had seen it, but suddenly can’t find it. Limbaugh made light of it on Friday, which apparently piqued Gregory’s “fears”. I doubt Cantor got a heads-up that this would be discussed.


Now, no senior member of the Washington Press Corps such as Gregory, who thinks he outranks God anyway, is going to sit down with any ordinary member of the Freshman unless he has in his hands 8 x10 glossies showing an illicit relationship with a 14 year old. But there are copy-cat journalists back home trying to make points, so you need to study this kind of thrust-and-parry, where the inquisitor starts out on top and always…always…ends up there.

You can do better than this, so study it.

You need to become good, no better, for in less time time than you think, several of you will be in the leadership and the day will come when you will be out there fielding fastballs aimed at your heads from the Washington press corps as well.

With the media this sort of thing is a turf fight, i.e., who’s on top. Ideology and politics come second, and I think many of the GOP leadership, Cantor included, don’t quite get it.

It started out well enough, as Cantor laughed off the opening question. Reagan was always good at this, only his was a kindly chortle immediately putting the inquisitor in a junior position. “Well…” (unspoken term, “Junior” or “Skippy”). Reagan could talk to anyone as if he were a kid, which is pretty disarming for vanities like Gregory’s.

Anyway, Gregory quickly parried, putting Cantor on the defensive, a position from which he never recovered…over a subject as immaterial to Republicans as who fired the first shot at Ft Sumpter. Rat-a-tat-tat, Gregory badgered Cantor with questions he’d pre-practiced and which Cantor didn’t know was coming.

Of course it wasn’t fair, and while I never hold it against a man because he can’t think as fast as the other man in a debate when that man is holding a crib sheet, what worries me about Cantor’s performance is that I think he took comfort in knowing that he would come off as the victim of yet another mean old media attack, and get all sorts of “Poor Eric’s” or “Mean Ol’ David Gregory” as a reward.

To too many this has been some kind of victory for years. So take note:

The people did not send its new Congress, including its leadership, to win our pity for standing their ground without crying while being bullied. We wanted, and quite frankly expect “attaboys” instead of “poor Eric’s”. We want bloody noses distributed, not accepted with stoic dignity.

The truth is, guys like Gregory are easy, for even a man his own age can talk down to him, for vanity is a form of immaturity. Find a vain man, or a narcissist, and you can speak to him like a 16-year old. The birth certificate issue is a line of questions that could easily have been turned back on Gregory, and it does not require, as many of the lawyers in Congress believe, that they must constantly cram factoids, and practice, practice, practice how best to respond to these kinds of questions from the press.

The better way is to 1) know how an ordinary adult citizen might reply (minus the cursings), and 2) learn the latent bias in their questions, for most of their attacks are based on their own fears. Then respond to that.

Take the birth certificate issue. The truth of that issue is that of an underlying fear among the Left that Obama may not have been born in Hawaii, thus throwing a cloud upon his presidency. Their purpose is to thwart legitimate inquiry and even the tiniest bit of suggestion that this could become a legitimate issue. In other words, having not done any homework at all, they are afraid of what fact “birfers” might find, while totally ignorant of the law.

(Note: this is no different than the Left and the media’s obsessive behavior about race, for it is they who are the racists, and not the millions of people who go around never thinking about it one way or the other in the course of their day.)

So, in a case such as this, it should be easy to let the TV audience know who’s really tied up in knots with this “birfer” issue. Good God, when you find a person like that you can own him…a thing Eric Cantor obviously doesn’t know, for it would have been so easy to answer David:

“Shoot, David, to me where a person is born matters less than who he is born to. A child born to an American citizen is an American citizen in the eyes of most Americans and me too. He could have been born on a freighter crossing the International Date Line and he’d still be an American citizen.

“But your questions, David, tells me you’re worried. If it turned out that Barack Obama had been born in Indonesia or Kenya and not Hawaii, would you feel differently about his legal qualifications to serve?

“I wouldn’t, but would you?

“It seems that you’re the one who is worried here. Not me.”

At which time Eric rises from the table, and goes back to his office, with David Gregory’s head nicely displayed on a brass platter.

This was not a Left-Right confrontation in the classical sense they want to win every skirmish, for clearly the Left, from Kos to HuffPo to Soros, no one takes any special delight in seeing this sort of NBC-Takedown. Arianna didn’t pour herself another glass of that awful Greek swill, Kasnaya Argyros Santoriniand, then cheer. This does not advance their cause. it only keeps their enemy on the defensive. Ho-hum.

This was about territory, the Media vs GOP Congress. Gregory just re-marked his territory on Cantor’s ass one more time, while Eric went home thinking he’d gotten some real good points with the pity & outrage crowd.

I couldn’t live like that.

But Cantor seemed to be content to be the victim. For him this was a win, but for the new wave of voter outrage that started this revolution, it’s a lose-lose, and it’s up to the Freshmen to start training so as to end this sort of stiff-upper lip weekly smack-down. We don’t want out congressmen going off to Washington and begging on the mercy of the court of public opinion, portraying themselves as poor innocent wanderers just praying for any old bone the media will deign to hand under the table.

Eric Cantor strikes me as dullard in the arts of Queensbury, but like Paul Ryan, very important to the Cause nevertheless, only perhaps best serving the Glorious Fight by being stuck over in a corner with green eye shades.

The people expect, not hope, but expect to see just a little more gravel in the gut and spit in the eye (John Cash, Boy Named Sue) from their elected members of Congress.

OK, they can’t behave like me, I’ll agree. I’d be banished in a week. But Michele Bachmann seems to be getting pretty close without pulling out her switchblade. Not so sure about Pence yet. But he has other attributes, and besides, we’re talking about regaining lost territory in the Congress, not becoming president. Herman Cain is the only candidate out there who (and this I believe) would take David Gregory out in the back alley if he tried such an ambush on him.

Faking it

Back to Cantor’s uncomfortable laugh. I know age matters, but I wonder, with Cantor, is this genuine? Is it in character for him to be glib? In fact, his laugh reminded me of Russians when I made fun of Lenin back in the 90’s. Sort of like chuckling past a graveyard.

The reason I raise this is that last week the comment was made here by someone that perhaps the GOP should “fake out” the Democrats and the media. Be syrupy, bend over backwards to appear nice before the microphones and cameras, while hammering the hell out of them in conference, committee and on the floor. For a lot of people there’s much to be said for this.

But being an old southern lawyer who’d watched other old southern lawyers for years spoon out the molasses by the jarful with the right hand, while sharpening a dagger with their left hand behind their backs…to me it sounds just a little too much like what the Democrats have been doing for years and years, and with much more practice at it.

There’s a “business as usual” air about it, as well, along with the risk, as we’ve seen the past 40 years, for style to completely engulf substance. It’s also a signal that the victimhood of Eric Cantor will be about as good as it gets for our side…forever.

I have to hold to yet one more rule: When in doubt, always take the high road. Be yourself.

The good news is, that’s a winner in this new political climate. It will take awhile but the way we will defeat the seeming omnipotence of the press will first be in throwing down that shield of superiority that their acknowledged “best gladiators” carry onto the public stage. If David Gregory goes down, a dozen toady NBC bloggers go down with him, not like Keith Olbermann, mind you, but by being whipped publicly just as if James J Braddock has just whipped Max Baer. (Don’t worry, Olbermann will get his chance..if he ever bothers to get in the ring. His kind are about to become mere echos.) If Gregory is any indication, it shouldn’t be difficult. They haven’t confronted honest men since 1988, so it may be fun to watch them first squirm, then react, then lose.

But you Freshmen, you have to know how to beat these guys. And for God’ sake, don’t let Eric Cantor be your tutor. There’s a better way.

Dare I say it, Luke, look to the Force.