President meets with conservative talk show hosts, Andrew Sullivan characterizes it as “toadies” awaiting their “talking points”

Take a look at the below photo, and the caption beneath it.

President Bush discussed his policies with conservative radio hosts last month at the White House, including, from left, Mike Gallagher, Neal Boortz, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Michael Medved. (WH photo by Eric Draper)

Here’s the article describing the meeting and why it took place.

Then read Andrew Sullivan’s reaction. Not surprising, but annoying all the same:

Who are these people called in to meet the president for a pep talk? Here are the toadies awaiting instructions and talking points: Mike Gallagher, Neal Boortz, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Michael Medved. It forces one to ask the question: what is the difference between journalists fawning on a president, taking spin directly from him, cozying up to him – and paid propagandists whose job it is to advance the interests of those who already wield power? Some of these “journalists” have been critical of Bush policies. Which is why they have been summoned. You want the party line? You now know who to listen to.

There are so many things wrong with the above paragraph that I don’t know where to start, but I’ll give it a try. If Andrew wasn’t so busy trying to paint the President as a modern day version of Hitler (it all started after the President declared he’d seek a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as that of one man and one woman, now the man could discover the cure cancer and AS would still hate him), he’d have the time to listen to at least an hour of any of those hosts (or visit their websites) to see where they’ve been very critical of the admin as of late, especially on the issue of immigration. Some of them have also been critical about how the House Republican leadership handled Foleygate. There was round the clock criticism of the nomination of Harriet Miers to the USSC. Outrage from some of those Republicans over the UAE port deal. They’ve no need to be given “instructions” or “talking points” from the President. What’s clearly happening is that the President is trying to win back support from conservative talk show hosts who are wavering in their support of him and other Republicans.

Those talk show hosts didn’t get out of bed the morning of that meeting with the President and say “ok, time to get my daily talking points memo.” They establish their own “talking points”, Andrew. You know, what you do everytime you blog, or write a column? This is just another typical example of someone who can’t stand the Bush administration and Republicans in general trying to paint them all as mindless Bush cultists, standing in line to get their daily dose of propaganda to use on the air, in print, etc, because they ‘can’t think on their own and need special guidance from the WH.’ What utter bullsh!!.

Secondly, these people aren’t “paid propagandists whose job it is to advance the interests of those who already wield power” – AS makes it sound as though these people were hired by the Bush adminstration to host talk show hosts on various radio and TV stations and spout off RNC talking points, which as we know is not true. Thirdly, it’s not their “job” to “advance” the interests of anyone in power, or anyone who wants to be elected to serve in Washington. Their job is the same as Andrew’s job, and that’s to talk about the current issues of the day, give their take on them, and (in some instances) invite comments from the audience. I think Andrew’s just jealous because he, a journalist/blogger, hasn’t been invited to the WH to talk with the President.

Lastly, Andrew’s “You want the party line? You now know who to listen to” is laughable, simply because most of the time when you listen to talk radio, whether it be left or right, what you hear is sometimes similar to what you’d find in a talking points memo, and that’s mainly because most conservatives and liberals are respectively on the same or similar side of most issues and of course are going to be saying similar things. It’s the same way in the blogosphere. A lot of us write about issues that are important to us, as being a part of the Republican party, and we oftentimes unwittingly bring up the same points you may find repeated by the Prez, the admin, or on another blog. That doesn’t mean I’m “toeing” the party line anymore than any other conservative is. When you have similar interests, oftentimes the content of what you say on the radio or on your blog or in your editorial is going to sound similar to what you may read on the RNC website. BFD.

Posts like these are one of the reasons I stopped reading AS long ago (which is disappointing, because Sullivan was one of my original inspirations for starting in the blogosphere). The only reason I happened to catch this one was because it was linked up at Memeorandum.

Blogger Joe Gandelman, someone I do highly respect (and still will, even after referencing his post on the issue), echoed a similar theme to Andrew’s when he wrote the following about the meeting of conservative talk show hosts and the President:

You have to ask yourself: who ever would have thought 30 years ago that talk radio would evolve into where three hour “shows” would essentially become propaganda strips for political parties — and if the hosts wavered from the party line the President would meet with them to get them back “on message?”


Indeed, Limbaugh and Hannity provide a vital role for the GOP: they have become talk show hosts who can be relied upon on most issues to broadcast The Party’s and The Leader’s talking points so that no scandal is deemed too outrageous, no change in previous position is seem as dismaying, and the discarding of a conservative value held dear years before is not seen as at variance with deeply held principles.

I posted this in the comments section there:

Joe, did you ever consider the possiblity that the WH is not trying to make sure talk radio hosts “stay on message” but instead to try and win back their support, which is wavering? If you’ve listened to some of the people in that picture lately, they’ve been very critical of the President and the admin. The WH needs their support, and I think they are trying to shore it up.

No need to try and turn this into some meeting of brainwashed conservative cultists salivating over the President’s every move.

There are some truly brainwashed fruitcakes on the right out there who would not criticize the President at gunpoint. The conservatives pictured in that photo are not among them.

Update: My liberal friend Michael Stickings gets it wrong, too:

All spin, no substance. In desperation, with sagging approval ratings and the prospect of Republican defeat next month, Bush energizes his talk-radio propagandists, the purveyors of mis- and disinformation to the faithful and thoughtless, those drooling clones who either don’t know any better or refuse to know any better.

Me, as a drooling talk radio listener: “Where’s the drool-wiper guy with the tissues when ya need him?” x(

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