The Taranto Principle Does Vegas - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Taranto Principle Does Vegas

The Taranto Principle strikes again.

A Republican debate this was not. Thus far the GOP has held two debates: the Fox debate in Cleveland and the CNN debate at the Reagan Library. And whether the immediate audience was huge (with those thousands in Cleveland) or small and intimate (as it was with a few hundred at the Reagan Library), Republican candidates were in a fighting mood. They turned on Donald Trump, and they turned on each other. If there were not a single additional GOP debate the nation’s memory book has already etched Donald Trump scalding Jeb or Carly or Rand or Marco. And getting it dished back. There were Chris and Rand getting it on. And so on.

And there was the media. I’m not talking about the media acting as the GOP debate moderators (although it was hard to ignore Megyn Kelly on Donald Trump). I mean the media not on the stage covering the debates and the ongoing campaign. Who can forget the blistering back and forths between The Donald and Fox, the whomps from conservative media on Trump, Cruz, Jeb, and this or that one in the rest of the crowd. By the time whoever-it-turns-out-to-be takes the Cleveland podium next summer to accept the Republican presidential nomination, they will have been through media hell to get there — not to mention run a media gauntlet no reality TV show including anything hosted by Donald Trump could possibly simulate.

But the Democrats? It was truly an amazing sight to watch CNN’s Anderson Cooper (and yes, full disclosure, I am a CNN political commentator) tell Senator Bernie Sanders something that neither Sanders or his fellow candidates on the stage seemed to have considered. Here again that exchange:

COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?

SANDERS: Well, we’re gonna win because first, we’re gonna explain what democratic socialism is.

And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent — almost — own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United states. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have — we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.

Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.


COOPER: Denmark is a country that has a population — Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people. The question is really about electability here, and that’s what I’m trying to get at.

You — the — the Republican attack ad against you in a general election — it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist.

Doesn’t — doesn’t that ad write itself?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let’s look at the facts. The facts that are very simple. Republicans win when there is a low voter turnout, and that is what happened last November.

Sixty-three percent of the American people didn’t vote, Anderson. Eighty percent of young people didn’t vote. We are bringing out huge turnouts, and creating excitement all over this country.

Democrats at the White House on down will win, when there is excitement and a large voter turnout, and that is what this campaign is doing.

COOPER: You don’t consider yourself a capitalist, though?

SANDERS: Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don’t.

I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.


COOPER: Just let me just be clear. Is there anybody else on the stage who is not a capitalist?

To borrow from Jefferson, Anderson Cooper was the media version of a fire bell in the night. Suggesting to Sanders that once out of the cocoon of liberalism, Sanders as a nominee would be savaged by a Republican campaign, a fact so striking to Anderson that he correctly noted “the ad writes itself.”

I would take this one step further. Notice that once Anderson was done raising this issue to Sanders, he turned to Hillary Clinton. She realized the instant danger she faced if she openly attacked capitalism head on in the style of Sanders. Doubtless she could already envision the commercials swamping her campaign if she in any way appeared to agree with Sanders’ blunt denial of capitalism. So the follow-up Cooper/Hillary exchange went like this:

CLINTON: Well, let me just follow-up on that, Anderson, because when I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.

And I don’t think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself. And I think what Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have.

But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America. And it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities we’re seeing in our economic system.

But we would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history…

COOPER: Senator Sanders?

CLINTON: … of the world.

Well. What to make of this?

Back there in the mists of October 2012, the first debate between President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney had been had. It wasn’t pretty. While Obama would bring his A-game to later debate settings and, inexplicably, Romney would yield his, for the first Obama/Romney showdown the win went decidedly to Romney. In a column at the time here in this space I noted this:

The great James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal and The American Spectator long ago posited what is called the “Taranto Principle.” In short, it means that the liberal media so coddles liberal politicians that they have no idea how to cope outside that liberal media bubble.

It’s safe to say that Barack Obama tonight came face-to-face with the latest embodiment of the Taranto Principle — which is to say, Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama has been so totally coddled by the liberal media that he looked absolutely shell-shocked in this debate. Stunned, unhappy, angry, sour — and at some points genuinely incoherent.

Romney has had nowhere near that kind of treatment. He had serious opponents in the primaries — all of whom in their own way forced him to confront his ideas in a serious fashion. Conservatives were on his heels. The Obama media never let up. 

The man went through the political equivalent of boot camp.

Tonight, the Taranto Principle kicked in. Big time.

Outside the liberal bubble — forced to be alone on a stage with a very serious, very prepared candidate — Barack Obama was in trouble. Big Trouble.

And he has no one but himself — and his media coddlers — to blame.

Anderson Cooper did no coddling Tuesday night. He won praise even in conservative quarters from Rush Limbaugh to the Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell to Red State’s Erick Erickson. Deservedly so, as was predicted in this space. He was terrific.

But in the media universe beyond those on the stage? Without doubt the Taranto Principle had kicked in. The near universal sentiment was that Hillary Clinton had carried the day, yada yada yada.

But carried the day for what? To non-liberal ears it seemed glaringly obvious that today’s Democratic Party has tacked so far Left as to wonder not only about the party’s political health but its sanity- with their media cheerleaders clueless.

Can you imagine that Hillary Clinton — Hillary Clinton! — had the felt need to defend… capitalism! And no one in the media universe off that stage seemed to think this just a tad bit crazy? For a seriously prospective nominee of one of America’s two major parties to feel the need to defend capitalism is somewhat akin to a prospective pope feeling the need to defend Catholicism and Christianity to the College of Cardinals. 

Not to mention that once her defense of capitalism was out of the way, the candidate whose campaign coffers are filled with capitalism’s financial fruits was back to joining her fellow candidates in imagining all the ways to — socialize America. There would be free education and clean energy, they will take from the rich and give to everybody else who has the inside track with their leftist pals, raise the minimum wage, bring Wall Street to heel and reel in the banks, provide family leave, give illegals health care and… and…and… And on. The Socialist Utopia beckons.

In truth? I thought I was shot back in time to my late ’60s, early ’70s college days listening to a gripe session with the Students for a Democratic Society. This was socialism running rampant — and running straight in the direction of Greece.

But in the media? Here’s the Taranto Principle at work in liberal headlines:

New York Times: Hillary Clinton Debate Performance Chills Biden Movement

New Yorker: Hillary Clinton Wins Big in Vegas

Politico: Hillary Clinton wins Dem debate 

Raw Story: Scholars give Hillary the win — but Bernie definitely hit a nerve

One could go on — and on. Nary a liberal media headline to be found that even whispers something like: Democratic Candidates: We’re All Socialists Now.

Tellingly, there was this in the New York Times, quoting Rep. Dina Titus, Democrat of Nevada, on Hillary’s proud declamation that she was a progressive. Progressive in the Clinton vernacular defined as someone who will defend capitalism — but then quickly unroll the laundry list of more and more socialist-style programs. Or in other words, being Bernie without the out front socialist chutzpah.

“I think that kind of cemented it. She (Rep. Titus) said, ‘I’m a progressive who can get things done.’ That’s the perfect combination that we need.”

The Times was delighted. The rest of the liberal media is delighted.

No one in the mainstream media with the sole exception, apparently, of Anderson Cooper, seems to understand what this debate really signals. The Democratic Party is hell and gone from JFK and even Bill Clinton. 

The GOP’s commercials will in fact write themselves.

But where are the media headlines? The probing stories of the party’s leftward lurch? 

They aren’t there. And, one suspects — OK one is certain — they aren’t there because the liberal media is itself hell and gone from the skeptical media of an earlier generation. There is no originality here in saying that the modern liberal media is of a piece with the leftist politicians it covers. They find Bernie Sanders and his socialist view of the world — a view that was clearly shared by his fellow candidates in one form or another — charming. Inviting. Utopian. To wax Marxian? Inevitable.

But as with that first Obama/Romney debate, the notion that a majority of Americans agrees with the socializing of America is a political mistake of the first order. Not that these pro-socialism politicians and journalists understand this. They won’t. They can’t. 

Out there in America, Texas Senator Cruz watched the debate in Iowa and said this:

It was more socialism, more pacifism, more weakness & less Constitution. It was a recipe to destroy a country.

We’re seeing our freedoms taken away every day and last night was an audition for who would wear the jackboot most vigorously. Last night was an audition for who would embrace government power for who would strip your and my individual liberties.

Suffice to say, there wasn’t a single candidate on that Las Vegas stage who has any clue there are Americans aplenty who think like Ted Cruz, regardless of their candidate. And there’s a reason for it.

The Taranto Principle has struck again.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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