"Journalism and Politics Today"
Report by Betty Sakai
Arriving from the Fairfax area of Washington DC wearing a suit and tie, Jim Geraghty was introduced to the Forum without a tie and jacket. Commenting on his attire, he commented in heavy east coast drawl, he was just trying to fit in to Silicon Valley. So continued his free-flowing talk, meandering in and out of issues, moving from one political candidate to another, from issue to issue like the “meandering of the Mississippi River”, pondering, commenting brilliantly on the primary season.
Introduced to the Forum by Vice President of Programs Joel Fine, Jim Geraghty is a political reporter and contributing editor for the National Review. He was named as CPAC’s “Journalist of the Year” in February 2015. He writes the “Morning Jolt” newsletter and the long-running “Campaign Spot” blog. He authored Voting to Kill, The Weed Agency, and the forthcoming Heavy Lifting: Tales of Growing Up, Being a Family Man, and the Search for the Good Life co-written with Cam Edwards. Geraghty co-hosts a syndicated pop culture podcast with Mickey White, and appears regularly as a panelist on Fox News “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” as well as other cable news programs.
Republicans, Conservatives, he announced, have some really big things to talk about, like campaign coverage, NSA surveillance, and drones outside the workplace. Geraghty spends much of his time with the candidates and their campaign staffers, and noted that Rand Paul’s filibuster of the Patriot Act was very reasonable as he got Eric Holder to admit he doesn’t have the authority to kill Americans. Although the filibuster put Rand Paul on the political map, Rand Paul’s intent to reign-in America’s involvement in the middle-east troubles many. Having covered primary seasons for a very long time, Geraghty said it is his least favorite season because the candidates get very hostile with each other. Negative things that the candidates have done get tossed into the spotlight, like Rubio’s 4 speeding tickets, like Rick Perry’s running last time (…has no other place to go except the primary trail one more time…).
Jim said people feel more connected to voting for a President than any other office. The importance of the emotional connection cannot be underestimated. Exit polls in the 2012 Presidential race showed that voters thought Romney was the stronger leader, had the best ideas, but 81% of voters said they voted for Obama because they felt Obama cared about them.
People do not worry about things that do not affect them personally. Geraghty applauded the Forum audience for being interested in more than just the Kardasians, but people generally do not pay attention to anything except when it affects them directly. People are not worried about Russia moving into the Ukrain, about ISIS, about the IRA, or Al Quaeda. They have little interest in a NSA whistle blower like Edward Snowden, thinking only that he would be most difficult to work with. People are focused on themselves. If the Patriot Act were renamed the Freedom Act, it might get more press, he admitted. The bottom line is that politicians like Rand Paul focus things the great majority of voters feel no connection with.
Jim Geraghty went on to talk about the primaries and political charisma, about the straw polls in Iowa, and barbecues. Talking directly to campaign staffs, he finds out if candidates plan to enter the Iowa straw poll. His reservation about Iowa he confided is that voters there are 55% Evangelical Christian and not reflective of Republicans as a whole. However, the Iowa straw poll is a prelude to the Iowa Caucuses. Romney last time officially won although lost ballots later showed Santorum and Huckabee won. Some campaigns he noted are not going to Iowa but moving on to New Hampshire where voters in the straw polls there are described as “obese and irritated and garbed in Dutch Flannel”. Also, on the east coast, Scott Walker is described by the press as “Conan the Barbarian”.
Fox News and CNN have both said they will have the top 10 candidates who win the national polls debate. The remaining 6 candidates will debate in some other programming. From Geraghty’s point of view, Donald Trump will be 1 of the top 10 although Trump got into a situation with brilliant political analyst, Charles Krauthammer, who will be on stage during the debate. Bobby Jindal he feels will not be on the stage although he ran for office 4 years earlier unopposed by Democrats. Carley Fiorina he believes will not be on the stage because although she is skilled in business, politics is not the same as business. It is an entirely different skill set. People simply want to know who the candidates are and what they will do for them.
Asked what he would recommend for the GOP debates, Geraghty suggested splitting the 16 candidates into 2 groups and have them debate over 2 nights, or give them each 5 minutes to present to the people who they are and their platform.
Asked about other candidates, Ben Carson he noted has unparalleled knowledge about neurosurgery, but last week his campaign manager and staff walked out. He’s going through difficulties and is a brilliant man.
Mike Huckabee could be the “Evangelical President of Conservative America” but needs to develop appeal beyond his base. Huckabee is an extremely likeable man.
Asked about the firing issue that came up in the 2012 campaign with Romney, Jim Geraghty said the federal government hardly ever fires anybody. Romney could have handled that issue a lot better. Lois Learner is the poster child for what happens when you work for the federal government. You are not held accountable and if you get laid off, you get lots of money.
About his book, The Weed Agency, Jim mused that the book confused and angered marijuana users throughout the country. It is about how the federal bureaucracy works, not about marijuana.
He noted the VA scandal made people furious for about two weeks. Obama kept bragging about the enrollment numbers in Obama-Care even though it wasn’t going well. If he could, Jim Geraghty admitted he would require people to buy a copy of his book, The Weed Agency to learn about the federal government. Government provides high pay and protection for lack of accountability.
Commenting on Social Media sites, Jim reminisced about journalism before the dawn of the internet. Today Twitter is an amazing time-suck, he said, because everyone has something to say, especially the bunch of left-wing internet junkies who spend their time there. Facebook he said is really a great tool for staying in contact with friends.
It is interesting how people view Conservatives. He impressed 3 high school friends by being on the Bill Maher Show but they were totally unaware of his involvement on the National Review, on Fox News, and on the Greta Van Susteren Show.
The Franklin Center he added is dedicated to good journalism and wasteful state spending. In February 2013 journalists got together there to see what they did right in the 2012 election and what they did wrong. What was pointed out is that there is an audience on Face Book that does not come off of Facebook. If something is not being shared on Face Book, it is not known. To manage the left wing partisan media, Geraghty suggested Conservatives use this Social Media. Also, journalists like James O’Keefe help by ferreting out really big news stories, exposing issues.
In summary, Jim Geraghty said that our country has been in a depression and demonized for years. When Conservatives lost in 2008 we could almost see why. Voters bought into Obama’s speeches. Our opinions of our country have fallen as a result. To see the other side of America, he suggested we attend a PTA meeting. Walk to a bus stop and watch children happily going to school. These are the Americans we need someone to stand up for. There are still Americans who suck, and we need someone to tell us how great we are. We need someone to energize us again.
The Forum audience thanked Jim Geraghty for his insights with a long applause.
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