Roger Simon has a column in Politico where he interviews an anonymous White House source about the fallout from the scheduling conflict over the President’s jobs speech. One comment given by the source indicates to me that this White House has a very peculiar view of media:
The White House was well aware the president’s speech would conflict with a planned Republican debate sponsored by POLITICO and NBC to be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The debate would be broadcast live by MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo and live-streamed by POLITICO.
Yet the White House did not see this as an obstacle. “With all due respect, the POLITICO-MSNBC debate was one that was going on a cable station,” the White House source said. “It was not sacrosanct. We knew they would push it back and then there would be a GOP debate totally trashing the president. So it wasn’t all an upside for us.”
There is quite a bit of hubris in that comment, but lets focus on how the source demeans cable news.
It’s true that in absolute terms, MSNBC does not have very high ratings. MSNBC also does not have the deepest penetration into American households.
Yet I am willing to bet that the people who do watch MSNBC are very interested in politics. Whether they are liberal or conservative, they are invested in the 24 hour news cycle. They are more likely to be frustrated if they have to choose between an important speech and a GOP debate.
People with niche media needs have more options than ever to have those needs met. Sure, the country as a whole doesn’t really care when the speech is held, but for people who are invested in the GOP debate they not only care more, they also have louder megaphones.
Simon’s account of the day’s events is very sympathetic to the White House. According to the account, Boehner was ok with the proposed date and it was only when Rush Limbaugh said it had to be changed that Boehner acted.
Even if this is true, it is hardly surprising. It speaks to what should be obvious to the White House by now: that the Republicans are very plugged into their media and that they respond to what their base wants. In the GOP’s world, the debate is very important to them, moving it could be seen as losing face to the White House, and they are not necessarily going to let the White House pre-empt something they have already planned.
If we find out next Thursday that all this brouhaha was over speech where the President discussed patent reform and the need to commit to long term deficit reduction, it’s going to make the fuss that has been raised by the White House seem even more petty.