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Inside the Beltway: Apres-Priebus

- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2013

Alas, the Grand Old Party needs grand old changing. So says Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who is convinced the weary GOP needs a fancy new identity, as outlined in the "Growth and Opportunity Project" study released with much ado Monday. Such rebranding efforts are always fraught with peril though, particularly when organizers bandy about such terms as "bold," "fresh" and "transparent." Mr. Priebus used all three. His proclamation also inspired such gleeful headlines, as "Americans like Republican budget ideas, just not Republicans," which came from Slate, and "A 'cool' GOP still won't woo young voters" from The Washington Post.

Politico predicted that the report would "rile up the base" while Rush Limbaugh cautioned Republican leadership against succumbing to the siren call of marketing. "Look at what these focus groups have got these poor guys believing," Mr. Limbaugh told his audience.

But there are other concerns.

"In the last election, Republican candidates failed to properly engage on the pro-life issue and this latest report shows they have failed to learn from it. Rather than seeking to grow and mobilize the energetic pro-life majority, the GOP has allowed itself to operate solely on the defensive. Social issues are keys to reaching certain minorities the GOP yearns to attract, as well as to motivate millions of voters who first gravitated to the party as Reagan Democrats," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee supporting pro-life candidates.

"There are a number of pro-life issues which create an advantage with American voters. In fact, polls show that 60 [percent] to 80 percent of Americans agree we should stop taxpayer funding of abortion, and put an end to late-term abortions and sex-selection abortions," Mrs. Dannenfelser adds.

MSNBC: JUST 15 PERCENT NEWS

Once, there were anchormen who delivered no-frill facts in the voice of doom. America believed in them for decades. Times change, though. Consider that only 15 percent of what the viewer sees on MSNBC is actual news. "Opinion fills a full 85 percent of the channel's airtime," says a massive new media study by the Pew Research Center.

"CNN is the only one of the three big cable news channels to produce more straight reporting than commentary over all," the study says, noting that 54 percent of CNN's content is "factual reporting" while the rest is commentary. Fox News had similar numbers: 45 percent of its coverage is actual news, 55 percent opinion. Fox News, incidentally, "was the most profitable of the news channels for the fifth year in a row," earning $986 million last year.

"Pick any Orwellian nickname you want: the ministry of truth, the department of agitation and propaganda. But don't dare call MSNBC a news organization. No legitimate news outlet spends 85 percent of its airtime pushing leftist commentary. Pravda would be proud," observes Media Research Center President Brent Bozell.

THE NEWS THING

"Do the stories you care about. Don't get sucked up in that whole news thing."

Advice from Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert to CNN's Jake Tapper, during as appearance on "The Lead," Mr. Tapper's afternoon news show, which premiered Monday.

THE BEAT GOES ON

Conservative lawmakers, meanwhile, seek straight talk. On tap for Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., it's "Conversations with Conservatives," featuring free-market and liberty-minded members of Congress who meet monthly with any journalists who want an audience. The panel includes Republican Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Raul R. Labrador of Idaho, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, David Schweikert of Arizona, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, and Trey Radel of Florida. The event is hosted by Heritage Foundation blogger Rob Bluey.

See it live, right here: ustream.tv/channel/conversations-with-conservatives.

NO DRAMA OBAMA

"Hey. Wait a minute. That Satan character looks like President Obama."

Indeed, that's what many viewers decided Sunday night during the airing of "The Bible," History channel's blockbuster miniseries. Speculative press coverage followed, and social media ran amok. A conspiracy? Not so, the network says.

"The History channel has the highest respect for President Obama. The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It's unfortunate that anyone made this false connection. History's 'The Bible' is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history," the network said.

"This is utter nonsense. The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouzaani, is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics, including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our president," says series producer Mark Burnett.

"Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love our president, who is a fellow Christian," added Roma Downey, executive producer. "False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of the Bible."

POLL DU JOUR

• 63 percent of Americans have heard about financial problems and cutbacks facing many news organizations.

• 48 percent say news coverage is less complete because of these problems and cut backs; 52 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Democrats agree.

• 31 percent overall say there are fewer stories; 26 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats agree.

• 31 percent overall have stopped relying on a particular news organization because it failed to provide news and information they were "accustomed to"; 33 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism poll of 2,009 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 24 to 27 and Feb. 7 to 10; the results were released Monday.

Hue and cry to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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