Almost (But Not Quite) Independent
Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy was willing to be critical of Mitt Romney's campaign before and after the election -- but he turned into a Romney shill in the month before Election Day.
By Terry Krepel
For someone who seems to really want to be a part of the Republican establishment -- so much so that he has tried to be a political power broker in his home base of Florida and his name was actually floated as a candidate for a Senate seat in Florida last year -- Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy spent much of the 2012 presidential election cycle being less than friendly to the process.
Newsmax spent much of 2011 trying to pave the way for a Donald Trump candidacy, then tried to co-sponsor a Republican presidential debate with him even though he was still making noises about running. Early 2012 saw Newsmax become Newtmax when Ruddy's website went all in trying to help Newt Gingrich win the Republican primary in Florida.
Ruddy had also been trying to make Newsmax appear less blatantly partisan. Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid quoted Joel Gilbert, the discredited maker of a speculative anti-Obama film, claiming that Newsmax canceled the advertising campaign he bought on the website to promote his film because "they wanted to move to the Center.'" Newsmax's attempt to purchase Newsweek in 2010 was another grasp at mainstream respectability, as is the Newsmax nameplate slogan "Independent. American."
Whatever the reason, Ruddy was feeling a bit ecumenical in his Aug. 2 column. After starting in typical right-wing fashion, claiming that Obama's "re-election seriously is in jeopardy because, in the early days of his administration, the president rejected a path of compromise and bipartisanship on domestic policy matters" (ignoring the fact that Republicans also rejected compromise and bipartisanship), Ruddy takes an uncharacteristic turn to praise Obama's foreign policy:
Two years ago, I thought an Obama presidency would be a redux of the Jimmy Carter years. Remember them? The Soviets invaded Afghanistan and cracked down on Poland. Armed communist guerillas were prevalant throughout Latin America and Africa. Iran fell into the hands of the ayatollahs.
Ruddy then quoted an anonymous "member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" who told him about how "Obama had been engaged and supportive in ways that had amazed many in the upper ranks," prompting Ruddy to respond, "This vignette about Obama is part of the larger, positive picture that emerges about him on the national security front, but it is also a story about how he has used his leadership skills to bring disparate parties together for common goals and shared interests."
Ruddy followed that with an Aug. 8 column imploring Romney to court the "Clinton voter," pointing out that "a negative campaign alone won’t win this election. At the end of the day Americans want a positive agenda."
Ruddy next weighed in on Sept. 10, diverging from the Republican path again to criticize the way Romney's campaign was being run:
Earlier this year it seemed to many that Mitt Romney was a shoo-in to become our next president.
Ruddy complained about the campaign's lack of conservative outreach, Romney's parade of gaffes, confusing messaging, and how the campaign "spent $2.5 million of critically important campaign funds building the Frank Gehry-inspired wood stage, citing someone calling it "a Swedish sauna."
It seems that something happened after that column appeared, because 10 days later, Ruddy appeared to have seen the error of his bipartisan ways and wrote a column endorsing Romney. Ruddy likened Ann Romney to Jackie Kennedy, declaring, "This November I would like to elect a first couple with similar character Ann and Mitt Romney." Ruddy does concede that "Michelle Obama has done a wonderful job as first lady, but:
Still, the choice is clear between the two couples and the two starkly different visions for America they hold. The Obamas want more government, more taxes, more anti-business rhetoric, and more gridlock in Washington.
Ruddy toed the pro-Romney party line even closer in his Sept. 24 column, spinning Romney's bad poll numbers into peddling "game-changing ideas" on how he can defeat Obama:
What a day!
Ruddy went on to advise Romney to "go negative," "stop 'splanin'" and to "do one nationally televised address each week for four weeks before election day on a key topic, giving specifics on how he will fix the problem" just like Ronald Reagan did.
Ruddy was fully back with the program in his Oct. 3 column, declaring that "The debate has ended and Mitt Romney has won. Romney won on both points and style," adding, "This debate may well turn out to be the major turning point for Mitt Romney in his quest for the presidency."
With the election drawing ever closer, Ruddy ascended to Kessler-level Romney-fluffing in his Oct. 30 column, dedicated to how noble Mitt Romney is for devoting himself to public service instead of making serious money in the financial sector:
Mitt Romney passed up well over a billion dollars to do public service.
Ruddy then touted how well Bain did under Romney:
In fact, during Romney’s tenure heading Bain, it boasted an astounding 173 percent annual internal rate of return on the firms it bought and sold through the end of 1999, when he left the firm.
Are we sure Kessler didn't write this?
After noting that "Perhaps the easy explanation is that two hurricanes and two betrayals by Chris Christie killed Mitt Romney's chances" -- and labeling Christie as "Iago" -- Ruddy laid out a point-by-point explanation of "why our pilot Mitt Romney and his plan were so flawed."
That got Ruddy back to where he was several weeks before the election, prior to his endorsement of Romney, when he was praising Obama's foreign policy and criticizing the way Romney's campaign was being run -- all critiques missing from Ruddy's writing in the final run-up to the election.
But having gotten that negativity out of his system, Ruddy was spinning the election results in his Nov. 25 column by examining exit poll data:
The bottom line on the presidential race was this: Mitt Romney lost the election because voters liked him less than Barack Obama.
Ruddy concluded: "The lesson of the exit poll is that if the Republicans want to remain a vibrant political party and win the presidency in 2016, they need to stick with their core principles, ones the American people agree with."
Ruddy does deserve some indepdendent-thought props for criticizing the Romney campaign for as long as he did before the election. Still, he did sell out for the last month or so. And the latter -- not the former -- will be the kind of thing that keeps him a Republican power player in Florida.