Political autopsy: Post mortem on Debra Medina interview with Glenn Beck

Medina campaign bumper sticker

I’m sure when Debra Medina got out of bed last Thursday morning, she was pumped for her “15 minutes of fame” on-the-air with Glenn Beck. I’m also sure she never expected to go down in flames so completely in just 10 minutes.

The upside to getting a call from a show like Beck’s is that you get a call from a show like Beck’s. The downside is the risk it doesn’t go well. Debra Medina took that risk and it did not go well. Up to that fatal point, I was like a growing number of Texans; I hadn’t completely made up my mind about Medina as a republican candidate for governor. She did surprisingly well in the first televised debate, no doubt helped unwittingly by the bickering between the two politicians who flanked her. In the second debate, Medina seemed to “drone” a bit and was redundant in places. It was also the first time she appeared not to answer questions directly; Medina instead often digressed into political-speak about her campaign and her supporters rather than speaking directly to the issues raised.

And those are the two things, I believe, that actually did her in while  a guest on Glenn Beck’s air. She did not answer his questions directly, and, her supporters followed up her interview with hostile phone calls on-the-air. Not. Good. Forgetting for a moment whether Medina’s non-answers implied she’s actually a “9/11 truther,” her rambling and indirect responses to all of Glenn Beck’s questions did not reflect well on her or her candidacy. Beck had to ask his first question three times (“Tell me who you are?”) before Medina finally – and rather tersely – replied with a short laundry list: Rancher, wife, mother, businesswoman. By then, the host was well down the path of irritation before he even asked the “big” question about involvement with or support for 9/11 truthers. Medina’s initial response that she’d “never heard that one before” was so disingenuous that I actually laughed out loud.

Now about that question. The notion Medina supporters put forward that Glenn Beck’s question about her proximity to 9/11 truthers was somehow not fair or that she wasn’t “prepared” for the question is utterly ridiculous. Here’s the thing. Glenn Beck is an extremely successful, nationally syndicated radio talk show host. That means he has Millions of listeners (with a capital “M”). He absolutely has earned the right to ask whatever question he wants. It’s his show! Medina agreed to be on-the-air with him. When she said yes to the request, she was in essence agreeing to fully participate in a public interview with a national newsmaker. She had an implied responsibility to answer his questions, or at least, to clearly state that she refused to answer a particular question. On the other hand, Glenn Beck was under no obligation – nor should he have been – to limit his questions to what she and her supporters wanted her to talk about (which apparently boils down to two things: private property rights and gun ownership).

Beck set up the interview for his listeners by stating clearly that he didn’t know much about Medina, that he was interested in the Texas governor’s race, that he already knew he didn’t like Kay Bailey Hutchison as a candidate, that he liked some things he’d heard sitting governor Rick Perry say (about state’s rights and immigration, in particular), and that he was surprised by Medina’s surge in the polls. So he wanted to “get her on the phone.” OK, so when he did get her on the horn, Beck apparently knew enough about rumors of Medina surrounding herself with truthers (there seems to be a fair amount of “truther” slogans at her events) to ask her what turned out to be the fatal question. I don’t think this means that he was out to set her up (especially not as a Perry schill). I do think it means that he was generally aware of the association rumors and, as part of his efforts to learn more about her, wanted to know if there were any truth to the “truther” talk. It’s a big issue for him. But that’s a far cry from conspiracy, although it follows that the truther crowd could interpret everything in a conspiracy context.

And that’s my other point. Medina’s supporters are an aggressive bunch. They do not brook any talk by conservatives or republicans of supporting other candidates, as if Debra Medina has some divine constitutional right to be governor of Texas. I’ve had a few Twitter encounters with these “Mediners” and I’ve seen them tweet-flock others who point out Medina’s flaws, or Palin’s virtues, or Perry’s successes. These constantly critical supporters do not serve their candidate well with their incessant bashing of anyone who doesn’t say what they want to hear about Debra Medina. Supporters who called in to Glenn Beck’s program after Medina’s on-air failure even took on a tone of immaturity. I heard one caller from New Braunfels – who initially claimed to be a “good” caller – proceed to sing-song a “nanee-nanee-boo-boo” type of taunt to Beck when the call didn’t go his way. How childish.

Ronald Reagan essentially said that your policies and position are evident by the company you keep. If these supporters are the voices in Medina’s head, then she has more political problems than just a bad morning on the Glenn Beck show. And in her head I think Medina’s supporters are indeed; it seemed that one of the reasons she held back from clearly denying a 9/11 truther position to Beck, was that she was more concerned about losing truther-supporters than with how she may have sounded to Glenn Beck and his audience. It was astounding that Medina seemed not to “get” the magnitude or altitude of the stage she on that morning; another clear sign of her inexperience and lack of comprehension about how things really work beyond Wharton, TX.

As for the Medina supporters’ conspiracy theory that Glenn Beck set her up; even IF Beck actually intended the interview to be a “french kiss” (Beck’s words) for Rick Perry right from the beginning, I would encourage Medina and her followers to grow up a little. This is not a sandbox that she’s playing in, albeit Texas-sized. This is politics and the Glenn Beck show is a national stage. What really came through in the interview was Medina’s inability to tolerate questions or to quickly and clearly state her position on an issue. It was this lack of experience that ultimately turned me off completely to her candidacy. I think we have already seen enough of the results of inexperience from a presidential candidate elected to a level of office for which he was – and remains – extremely ill-prepared.

What’s most unfortunate to me about Debra Medina’s candidacy is that she didn’t first put her energy, passion, time, and talents into getting the state-level experience she needed to be considered more seriously as a gubernatorial candidate. Medina sounds like a constitutional conservative with a pretty good personal track record of success in a limited arena. But knowing history isn’t the same as making history. I would like to have seen her offer to serve in Gov. Rick Perry’s administration, learn the ropes, and make a serious run at taking the reigns of state republican leadership when Perry moves on. Medina and Perry probably agree on more than they disagree. Unfortunately, Medina’s approach of digging in as a third candidate has probably not been good for the party and definitely not good for Medina herself.

Plenty of people have already pronounced Debra Medina’s candidacy “dead” in the wake of the Glenn Beck debacle so I won’t go there. Instead, I will speculate ahead. I think we could still see the possibility of a political future in Texas for Medina, if she is teachable and learns the lessons of this episode. Medina is undoubtedly a strong woman and she’s a Texan, so I think she has what it takes to reinvent herself, her campaign, and perhaps even her followers for the future. The question is whether she will have the gumption to stand up and say who she really is and what she really stands for, not only to the Glenn Becks of the main stage but to her supporters as well – whoever they may be and whatever they may stand for.

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    • Jennifer
    • February 16th, 2010

    Debra Medina is not a 9/11 “truther”.

    I was a Debra Medina supporter, and I still am a Debra Medina supporter.

    I met Debra before she announced her candidacy. I believe that I know her character.

    I am very proud of how she has handled this whole controversy. She was slightly confused by the real question, but answered it honestly. She continues to say that people should be allowed to question their government even in truly difficult situations.

    Debra is honest. She believes that everyone should have the freedom to have their own belief systems. Freedom of Speech is very important in our country and should not be infringed upon. By noting that there are those who have questions about 9/11, she took a stand on their behalf, and I admire her bravery.

    Too many of us fall in line with the easy answer, the conventional answer, the expected answer. Do we want our leaders to continue to lie to us because that is what we want to hear? I pray, that is not where we are today.

    • AlanH
    • February 17th, 2010

    If the author of this piece were smart, he would have done his research on his hero Beck before writing this drivel.

    Don’t take my word for it, take it from the truther’s mouth himself:
    http://www.journal-post.com/2010/02/15/3492/glenn-beck-questions-911-in-2009/

    Now, if *HE* can ask those questions, why can’t others?

    • Thanks for the view and comments, Alan. Just FYI that the “author of this piece” is a woman…like your candidate. Bet she hates it, too, when someone assumes she’d need to be a man to speak her mind. So, it’s cool that you’re passionate about Medina’s campaign but I think you folks all need to chill out on the insulting tone toward anyone that doesn’t thoroughly support Medina’s candidacy. I thought my piece gave her credit where credit was due. Your issues seem really to be with Glenn Beck, and in that regard, I think you’re missing some of the point here about the job he does and the role he plays in this kind of dialogue. I was a radio talk show host in one of my former lives, and on-the-air in television for many years. Maybe it’s easier for me to see and hear Glenn Beck’s position of responsibility to sift through a LOT of issues and information. I’ll take a look at the link you posted. Thanks for caring and voting in the TX governor’s race. May the best man – or woman – win! BTW, do you live in New Braunfels? Peace out.

    • gmirwin
    • February 24th, 2010

    Thanks for the article. You did a good job of trying to be fair to all sides.

    Personally, I did believe the “unpolished candidate” explanation Mrs. Medina gave. I do agree with you that she needed more experience before seeking the governor’s office.

    By the way, there are a lot of good folks in New Braunfels (jerks too, but they are everywhere).

    • LOL on the comment about folks in New Braunfels…I actually have a good friend down there, and I met a young couple from NB over the weekend – we had a good laugh about this very thing. He assured me that he was not the caller to the Glenn Beck show 🙂 Thanks for your kind comments and for visiting my blog! You may want to check out The Austin Capital Times online, too; I often write there and don’t always put it into my blog: http://www.austincapitaltimes It’s an online newspaper – just getting started. Check it out – let me know what you think!

  1. February 24th, 2010

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