Why is Hugh Hewitt Mad at Ben Smith?

Written by David Frum on Monday June 13, 2011

Why is Romney-supporter Hugh Hewitt annoyed with Ben Smith's favorable Romney coverage?

Wow -- radio talker Hugh Hewitt is certainly annoyed with Politico's Ben Smith. He has now devoted two full columns to excoriating Smith for engaging in "pure Obama prattle," an "aggressive partisan," "the Avis of the left to Mike Allen's Hertz."

What's Smith's offense?

Smith irked Romney-booster Hewitt by writing a piece that opens, "The Drudge primary has begun, and strong>Mitt Romney< is winning."

Smith then details how Team Romney has deftly and successfully wooed Drudge to produce favorable coverage of their candidate. It's a classic piece of inside-baseball reporting, detailing a Romney success. How could such a thing possibly qualify as a "hit piece," even by Hugh Hewitt's exacting requirements for favorable Romney coverage?

The answer is found in the piece's setup sentence: "The former governor of Massachusetts may be the punching bag of the conservative media, ridiculed on blogs and talk radio as a Plasticine, untrustworthy flip-flopper and the grandfather of the hated Obamacare."

Hewitt rejects this as "simply not true."

Let's go to the tape.

Here's the Wall Street Journal editorial page on Romney:

Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible. If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.

Here's Rush Limbaugh:

Bye-bye nomination.

National Review:

[W]hen conservatives argue that Obamacare is a threat to the economy, to the quality of health care, and to the proper balance between government and citizenry, we do not mean that it should be implemented at the state level. We mean that it should not be implemented at all. And Romney’s health-care federalism is wobbly.

Here (a quote offered by Smith himself) is Mark Levin.

Romney "basically destroyed health care in the Commonwealth of Massachsetts." He continues, "In Iowa he’s for ethanol subsidies [and] in New Hampshire he’s for controlling man-made global warming. I can’t support this man in the Republican Primary. There’s just no way without compromising all my principles."

"If we don't break out of this next-guy-in-line RINO stuff, the society's going to go to Hell," he said.

Here's Neal Boortz (again courtesy of Smith.)

"Romney didn't own up to RomneyCare mess. Romney doth therefore become as charred bread."

Meanwhile, Fox News highlights Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, the Journal editorial page touts Tim Pawlenty, and conservative bloggers rhapsodize over Herman Cain. The distaste of the conservative media for the Republican front-runner is a fact so manifest, so inescapable, that Hewitt's denial seems to come from some other dimension of space and time.

"Romney has some critics of some policies in talk radio but many of the biggest talkers also say great things about him, and some bloggers blast him while others support him."

Many of the biggest talkers also say great things about him ...

Hewitt names no names and offers no examples of these "biggest talkers" saying "great things about Romney, very likely because such names and such quotes are few and mostly date back to the last cycle, when it was John McCain’s turn to be the punching bag of the conservative media. But there is one radio talker who has consistently championed Romney, and Hugh Hewitt can be forgiven for regarding that one as the very biggest of them all, for it’s Hugh Hewitt himself. It’s the slight to Hewitt, not the words about Romney, that prompted the outraged response, which a more economical writer could have compressed into the words, “Me! Me! What about Me?!”