Who's Afraid of Talk Radio?

“I could have stayed home and baked cookies.” Hillary Clinton, 1992

Those were the words that launched many conservative women into politics. Actually, Hillary Clinton has probably done more to motivate conservative women become involved in politics than any other woman ever has. And maybe that is as it should be. I was a stay at home mom of 4 small children when she made that statement. It angered me so that I picked up the phone and called into talk radio for the first time. That led to my career in talk radio. I’ve told that story so many times over the years and I always get a laugh.

Last week, the Clinton and Obama campaigns finally got the message and reached out to me and other radio talk show hosts to get their surrogates on the broadcast. They knew I was conservative, but they knew I’d be fair. I challenged guests on healthcare, immigration and the war and they answered questions. As the week went on, the names of the people offered to me became better known.

On Thursday, I was scheduled to have Rep. Maxine Waters on my program. She apparently took a look at the home page of my website and saw my story about Hillary, baking cookies and talk radio. Waters decided to not come on. I guess they didn’t click beyond the home page, because they would have found many more offensive comments about Hillary in the archives of the site

You only need to look at the candidates who are afraid of talk radio to see who are the least prepared to be president. Much has been made of the comments this week by Rush Limbaugh about John McCain, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham telling their listeners that they are pulling the lever for Mitt Romney and Ann Coulter saying that she’d work for Hillary before she would vote for John McCain. Wouldn’t it be better if the McCains, Clintons and Huckabees of the world went on talk radio regularly and explained themselves than to leave it to the hosts of shows reaching 20 million listeners to define them? Conservative voters appreciate it when people go into the lion’s den and face their opposition. It probably won’t change their vote but it will make the transition easier if you happen to win an election or two.

You need only look at the candidates running today to see who has the best skills for our country. Do you want a Senator McCain who says he’s been fighting for you but voted against the Bush tax cuts, limited political speech and says he’s opposed to earmarks but has been in the Senate for over 20 years and has not fought for balanced budgets?

McCain is also out of step with the people on immigration and while he mouths the words, “the people have spoken and we have to have border security first,” he has not embraced it. He thinks those of us fighting on that battlefield are small minded and un-American. He has been strong on the war and did favor the surge to the point of betting his career on it and gets points for that. Stubbornness is a great quality in a POW camp, but may not be the best quality in a President.

Maybe you want a Governor Huckabee who seems to be more like McCain on immigration and seems to believe that national security is a series one-liners for debate laughs. A Governor Huckabee who said in December 2006, “One of the great challenges facing us is that we do not commit the same mistakes with our growing Hispanic population that we did with African Americans 150 years ago and beyond. We’re still paying the price for the pathetic manner in which this country handled that… I think, frankly, the Lord is giving us a second chance to do better than we did before.” This is a nice statement for a preacher, but not for a president. To equate illegal immigration with slavery is on so many levels an affront to civil rights. Slaves were brought here against their will; illegal immigrants come here and break the law of their own free will.

But these two Republican candidates think of talk radio as the enemy and are not unlike their Democrat representatives on the left. I’m not saying that you have to like talk radio to be a conservative, but you should understand that your constituents like talk radio and if you really want to reach out to them you need to embrace talk radio. Talk radio questions the sensibilities of the listener and the guest. If you can defend your positions in that medium, you can defend them anywhere.

In 2002, I met with Terry McAuliffe, then Chairman of the DNC, while I was at CPAC. He ended up coming to radio row and doing interviews with many of the talk shows there. He has done some radio in the years since and I think even he would tell you that it helps to go into the lions den. Anytime talk radio seems to be at odds with the powers that be, people hope for it’s demise. The numbers just don’t back that up. Smart, entertaining and conservative radio is here to stay.