Last week I participated in a nationally televised forum from New Hampshire,
along with Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, and John McCain. We took
turns answering questions from the audience of New Hampshire voters
concerning important matters facing our nation. While the whole affair was
carefully staged, on balance I think that it was a dignified attempt to
facilitate the kind of conversation between political leaders and citizens
that is the lifeblood of our republic.
The same cannot be said for the national media’s coverage of the discussion.
In fact, an incident occurred after the broadcast that epitomized what I
believe to be a deep sickness in the liberal media. Several hundred members
of the press attended a “media availability” after the televised forum, and
Forbes, Bauer, Hatch, and McCain were all questioned actively in their turn.
When I took the podium, however, and invited questions, the entire press
throng responded with a prolonged silence, and then began packing up and
preparing to leave, as though I simply wasn’t there.
Evidently the media elite cannot see past the color of my skin, or the
racial stereotype they would have me fit. They seem unable to make the
mental effort to recognize the moral, intellectual and spiritual realities
that require eyes of the soul, not of the body, to be seen.
Our elites used to understand the importance of these realities for the
health of our regime. Consider, for example, the following words of
President Calvin Coolidge, spoken on the occasion of the 150th anniversary
of the Declaration of Independence:
“We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material
things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them.
The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our
material prosperity, overwhelming though it appear, will turn to a barren
scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has
been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it.
We must not sink into a pagan materialism. … We must cultivate the reverence
which they had for the things which are holy. We must follow the spiritual
and moral leadership which they showed.”
As I told the press that night in New Hampshire, I believe that the American
people have learned long since to look past race to the common humanity of
their fellow citizens. We understand that it is possible to speak to one
another as Americans, not as members of groups whose membership is
determined by the color of our skin or how much money we have in the bank.
Black and white Americans, rich and poor Americans, northern and southern
Americans, respond the same way to the message I carry because they listen
to me as Americans, recognizing in what I say the common principles, the
common sense, the common aspirations that we have as a people — particularly
when I speak to them about the moral truths that bind us together under God.
But the secular and skeptical media does not represent such people. They
represent instead only those who are determined to achieve political power
and influence through manipulation of our material differences. Whether it
be money powers behind G. W. Bush or the purveyors of racial division in the
Democrat Party, the materialist politics of our elites have in common that
they pursue victory at whatever the cost to liberty, truth, or national
I have been experiencing the materialist prejudice of the media since I
first ran for office over a decade ago. At the beginning, the only questions
I ever got were about racial issues. Although I did not talk about race in
my speeches, but about our moral crisis, the pro-life issue, and about the
principles of the Declaration of Independence, the media only asked about
race. I fought this for months, until they finally stopped treating me as if
I was some kind of racial politician. But when it finally became clear I was
going to refuse to be put into the box of racial politics that all the
liberal blacks are willing to jump into, the media started to ignore me
utterly. From that day to this, the national media has refused to convey my
invitation to the American people that we rededicate ourselves to the noble
ambition of the American Founding.
The fundamental truth about bigotry is not that it is hateful, but that it
is stupid. The liberal media bigots who treat me with silence because I don’
t fit into their materialist box are men and women with souls capable of
remembering the things that matter. That is why I greeted their brute
silence the other night with brief remarks that I hoped would wake at least
some of them up. I told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves, and
that they should wake up to their responsibility not to let vice take place
in darkness and not to let virtue languish unnoticed. Their job is
truth-telling, which nourishes the soul.
Liberty can be possessed and enjoyed only by human beings precisely because
only human beings can discern the things that are beyond the senses. As our
politics decays into a blind, and therefore increasingly senseless, tumult
of material forces, we are increasingly forgetting what liberty is, and how
much of it we have already lost. We will retain our liberty, and our
dignity, only if we can remain a people moved with love and recognition by
words such as these of the late Martin Luther King:
“Ever human being has etched in his personality the indelible stamp of the
Creator. Every man must be respected because God loves him. … Whenever
this is recognized, ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’ pass away as determinants in
a relationship, and ‘son’ and ‘brother’ are substituted. (America’s) pillars
were solidly grounded in the insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage: all
men are made in the image of God; all men are brothers, all men are created
equal; every man is the heir to a legacy of dignity and worth; every man has
rights that are neither conferred by nor derived from the state, they are
God-given. What a marvelous foundation for any home! What a glorious place
If the American people permit the media to stare in uncomprehending silence
at those who restate these truths in our day, we will be acquiescing in the
destruction of liberty’s moral foundations. We cannot remain free if we do
not comprehend, or refuse to honor, the truths that make freedom possible.
Thus, the media’s smug silent treatment of those venerable truths prompted
me to speak up in the pressroom in New Hampshire last week.