The New York Times is running a profile story on Eric Cantor, Republican congressman from Virginia, and House Minority Whip. By NY Times standards, this is a fairly soft piece; certainly not the hit job the Times has run on other Republicans. Nonetheless, the story should be taken as a first shot, and contains a glimpse of the approach the Times will take to attack Cantor should Cantor become a national candidate or stymie Barack Obama's legislative plans.
The Times tears people down by creating a caricature of the person. News reports, profile pieces, and columnists team together to drive the point relentlessly until the caricature enters the public consciousness. Bush the spoiled-rich party boy draft-evading dunce; Palin the unstable bad-mothering dim-witted hick; Cheney the Dr. Strangelove-style control freak; New Gingrich the half-crazed extreme-right obstructionist ideologue
For Cantor, the Times' first theme is clear. Cantor is a wannabe Newt. The title of the article could not be more clear on this theme: "In Gingrich Mold, a New Voice for Solid Resistance in G.O.P."
The article focuses on comparing Cantor to the demonic Newt. The web page even runs photos of both Cantor and Gringrich, for visual connection. With a back-handed compliment, the Times' notes that Cantor is not yet a certifiable Newt, even though Cantor "had studied Mr. Gingrich’s years in power and had been in regular touch with him as he sought to help his party find the right tone and message." But Cantor shares Newt's supposedly obstructionist tendencies, and "is as responsible as anyone for the tough line the party has taken in this first legislative standoff with Mr. Obama."
Should Cantor become more successful in his opposition to Obama's policies, or take the national stage as a V.P. candidate in four years, the Times will push the Newt connection. Eric and Newt will become interchangeable on the pages of the Times.
The second theme is that Cantor is a publicity hound who "has exhibited an eye for winning attention." Horrors, a politician who craves attention; I guess that disqualifies Cantor from ever becoming President.
So the theme is arising, albeit softly for now. If Cantor is unsuccessful, and stays in Virginia, the Times will stay with the soft treatment. But should Cantor succeed in opposing Obama's policies, or take a more prominent national role, the Times will launch into full attack mode to make sure the public views Cantor as "a publicity-craving Newt-Gingrich-style obstructionist."
UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long. Like hounds responding to a whistle, the left-wing blogs have picked up on the "Cantor the obstructionist" theme sounded by the NY Times: Gingrich's Obstructionism Becomes Role Model for House GOP; THE NEXT NEWT; Party like it’s 1992. From one brilliant and classy comment poster: "Cantor is the very embodiment of corruption. Repiglican corruption. He is totally bent over, pants down, ass checks pulled open, squeaking 'fuck me, fuck me' to every Repiglican penis that is behind him, starting with Gingriche's .. Cantor and his ilk should be treated just as Mussolini was for the good of what is left of our country." Now that's change we can believe in.