Morning Joe to Beto O'Rourke: Stop apologizing for being white -- and for everything else

Well, maybe not everything. He probably should apologize for periodically livestreaming his grooming rituals.

I made the same point as Scarborough last night about the sorry spectacle of O’Rourke’s apology tour. Which voters are supposedly being won over by endless professions of regret about his white, male, cishet, rich-guy “privilege”? To anyone who views that privilege as a major problem, Beto’s contrition won’t be enough to appease them. To anyone who doesn’t see it as a major problem, the groveling grates more with each passing day. The first group won’t respect him for being who he is, the second group won’t respect him for refusing to respect himself. If he believes his privilege is disqualifying, he shouldn’t run. If he believes it isn’t, he needs to spend much more of his time when he talks about this explaining why it isn’t.

He’d benefit greatly from following Warren’s lead and rolling out major policy plans on a range of subjects, I think. The 2019 media narrative is that he’s an empty suit whose appeal has to do chiefly with his demographic profile. Give them something meatier to talk about and then, the next time he’s asked about his “privilege,” he can say that he’s running because Democrats are the party of ideas or whatever and he has some big ideas for the future of the country, such as … yadda yadda.

I have a shred of sympathy for O’Rourke’s fall from media grace just because it reminds me a bit of how they treat Republicans in elections. It must be disorienting for Beto to go in the span of a few months from the great liberal hope against Republican villain Ted Cruz to the de facto “Republican” in the presidential primary, the guy with money, hailing from the white patriarchy, with no real policy chops, whose past views are far too right-wing for the sort of insular online progressive trash that influences how mainstream media reporters think. Peter Hamby, who wrote a piece last year touting O’Rourke as a sort of second coming of Obama, followed up today with a new column partly blaming the media for Beto’s failure to launch as a national candidate:

The press commentary swirling around O’Rourke has been like this for months—mockery first, re-tweets second, sober analysis third. “There’s a difference between journalism and piling on to candidates for sport/retweets, and not enough folks realize that,” tweeted William O’Malley, the son of former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, who was routinely dismissed during the 2016 campaign as little more than a “boring white guy” despite whatever ideas he brought to the race. It’s a media mess of O’Rourke’s own doing, not just because he entered the campaign without a clear Reason Why, but also because he assumed that his seat-of-the-pants, D.I.Y.-style campaigning in Texas would translate neatly into the hothouse of a national campaign, against a different set of opponents and an always-on press corps that’s as responsive to the demands of progressives on Twitter as they are to voters in Nashua and Council Bluffs.

Compounding O’Rourke’s problem, notes Hamby, is that he doesn’t seem nearly as interested in the national media as they are in him:

One journalist who frequently covers O’Rourke on the road said there’s a gulf between the tone of the national coverage—condescending and dismissive—and what reporters witness on the ground. O’Rourke regularly draws large crowds, even on workdays, wherever he shows up. He goes deep on policy. Afterward, O’Rourke talks to press gaggles, takes all their questions, and then repeats the process at his next campaign stop, sometimes until reporters run out of questions. “But if you are in the D.C. or New York press and you aren’t getting on a plane, he is not talking to you,” said the reporter, who did not want to be named. “He is not coming to your greenroom and studio. That pisses people off. He is starting to play that game a bit, but Mayor Pete stepped into that space and said, ‘Sure, I’ll talk to you.’ Pete just has a greenroom goodwill that Beto doesn’t have at this point.”

O’Rourke’s not paying the national press the attention they feel they deserve so naturally our guardians of democracy are as pissy as high-schoolers about the snub and are punishing him for it.

Whatever, though. It’s true, as Hamby says, that the media loves a comeback narrative and will seize upon it in O’Rourke’s case if/when his polling shows signs of life. And if it never does, he’ll have gotten a tiny taste of what it’s like as a politician when the press is predisposed to dislike you and willing to grab at any straw to nurture that dislike. After last year’s Betomania in Texas, I never would have figured him as a future media scapegoat. But in hindsight it makes sense — he crossed the left by momentarily threatening Bernie’s grip on the race, he’s made some gaudy missteps a la his odd “I’m in a funk” road trip, and of course he’s the wrong race and the wrong gender for a press corps that wants diversity on the national ticket. Makes me laugh that the left’s and the media’s reward for turning him into a whipping boy might be a Joe Biden nomination.