The great paleocon political writer W. James Antle III has an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News on one of my favorite topics—how conservative voices in the media, by hitching their wagons to the modern GOP, kneecapped the movement. The best anecdote:
When hosts finally began giving voice to increasing conservative disenchantment with President Bush, for example, the administration worked to bring them back in line. In October, several prominent hosts were summoned to the White House for a personal meeting with the president.
Sean Hannity, who occasionally campaigns for Republican candidates, enthused, "I think [Bush would] have an 80 percent approval rating if he could bring people into the Oval Office six people at a time and explain it all to them."
That was one of the sillier moments in the election, and as Antle points out, one of the least perspicacious. Conservative talk radio with its tens of millions of listeners had actually pressured Republicans out of making some of their dumbest decisions—chiefly the Harriet Miers SCOTUS nomination, but also some of the earmark/pork battles like the $223 million "bridge to nowhere." Here was your model for staunching the GOP's bleeding. Inform them that they were bleeding. But the glamor of the White House and the White House's willingness (unlike the George Bush I White House) to coddle conservatives put a damper on that.
Here's a good example of the cocoon conservative media figures spun for themselves: Hugh Hewitt's election night broadcast. It's an amusing peek into this world where the media was lying about Bush's unpopularity, where the media rigs polls to make Republicans look bad, where wings take dream. The best bit is Hour 6, when the shape of the Democratic win was becoming clear, but Hewitt asks John Podhoretz why the media is using this "dirty data" that shows crazy results like George Allen losing.