This Big Talker Needs a Muzzle

Moderate talk radio host Michael Smerconish advocates the forced moderation of the Republican Party via changed primary process

By Jeff Schreiber
America’s Right

At some point during the past nine years, during the course of my journey from the ranks of the clueless and uninformed left to the shores of common sense and principles on the right, I passed Michael Smerconish like he was standing still. Kind of like the SEPTA buses often adorned with large advertisements for “The Big Talker” 1210 AM–a right-leaning Philadelphia talk radio station–featuring his shiny cranium blinding drivers nearby.

I haven’t listened to or even considered Smerconish for years, and really the first time I looked in my rear-view mirror at him was yesterday when, in an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Smerconish wrote that the GOP should change the primary process to offer moderate Republicans more of a voice and, therefore, more of a chance to become a nominee that wins a general election.

For those unfamiliar with him, Smerconish hosts a morning drive-time talk radio program here in the City of Brotherly Love, was recently syndicated, and just a few weeks ago was the first talk radio host to interview President Barack Obama in the White House. He also filled in for Glenn Beck during his days at Headline News, and currently has an ongoing gig at MSNBC. Unfortunately, as his commentary in yesterday’s Inquirer shows, Smerconish is as politically maddening as he is immensely likable.

I stopped listening to Smerconish not because I didn’t like the guy or because I tracked more to the right than he has situated himself, but rather that I increasingly found that his arguments to be less and less intertwined with reality. Consider, for example, his column last week on Rush Limbaugh’s failed bid for minority ownership in an NFL team — the entire piece, analyzing the political leanings of NFL officials and owners in order to argue that passing on Limbaugh was purely a business decision, was based on the premise that the NFL and the NFL owners had rejected Rush Limbaugh; in reality, however, Limbaugh was dropped not by the league or owners but by the group seeking ownership. In fact, the league and owners themselves had never voted on the issue.

Yesterday’s piece, Smerconish’s recipe for Republican success in 2012, seems equally at odds with reality and fact. Here’s how it starts:

The Republican presidential-primary process begins in 27 months. That sounds far removed, but the time for action is now if the GOP wants to nominate an electable candidate instead of one suitable for nomination but not a general-election victory.

That there has been an exodus from the GOP cannot be denied. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released last week found that just 20 percent of respondents identified themselves as Republican – the lowest figure since 1983.

Left behind in the party are the most conservative of voters. Their standing, coupled with the fact that the most passionate at either end of the spectrum are the most reliable primary voters, sets the stage for the nomination of someone in the mold of Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, or maybe Mitt Romney. Each is well-suited to excite the base, but when it comes to expanding the tent, you can check the box marked “none of the above.”

“The Republican Party’s nominating process is not designed to select the strongest candidate with the broadest appeal in the large states needed to win 270 electoral votes in a general election,” longtime GOP operative Roger Stone told me last week.

It’s time for the GOP to reshape its primary process. Now. The party needs a new strategy to give voice to its remaining middle-of-the-road voters. Recapturing the center will demand a shift in the way the Republican Party nominates its presidential candidates.

Again, Smerconish bases his entire op-ed extravaganza on something that just isn’t true. The question asked by the Washington Post and ABC News in the poll was a simple one: “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or what?” Of the 1,004 adults randomly polled, 33 percent considered themselves a Democrat, 20 percent considered themselves a Republican, and a whopping 42 percent considered themselves an independent. In fact, since February, the numbers of those considering themselves either a Democrat or Republican have consistently dropped, while the number of those who characterize themselves as independents has risen.

Consider for a moment what has happened since then. Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress passed a $787 billion so-called “stimulus” plan that even Obama administration economic guru Christina Romer admitted last week has not worked as planned. Congress passed unconstitutional ex post facto tax penalties on AIG executive bonus payments. The federal government now owns General Motors and Chrysler. The executive branch is now in the business of capping executive pay for those companies who accepted federal bailout money, and has set itself up to do the same for any company deemed a systemic risk to the U.S. economy, regardless of whether federal funds were accepted. And now, Congress is poised to pass sweeping health care reform that will force private insurers out of the market and enable the government to control every aspect of our lives by rationalizing effects on future health care costs, and currently pending is a cap-and-trade bill ready to obliterate the American economy and facilitate control of any other aspect of American life not covered by health care reform. Both items will likely be shepherded into law behind closed doors, with none of the transparency and sunshine promised by our president during last year’s campaign.

Oh, and not to mention that, at $1.42 trillion, the federal deficit under President Obama is more than the total debt for the first 200 years of our nation and more than the entire economy of India. Or that the $300 billion we now pay each year to service our debt is more than we pay to completely fund the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, Department of Labor, Department of Commerce and Department of Justice combined. Or that the projected $800-plus billion we’ll be paying in interest a decade from now could, instead, completely fund the Defense Department, State Department and Department of Transportation.

People are understandably frightened. They see the exponential expansion of federal spending, size, scope, and reach and are pushing back.

See, I’d venture a guess that those leaving the parties and joining the ranks of the independents aren’t doing so because they want more government interference in their lives. What I see are people who want their elected officials to err on the side of liberty rather than statism, responsibility rather than recklessness. What I see is an overall trend toward a lack of trust in either political party, brought about by a government which is increasingly perceived to not have the people’s interests at heart. The key to recapturing those people is conservatism, is the idea that we’re going to return to the role of America’s federal government as it was founded, that we’re going to tax less, we’re going to spend less, we’re going to keep your children safe, allow your business to grow, and beat the ever-loving snot out of anyone across the world who dares to compromise the health, safety, security or prosperity of America and Americans.

And, indeed, the very same Washington Post/ABC News poll cited by Smerconish in yesterday’s column supports that very idea. Consider the results from the next question in the poll: “Would you say your views on most political matters are liberal, moderate, or conservative?” From September to October, people who consider themselves liberal dropped from 24 to 23 percent and people who considered themselves moderate dropped from 39 to 36 percent, while those who deemed themselves conservative rose from 36 to 38 percent. Reconcile those numbers with the results of several other polls–the 2008 and 2009 Battleground Poll, and Gallup polls from June of this year to now, just to name a few–and you’ll find that the United States of America is very much still a right-center nation, and that conservatives outnumber liberals in all fifty states by nearly a two-to-one margin.

That the GOP should somehow do whatever it takes to become more moderate, to build a bigger tent over those in the center and on the center-left, is exactly the wrong answer for the party and, more importantly, for the country which depends upon its traditional common sense, values and restraint. The Republican Party must instead patch the holes in the proverbial tent over those on the political right who have been left out in the rain since George W. Bush began his second term. Republicans must focus intently on the proper role of the federal government with regard to every issue, from taxation to abortion to economic policy and even to gay marriage. They must reassure the American people that, across the board, the answer is always less government, not more, and that the people–not the government–are the only honest, safe depositories of freedom and natural rights.

Michael Smerconish has coupled his own unpredictable, erratic political ideology with poorly-interpreted numbers and come to the conclusion that America needs pale pastels rather than the bold colors advocated by Ronald Reagan. As we saw during the latter half of the Bush administration, moderate Republicans can spend and expand the size, scope and reach of the federal government has much as any progressive. And, as we saw during last year’s election, not to mention the mid-term elections in 2006, moderate Republicans simply do not win.

Yes, Barack Obama ran a brilliant campaign. Yes, the country was tired after eight years of George W. Bush. But Arizona Sen. John McCain lost because he was a moderate Republican. His views on immigration, cap-and-trade, campaign finance and the intelligence end of the Global War on Terror were no different than those held by Barack Obama, and Obama had oratory, popularity, youth and history on his side. Had the GOP run a truly conservative candidate that could have distinguished himself or herself from Obama’s perspective and worldview, perhaps the Republicans would have been better positioned to overcome their adversary’s ebullience, eloquence, and ability to overshadow promises never meant to be kept with soaring rhetoric and megawatt smiles.

Certainly, now that America is waking up to this White House’s habit of being economical with the truth and to the harsh realities of the liberal agenda run amok, the empty words and toothless rhetoric of Barack Obama will be no match in 2012 for a conservative Republican who engenders trust and errs on the side of freedom rather than tyranny. Anything less, however, and Obama will undoubtedly prevail.

But even John McCain must have been too conservative for Smerconish, who endorsed Barack Obama for president in October of last year. Which leads me to ask: is this really the man from which the Republican Party should be taking political advice?

When I think of the word “exodus,” I think of the Jews leaving Egypt, never to return. News of the so-called exodus from the Republican Party has been greatly exaggerated. Have many left? Absolutely. If you ask me what I consider myself, you’ll hear “conservative” or “libertarian” depending upon what aspect of my freedom is in jeopardy on that particular day. But unlike the Jews and Egypt, many of those new-found independents will likely return to the ranks of the GOP if people like Michael Smerconish stick to debating whether white lights or colored lights are best for Christmas decorations, and allow those of us who do the research and who know the people to make the GOP the right kind of political vehicle to ensure that the ideas, ideals, principle and values of our founders once again have a voice in Washington, D.C.

I like Michael Smerconish. I really do. He’s funny, he’s talented, and when he’s right–like in his support for the military, for law enforcement and specifically for the family of Daniel Faulkner, the Philadelphia Police Officer murdered in December 1981 by Mumia Abu-Jamal–there is nobody better. On this, though, Smerconish is dead wrong, and if I had the opportunity to do so, I’d tell him myself.



  1. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic article, Jeff. When I lived in Philly, I used to listen to him religiously. I was dissapointed to hear last year when he endoresed Obama. This dissappoints me even more.

    Redlands, CA

  2. Anonymous says:

    i didnt recognize him without the beard.

    he doesnt make much sense either way tho

  3. TammyAL says:

    Never heard of the guy, but if you like him he's got to be worth it.

    Maybe you can straighten him out, Jeff?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great points. I don't agree with him, but I like that picture of him signing the bomb. That's just awesome.

  5. CJBernard says:

    I left a comment over on the Philadelphia Enquirers website. I hope you don't mind.

    I found America's Right when you were writing about Sonia Sotomayor. This is one of the best articles since that the one about the blindfold. Great job, Jeff


  6. Vibe says:

    "Each is well-suited to excite the base, but when it comes to expanding the tent, you can check the box marked "none of the above."

    When did that box start showing up?
    I've never seen it, and I would speculate that were it present – "None of the Above" would be the landslide victor. Particularly among the choices we've been offered in the last fer election cycles. That would be an option the almost all for the scattered 3rd partys could get behind.

    Let's face it, the GOP has become the Dem-lite party and even JFK would be considered to be too far to the right of the new center. To really make much of a shift, the power to choose much be wrested away from the political machines and returned to the people, and the only way to do that is to enact a public veto power.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I also used to listen to Michael before I moved out here to the Left Coast. I agree with him that colored Christmas lights are better. But I see that's about all I agree with him on.

  8. JOHN HANCOCK says:

    I wanna sign a few bombs!!!!

  9. Rix says:

    Since I live outside PA and rarely listen to radio, I have no idea who this guy is. By the picture, he might be a likeable fellow, but his ideas are, ahem, mildly retarded. What's the point of even bothering with elections if the only difference between Dems and GOP is who expands the government quicker? Moreover, I strongly believe that the Republicans can tremendously benefit from closing their primaries; I don't see how allowing one's opponent to define and impose one's agenda can be of any benefit.

  10. sharon says:

    Great article Jeff,I have had enough of these so called "moderates" who are actually liberals. I have reached the point where I would much rather have a democrat win an election than to vote for a liberal republican.

    I also continue to be quite disappointed by certain so called "conservative" republicans. Newt's endorsement of the liberal, liberal, GOP candidate in NY has opened my mind up quite effectively. I am 100% done with the republican party and their vision for the future. I will stop giving money to the GOP directly and instead give my money to individual conservative republicans of my choosing. I am quite tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. Newt actually said we need to support the party first…. He certainly is not who I thought he was.

  11. SimpleSwine says:

    Smerconish, so THAT was the original name the spector family came to Ellis Island with!

    I am sick of folks saying, basically, that the only way to 'win' is to leave our Principles at the door, and become 'dem lite'… NO, I am a Conservative, and if the 'moderates' want to change the party, they can join the dems… yes, I said it… would we lose a few? Sure, but what good are folks who will not support their beliefs, whose actual beliefs are diametrically opposed to the rest? No good at all… I would rather have 10 folks who really believe, than 10,000 who only say they do.
    How would Conservatives survive? Easy, we FIND the majority that the poll was talking about… and we offer Independents, like me, a reason to come back… if folks want 'flip flop', if folks want to think the only way to 'win' is capitulation… they can join the dem's.
    There are not as many who align with DNC principles as the left likes to think… there are just some who want make a statement, or vote for what they feel may be the lesser of 2 evils… and how IS obama working out? Yeah, that's my point… we need to be strong, and stick to our beliefs, less we all end up sheeple… sorry, I just don't 'baa baa baaaaa' very well.

  12. Still a Patriot says:

    Hi Jeff -

    I think you should send him this article – he needs some enlightenment.

    I am an independent voter & I believe the 2 party system is helping to destroy America. I don't know how we can put an end to it.

    I read that Sarah Palin will be endorsing Doug Hoffman, a Conservative Party Candidate. She will always have the backbone to put principles before party.


  13. Gail B says:

    Jeff, even Democrats are becoming weary of Obama/Soetoro's lies, doubletalk, and well, freedom-sucking tactics.

    The reason so many Blue Dogs are coming over to the conservative side is that they want to be reelected!

    EVERYBODY knows that Marxism is not what our Founders had in mind.

    Great article once again. Thanks!

  14. Laurie says:

    Jeff….Outstanding article as usual. I am out of the area to hear Smerconish on the radio but have seen him as part of a panel on MSNBC as I was flipping through the channels….and what I saw I did not agree with and besides, it was MSNBC…never truly watch it and was sorry I stopped.

  15. Anonymous says:


    I hate to burst your bubble, but almost 50% of all democrats view themselves as a conservative.
    My wife is a perfect example. You would definitely label my wife as a liberal. She believes in public education, government run healthcare, a safety net for the poor , favored the stimulus plan, doesn't believe in the death penalty, voted for Obama, etc. Yet, she idenifies herself as a conservative. (See is very pro gun, however).
    I know I wouldn't put much faith in that survey….or any survey that doesn't define what a conservative is.


  16. Gail B says:

    Rubio (FL) agrees with Jeff!

    This is from Newsmax:

    "Republican Gov. Charlie Crist probably wasn't worried that literally embracing President Barack Obama back in February and strongly supporting the $787 billion federal stimulus package would hurt his U.S. Senate campaign."

    "I just knew that if we were true to ourselves and what we stand for, and we went out and told enough people about it, that we would begin to make progress and that's what's happening," Rubio said.

    Well, it seems that political insiders are now thinking that Christ's Senate bid might be losing strength because of that hug. (GOOD!)

    Be seeing ya! Am going to the U.S. Senate, Christ!

  17. Still a Patriot says:

    Hi Jeff -

    Here's a link to the Palin story – great article & comments.


  18. Anonymous says:


    Spot on!!!

    You nailed it, and I'm a long time, now former, Smerconish listener. You've just picked up a new reader of your blog.

  19. Anonymous says:

    He's a troll with a microphone!

    Lisa in TX

  20. Anonymous says:

    I used to live in the Philly area… and at first, he was a pleasant change after the upheavals at WPHT where they tried to figure out where on the spectrum they were. But even then, he seemed to agree with everyone regardless of view for whatever the topic of discussion was at that moment. Now in North NJ I run across Smerconish occasionally, and I'm sorry to say, he's now the Art Bell of political talk radio. The guy has the backbone of an egg noodle when it comes to taking a stand and frankly, if he can't understand that it was "moderates" (read milk toasts) like John McCain,the poster child for moderation, that lost us the election because he was so wishywashy, then he needs to rethink what meds he takes in the morning. There's conservatives, then their's "Democrat-Lite" or moderates… just on 1/2 less Socialism than your standard Democrat.

    You heard it right… I called this nitwit, a Socialist!.. LOL

  21. goddessdivine says:

    The GOP ran a moderate last fall, and look how great that worked out? People who want the Dem-lite approach need to just up and join the Dem party. Leave the GOP to the actual conservatives…..who actually believe in small govt, cutting spending, and the free market. I'm willing to bet that if the GOP got back to its roots (and ran a Reagan-like candidate), the party's numbers would swell.

  22. Gail B says:

    Anonymous at 2:58 p.m. said–

    Spot on!!!

    You nailed it, and I'm a long time, now former, Smerconish listener. You've just picked up a new reader of your blog.

    Well, welcome aboard, Anonymous! Be sure to check this site out in the a.m. and in the evenings, because Jeff never stops. He's like the Energizer Bunny and keeps going and going and going and going. We really appreciate all he does–for his family and for us.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Rix. Smerconish seems to talk a lot with little substance and plays the opportunities to "look good". He's a "player".

    In respect to his photo signing a bomb, I have never agreed with the publicizing the tradition of "signing the bomb". On the surface it appears to be the hip, macho thing to do. However, when you really think about the machine of war it really is a very ghastly and horrid act of humankind. There are certainly times when nations must exert military might to defend their economic or political interests; however, it is difficult to rationalize our own losses. As a former member of our military (fortunately only in peacetime) I never was faced with ordering my subordinates into enemy fire. The more I think about it, the more I highly regard with those who have to – not for the fact that they can, but with the fact that they know WHY they are potentially sacrificing their comrade in arms lives. It should be for defending the American Dream. And then when I think about the guys and gals fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq right now….what do they see the American Dream becoming as when they hear the latest that Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et al have shoved down our throats.

    I'm scared for those on the front lines who have to rationalize in their own minds what they are defending. I hope there is something left for them to come home to.

  24. Ken MacAlister Jr. says:

    I'm a recovering Smerconish listener Jeff & finally had it with him in autumn of 2008 when he kept urging the Republican Party to rid itself of conservatives & Christians & basically kept telling the GOP & his dwindling # of listeners they MUST think the way he does to win elections. I tuned him out in September 2008 before his Barack Obama endorsement. If there was ever any chance of me becoming a Smerconish listener again, the Obama endorsement was the final nail in the coffin. I come from a family with law enforcement officers in it & an uncle who knew Daniel Faulkner. As we all know the Faulkner case has been Smerconish's cause celebre for several years now. When he endorsed Barack Obama, who is surrounded by radicals who not only believe Officer Faulkner's murderer is innocent, but want him freed as well, he effectively turned his back on law enforcement for the sake of greater exposure & name recognition around the nation. I don't hate the man, but have no time for unprincipled opportunists like Michael Smerconish. His ratings decline in the first quarter after the 2008 Presidential election prove I'm not the only one who have tired of his strategic political positioning. Really like your blog Jeff & will continue to read your posts in the future.


  1. [...] as I wrote almost exactly a year ago today in This Big Talker Needs a Muzzle,  Michael Smerconish is likable.  Yes, he is endlessly professional when it comes to his [...]

  2. [...] as I wrote almost exactly a year ago today in This Big Talker Needs a Muzzle,  Michael Smerconish is likable.  Yes, he is endlessly professional when it comes to his [...]

Speak Your Mind