It would probably be too much to expect Drudge to grapple seriously with the ways in which George W. Bush’s administration damaged conservatism, but even the civil war that has engulfed the GOP since Bush left office has, for he most part, been ignored by Drudge. Instead, he reheats old conservative arguments, as if the Bush presidency had never happened. Take his undying complaints about “liberal media bias.” This past June, Drudge worked himself into a lather when ABC News nestled inside the Obama White House to shoot an evening special. In Drudge’s world, the special was another example of the too-close-for-comfort relationship between the White House and the press tasked with covering it. While it is an issue worth raising, the ABC special barely registered on the national radar. When it aired, it was the lowest-rated network program of the night. Drudge had directed his ire against a target no one much cared about.
To the extent there has been a meaningful critique of Obama from the right, it has come from a smattering of other Web sites, like Instapundit and Michelle Malkin, as well as from Rush Limbaugh. Significantly, all three engage with their audience in some way. Drudge’s doesn’t reply to e-mail. There is a blank space on his Web site, through which you can submit news tips. (I’ve tried to get in touch with him this way, to no avail.)
Meanwhile, a new right, nascent and based online, has begun to emerge. Pajamas Media has launched an ambitious television project, predicated on the kind of technological advancements that Drudge has shunned. And the struggle over the future of American conservatism is playing out on sites like David Frum’s New Majority. Even National Review, an outpost for traditional conservatives, recently hired the iconoclastic Reihan Salam in an effort to adapt. Thus far, the relationship between this new right and Drudge might best be understood as one of missed opportunity. The “Tea Party” protests that broke out in April took aim at two of Drudge’s favorite targets: the Obama administration and the ballooning federal deficit. Granted, Drudge was the protestors’ loyal cheerleader, turning their every move into a headline on his site. But being a cheerleader means being on the sidelines—precisely where Drudge now finds himself.
“Drudge gets so worked up every day about such petty stuff,” one New York newspaper editor told me. “That’s appropriate for carnival/campaign season, but it doesn’t as effectively fit the mood in a country that is serious about sober governing.” A nation beset by financial crisis at home and besieged around the world, in other words, has more on its mind than the length of a presidential speech or an unwatched ABC special, let alone the threat of Japanese robots. Yet it’s worth noting that this editor declined to put his comments on the record. Mark Halperin and John Harris, once among Drudge’s most prominent validators, also chose not to comment for this piece. The implication is clear: down the road, Matt Drudge could re-emerge. “He’s on a bit of a sabbatical,” explained a friend of Drudge’s. “He doesn’t care” that his influence isn’t what it used to be.