Trump shines a spotlight on the media's left-right double standard
What Republican pundit has been driven mad the most by President Trump?
The choice isn't immediately clear. There's Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who, once a strong critic of Democrats' foreign policy, has fallen over herself to criticize Trump. It could be Rick Wilson, the bald-pated power consultant who compulsively picks at the president like a dried scab. There's also George Will, the sesquipedalian conservative columnist, who has endorsed the Democratic Party in the fall elections because Republicans are too deferential to the White House's current occupant.
The man most rankled by Trump, in my estimation, has to be Max Boot, the esteemed foreign policy adviser and impassioned supporter of American imperium. Boot once told the New York Times that he'd "sooner vote for Josef Stalin than I would vote for Donald Trump." He pens screed after screed hammering the president, including the classic "Donald Trump Is Guilty," which contained the embarrassingly undermining clarification in its subtitle: "The only remaining question is what exactly he's guilty of."
Boot's not being facetious here. The Obama presidency, compared to Trump's, did seem calmer, less tumultuous, and far less anarchic. But anyone who paid attention during the Obama years knows that it wasn't smooth sailing. Right or left, liberal or conservative, independent or partisan – all know that there was plenty of scandal under Obama, just as there is with all fallible men in high office.
The difference was the lack of intensity with which the media focused on screwups, which, in turn, created the perception of competence at the top. Where Trump can't blast off a tweet without it being parsed and snipped and dissected by a million journalists at once, Obama could run guns to Mexican narcos with nary an unpleasant inquiry about it.
George W. Bush's administration is still widely regarded as a bumbling mess, its reputation marred by protracted war and a financial crisis in its waning days. Meanwhile, Obama alumni have hardly the same stigma attached to them. This is despite being attached to a wide list of offensive scandals, some of which include the lie of "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor"; turning Libya into a slavery warehouse; outright lying to pass the Iran nuclear deal; defending violent thugs before having all the facts straight; the IRS discriminating against conservative advocacy groups; and revelations of widespread NSA spying without a warrant.
When the media emphasize a wrong, it naturally follows that it's seen as more egregious than if it were unmentioned. This is the power the press has. The event reported today is consequential; the unreported event is buried in memory's grave.
As a better illustration of the difference, consider the nationwide outrage over the Trump administration's family separation policy at the southern border. By following the law as written and detaining adults who entered illegally while freeing the minors, Trump was excoriated, likened to Franklin Roosevelt, who interned thousands of citizens of Japanese ancestry.
Yet Trump's directives at the border were hardly worse than anything done under his predecessor. Not only did the Obama administration practice family separation, but it was arguably harder on illegal immigration than the current administration, setting a record for deportations and even housing migrant children in cages built for stray dogs.
You wouldn't know any of that, given the outsized scrutiny of Trump's immigration policy. Obama's abuses went unremarked on until some inept journalists misattributed them to Trump.
With this mishandling of news, wouldn't it follow that the public has a skewed view of which president is more scandal-prone? Sure, there may be no convincing someone like Max Boot that Trump is anything other than Satan incarnate. But that's no excuse to poison the minds of the whole demos.
A free press is a wonderfully American thing. But the power to shape perception comes with a duty to be truthful. That our media would choose dereliction in favor of partisan point-scoring shows just how rotted inside they've become. Soon enough, the inner structure will become too decayed with deceit and lose all authority. What then becomes of our Fourth Estate?