Not Fooling Anyone
Has the president really been helped by his media supporters?
Special Counsel John Durham’s recently released report on the circumstances surrounding the so-called “Trump-Russia collusion” controversy has once again raised the issue of media bias: in particular, the extent to which prejudicial reporting by a generally left-wing press can unfairly harm a sitting conservative president and for how long.
But what about the flip side of media bias: the degree to which it can protect a progressive leaning president from having to address developments that might reflect negatively on himself or hamper his administration’s agenda.
Conventional wisdom on the right holds that Joe Biden has been spared the burden of having to manage a succession of difficult problems by a sympathetic press, which, all-too aware of his limitations, simply pretends such problems do not exist. From its quick acceptance of his son Hunter’s laptop as “Russian disinformation,” to its rosy interpretation of Biden’s inflationary spending bills, to its willful neglect of a collapsed southern border, mainstream journalism is seen by many conservatives as having successfully insulated the president from having to answer some very tough questions.
But with Biden’s approval numbers at historic lows for a sitting chief executive, even within his own party, should we not consider whether the president has, in fact, been helped by his media supporters? Does his current unpopularity simply reflect the fact that some problems are just too big to keep papering over—or is it possible that press leniency has seriously backfired, making many of Biden’s difficulties far worse than they might otherwise have been?
Take Hunter’s laptop, for example. Would the president really be worse off today if, during the campaign, he had been forced by a more aggressive press to concede the possibility of his son’s influence peddling?
Back then, any connection to Joe himself was far more tenuous than it now appears. And given that Hunter was already known to be a one-time addict who had suffered the untimely deaths of both his mother and brother, then-candidate Biden might well have played the role of concerned father in such a way as to make both himself and his son sympathetic characters.
More importantly, Antony Blinken would never have been tempted to engineer a letter from Michael Morell and fifty other intelligence professionals, testifying to the laptop as “Russian disinformation.” It was the suspicious nature of this dirty trick, as much as anything else, that helped to motivate the New York Post’s Miranda Devine and congressional Republicans to continue their investigations into the Biden family's finances.
And how much better might President Biden be rated today for his handling of the economy if more journalists had pointed out that even prominent Democrat financial experts, such as Larry Summers and Jason Furman, feared the inflationary consequences of his two big spending bills?
Having worsened so many of President Biden’s problems by trying to ignore them, one would think that his media sympathizers would at least have the good sense not to minimize the damage with transparently foolish or cosmetic coverage. Yet immediately following the House Oversight Committee’s May 10 update on the progress of its investigation into Hunter Biden’s influence peddling, both the New York Times and the New Republic magazine treated the absence of testimony explicitly incriminating the president as tantamount to a “not guilty” verdict.
“House Republican Report Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by President Biden,” the Times triumphantly reported. “Republicans Finally Admit They Have No Incriminating Evidence on Joe Biden,” beamed the New Republic. How could these publications not know that any effort to downplay what the committee has confirmed—a web of disguised financial transactions, originating abroad and ending up in various Biden family bank accounts—would only make thoughtful readers even more suspicious of corruption?
Or take the Washington Post’s May 10 piece attempting to portray the president as sleeplessly frustrated by his inability to stop the migrant inflow. At one moment he was supposedly yelling at staffers for not telling him “anything different from what you told me last week,” the next bucking them up with, “Look, I’m sorry, I know everybody is trying.”
Is any rational adult really going to believe that the American president was reduced to pacing back and forth helplessly as powerful drug cartels freely smuggled millions of people across the southern border for more than two years? Or is that same rational adult more likely to wonder what he or she is not being told—and why?
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Of all the left-leaning media outlets, only the Daily Beast seems to have figured out that slanting the news to advance either a favored policy or favored public official does not always work out the way today’s progressive journalism school professors want aspiring reporters to believe: the “Mainstream Media F***ed Itself,” one Beast headline graphically describes what Biden’s press sympathizers have wrought, and “Now We’re Paying the Price.”
Reporters of all political persuasions best serve the country when they heed the wisdom of modern psychology, which for years has taught that the average person is far more sensitive to being manipulated than generally supposed.
It turns out that Lincoln had it right when he famously noted, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”