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Biden-bashing for Fun and Profit

We have probably all sometimes read or listened to the political analysis of Larry Sabato, who is a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, and who has a popular political prognostication and analysis site. I was never a big fan of Sabato, who I saw as a moderate-to-conservative pundit. But I may have gotten him wrong, or he may have changed somewhat in his perspective. I thought that his coverage of the 2020 campaign was commendable.

I don’t read his work very much, but I happened to see a comment he made on Twitter the other day. I did not read the replies, but I was impressed at his forcefulness. He said, “My, my, the Sunday shows today are a festival of Biden bashing. The blabbers all seem to be enjoying themselves.”

That is strong language, coming from a respected political analyst, and we need more of it. I have turned off just about all of the cable news for the last two weeks, once I saw that every show was filled with coverage of Afghanistan, and the narrative that someone or someones in the media wanted to purvey, that the withdrawal was an absolute disaster, debacle, calamity; and that President Biden was responsible for this; and further, that this may have destroyed his presidency, all over now but the shouting.

Why would I want to watch this? Covid is spiraling out of control in various areas. Climate change is not only real, it is causing more destruction every day. The Supreme Court has essentially overturned Roe v. Wade. Unemployment benefits have been taken away from 8-10 million people, because Republicans refuse to extend them. But we were subjected to endless hours of what can really be described in no other way than “bashing Biden.” So I turned it off.

The topic of why the media does this; and as we can now form a fuller graph over the decades, of a systematic pattern of doing it, is an immensely important subject, and there should be many books written on it, though there may not be, because they don’t have the “sexiness” to them that the stream of books about Trump had. It is a real problem for our democracy, though. This is no longer a possible aberration, or a question of the media’s unreasoning hatred of Clintons, particularly Hillary Clinton. No, they are doing it to Biden, too. I had thought that they might give him a year, at least, but they gave him six months.

Now, we can debate the judiciousness of our withdrawal policy. But I know that there are some very respected foreign policy and international analysts who think, and have written, that given the pre-existing situation, we did about as well as any leader or nation could have done. We got out about 120,000 people, including all of our military personnel. We have evacuated all but 100 or so Americans, and many of those are people with dual citizenship who were not ready to leave; and when they are, we will do everything to help them. We brought about 115,000 Afghans out of the country. We tragically lost the lives of 13 military personnel, because of a terrorist bombing at the airport.

But the media, with virtual or real glee, has made this worse than 9/11, worse than Beirut; or Iraq, where there were no WMDs. The guests they have on are mostly current or former military people who pushed for our continued involvement in Afghanistan, so would be expected to loudly complain about the manner of our leaving it. Someone is booking these guests, one would want to know why. When I was watching some of the coverage, the only show that was booking guests who were largely supportive of what we were doing, was the Lawrence O’Donnell show.

The media is not supposed to be a cheerleader for any Administration, but I thought they were for Reagan and both GWH Bush and GW Bush. As for Trump, by far the worst and most evil president in American history, they were mostly afraid to say much at all, until the last year or so, probably fearing that he would turn his brownshirts on them.

The New York Times, at least from its headlines, since I am not going to buy it, or pay for it online, has devolved into this appalling collection of Hillary haters, Trump apologists like Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker (who decided to write a biography of Bush consigliere James Baker), and people they brought over from various right-wing publications, to attempt to push those narratives with a bit of grammatical finesse.

Their reporters might still be good, at least some of them, but their political articles are awful. The other day Peter Baker wanted to tell us that Biden’s “empathy” is not always appreciated by everyone, and that perhaps he should tailor it to different audiences. This is so reminiscent of what they did to Hillary: she was overprepared, she did not smile enough, she laughed too loudly. We know that this was disgracefully like what mean people do in elementary or junior school, find any way to mock or belittle their targets for their own gratification. The major media does not dare to do it to Republicans, but they love to do it to Democrats, as Sabato’s tweet crystallizes.

So if we have learned one thing, it is that the media will never get better. That does not mean that there are not a few writers and anchors whose work is commendable and worthwhile, but they are almost overpowered by the din of the rest of them. Do they want Trump back? Or is it not them, but just their bosses who tell them what their narrative should be? If so, that is pathetic on the so-called journalists’ part.

Are these just self-indulgent, arrogant people who have really not progressed from high school, or fraternities and sororities? There is something inside them which leads to the kind of almost atavistic attacks on Biden, and before that, Hillary. I would love to see them have to stand up and actually put forth coherent arguments about the nuances and complexities of domestic and international policy. But they can’t do it; they substitute attack mode as a pretense of knowledge.

How well we remember the likes of Matt Lauer and Andrea Mitchell treating Hillary as if she were a defendant in a criminal trial, and they were the State prosecutors. That of course was the vastly overesteemed Tim Russert’s approach; he would glare at her as if she were on trial for murder, would wave sheets of paper at her, going back to statements she had made 25 years before; while with Republicans, he would ask one follow-up, question, let them deflect, and then go on to something else.

I would not even mind this so much, except that it becomes in the nature of a self-fulfilling prophecy by the media. They drive Biden’s favorable ratings down, and then that becomes their new lead story. It is strangely evocative of how certain unscrupulous people manipulate the stock market for profit. Or how marketers relentlessly try to get people to choose their product. Maybe it is the financial “bottom line” which is driving the “news narrative,” rather than the other way around?