The strangest thing about Trump’s war on the press is that he is attacking something so systematically sycophantic that it would have embarrassed the courtiers in Louis XIV’s Versailles. The press, of course, would like you to think otherwise, and thus loves to hark back to when it wasn’t sycophantic – almost fifty years ago, during the administration of Richard Nixon. While this is accurate, the corollary that is never explained is that the Democratic party had been in power in the legislative branch almost without interruption since Roosevelt’s time. In other words, the establishment style in DC was set by the aging New Dealers and their kids.
Since 1980, this has not been the case. Although the old idea that the establishment media is “liberal” might even have some merit in a purely sociological way – the chance that a journalist will be more liberal than, say, a middle management person in the petroleum industry is pretty high – that liberalism has been confined, for decades, to a euphemistic approval of diversity, with a blind eye towards the racism inherent in our economy, our system of justice, etc., etc.
There is abundant proof that no matter how abhorrent and mendacious a president’s actions, the white house and D.C. press corps will be there for him. I offer up, as proof, the period between 2000 and 2006. George Bush was so obviously favored by the press corps (which found him the kind of guy that you could have a beer with, against Gore, the kind of guy who claimed to have invented the internet – really, the press loved this false charge) that when he won, there was a sort of holiday of profile pieces. Then 9/11 happened, Bush showed what it was like to panic under pressure, and the press regrouped to laud him as the leader we needed in troubled times. No questions asked for years about how a nation that had spent, conservatively, in the neighborhood of 20 trillion dollars building up a military force that could repel any attack on the “homeland” failed to prevent a handful of Saudi rednecks from hijacking planes and using them as missiles. No question about what the Bush administration knew and did nothing about. Rather, the press spread the idea, which has now become fixed, that there was no way to prevent 9/11. A common sport among liberals is to ask about how Al Gore would have responded to the attack, would he have invaded Iraq, etc. – as if another administration would not have rolled up the hijackers before the ink on their pilot licences was dry.
But the press was just getting started on providing a pretorian guard of publicists for the Bushies. From Soviet style press conferences in which Bush pretended to pick questions from reporters when, in actuality, he and they knew the reporters had been handpicked previously, to the wonderful rapport between the press and the president when he mocked the whole idea of that there were WMDs in Iraq (the video of this is still shocking), the press was “in on the joke”.
The NYT and the Washington Post signal, every day, that they would love to be loved by the President. To take a notorious example, it is pretty unlikely that, under President Hillary Clinton, the NYT would send a reporter out to do a soft soap portrait of a neo-Nazi. That was surely a rose thrown at Trump. It was in a sense a pledge that the press would go as low as he wanted as long as he tweeted something respectful.
Personally, I think Trump is making a huge political mistake. Bush’s people knew very well that the press is oriented towards thinking that the GOP is the natural party of political power. They played the press is liberal card, but professionally, in a way that the press could respect. Trump though seems as convinced as any Fox viewing retiree that the rest of the press is liberal as the Daily Worker. It is hard to kiss the ass of this president. The press will, however, keep trying.
Watch and laugh! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O35NA6TywAg