The common denominator of the two extremes is the abandonment of disinterested reporting

Victor Davis Hanson writes about America’s Media Meltdown:

Between 2008 and 2016, the media were unapologetic about their adoration of President Barack Obama. Now, they are energized by their thorough loathing of President Donald Trump. In tragic fashion, the hubris of deifying Obama has now come full circle to the nemesis of demonizing Trump. The common denominator of the two extremes is the abandonment of disinterested reporting…

While a few journalists were aware of their cult-like worship, most were hooked and competed to outdo one another with embarrassing hagiographic praise. Upon election, Obama was summarily declared by one presidential historian and television pundit to the smartest man with the highest IQ ever to have been president.

Obama himself channeled the veneration, variously promising in god-like fashion to cool the planet and lower the seas, remarking that his own multifaceted expertise was greater than that of all of the various specialists who ran his campaign. For the next eight years, the media largely ignored what might charitably be called an historic overextension of presidential power and scandal not seen since the days of Richard Nixon’s presidency. A clique of journalists set up a private chat group, JournoList, through which they could channel ideas to promote the Obama progressive agenda.

Freed from most press scrutiny, the Obama administration surveilled Associated Press reporters accused of leaks and monitored the communications of Fox News’s White House Correspondent James Rosen. In a variety of scandals, UN Ambassador and National Security Advisor Susan Rice lied repeatedly about the Benghazi catastrophe, the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap, the Iran deal, and the supposed destruction of weapons of mass destruction by the Assad government in Syria. Meanwhile, Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch faced inquiries about massaging the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Close advisors such as Rice and UN Ambassador Samantha Power faced congressional inquiries into whether some in the administration had requested improper surveillance reports of political opponents, unmasked their names, and illegally leaked them to the press—a story that the media overlooked.

Most Obama foreign policy initiatives proved disappointments: reset with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the bombing of Libya resulting in postwar chaos, the withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeepers from Iraq, the faux redlines with Syria, failed “strategic patience” with North Korea, writing off the ISIS terrorist caliphate as “Jayvees,” and the expansion of Chinese bases into the South China Sea.

At home, Obama was the first president in recent history never to have achieved three percent economic growth, as labor non-participation rose and median family incomes fell. The media largely ignored a series of scandals, as if investigating them might endanger the Obama progressive moment: the politicization of the IRS, FBI, and Justice Department; ICE reduced to de facto irrelevance; fraud at the VA; overreach at EPA; and incompetence at the Secret Service and GSA.

Rather than appreciate such media obsequiousness, Obama sometimes showed near contempt for toadyish reporters, joking about his positive press coverage and joshing how he got the Nobel Peace Prize without much accomplishment. His deputy National Security Advisor and would-be novelist Ben Rhodes contemptuously manipulated and then wrote off young foreign correspondents as know-nothings—despite the fact they had helped the administration obfuscate the dangerous implications of Obama’s Iran deal through what Rhodes called an “echo chamber” of administration-fed talking points.

Former speech writers Jon Favreau and Jon Lovett joked on television how they had easily deluded the public on the downsides of Obamacare. Special advisor Jonathan Gruber laughed at the “stupidity of the American voter” who was easily deceived by the administration and media about the nature of Obamacare. Again, the common denominator was an expectation that the press was not a public watchdog but an enabler of the Obama agenda

In addition, the current generation of marquee reporters was schooled at the major journalism schools by veterans of the 1960s, when the “new” journalism saw progressive political activism—opposition to the Vietnam War and the promotion of civil rights, feminism, and environmentalism—as the proper counterweight to traditional and supposedly regressive American values

Trump was neither shy nor decorous in punching back, ridiculing the appearance of on-air talking heads, relegating them to back of the room slots at press conferences, and going over the head of the media through often crude ad hominem tweets. Although polls (whose reliability remains questionable after the 2016 election) rarely showed figures higher than forty percent for Trump, the media is held in even less regard, with about two-thirds of those polled expressing their disapproval of journalists.

If the media became unhinged in the adulatory Obama years through hubris, it might have earned back its respect and professionalism by covering Trump in even-handed fashion. But Nemesis does not work that way: those it destroys, it first makes mad.

 

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