Frank Bruni, formerly the New York Times’s White House reporter and now a columnist for the paper, has a long, long op-ed that is unintentionally revealing. It is headlined, “Will the Media Be Trump’s Accomplice Again in 2020?” As though the press were pro-Trump in 2016! “We have a second chance. Let’s not blow it.” A second chance to help a Democrat beat Donald Trump.
Bruni’s piece displays a remarkable lack of self-knowledge. Republicans should be happy to note that he still has no idea why Trump won in 2016: he thinks Hillary was a fine candidate, and it was the press’s fault for not being sufficiently anti-Trump.
Through the first half of 2016, as Trump racked up victories in the Republican primaries, he commanded much more coverage than any other candidate from either party, and it was evenly balanced between positive and negative appraisals — unlike the coverage of Clinton, which remained mostly negative.
The press, including the Times, promoted Trump during the primary process because they thought he would be a weak candidate, and helping him to the nomination would guarantee Hillary’s victory. Since he won the nomination, the press’s coverage of Trump has been the most relentlessly negative of any politician in American history. The Times’s own coverage has been obsessively–almost comically, in a black sort of way–hateful.
Bruni’s arrogance when he describes the role of the liberal press–which he consistently refers to as “we”–is breathtaking:
Above all, it [the liberal press’s “success or failure”] will have an impact on who takes the oath of office in January 2021. Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.
That is the function of the press–to create an “obstacle course” sufficient to defeat President Trump.
The funniest thing about Bruni’s column is that, for expertise on how to cover a presidential election, he turns to…Dan Rather! Seriously:
“The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” the former CBS newsman Dan Rather, who has covered more than half a century of presidential elections, told me.
Bruni uses Rather as a Greek chorus, the voice of wisdom. Without irony.
Bruni’s theme is that the press needs to stop paying attention to the Trump spectacle and instead focus on substance. He doesn’t mean it, though. He certainly doesn’t have in mind talking about Trump’s strong economy, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reduced regulations, foreign policy successes or judicial appointments. On the contrary, this is the kind of thing he has in mind:
I think that we’ve improved since then, and all along our efforts have included significant in-depth reporting. The Times’s acquisition and exhaustive analysis of confidential financial records of Trump’s from the 1990s — and its conclusion, in an epic story published in October, that he used questionable schemes to build his wealth — is a sterling example.
Heh. If Bruni thinks that is a “sterling example” of how the liberal press can defeat President Trump next time around, I can already hear the GOP cheers—“Four more years!”