There is a widespread perception among those on the right that President Trump’s myriad foibles, vagaries and outright prevarications are somehow justifiable because he is The Great Destroyer of the mainstream media. His fans say he is running the media around in circles — and that is its own reward. Are you still waiting for extreme vetting? For the border wall? For tax cuts, Obamacare repeal and a massive military buildup? Well, sit down and shut up. Just be grateful that Trump has the media hysterically following his tweets like a hormonal teenage boy frantically searching for internet pornography.
But this is wrong.
Trump isn’t destroying the media’s credibility. They already destroyed their own credibility, thanks to their allegiance to President Barack Obama.
Trump has the benefit of occupying the presidency after Obama. The media was highly critical of President Bill Clinton — even they couldn’t ignore the juicy scandals dripping daily from the White House in the 1990s. They were even more critical of President George W. Bush — they were more than willing to misreport in order to undermine a war and destroy a presidency.
But then came Obama.
Obama was the first indicator that the media would simply refuse to cover stories they didn’t like about a politician they did. The media covered Clinton’s Chinagate and Travelgate. But they refused to cover the IRS scandal with the same level of vim as they would have under Bush; they downplayed the Obama administration’s involvement in the botched “Fast and Furious” gun operation scandal; and members of the mainstream media openly mocked the right’s anger over the administration’s manipulation of the 2012 Benghazi terror attack. Obama had to be protected at all costs, including the cost of the media’s credibility.
Meanwhile, the media savaged 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. They dug up a story from his high school days regarding him forcibly cutting a classmate’s hair. They uncovered scandalous material about him strapping a dog to the roof of his car. They delved deep into his nefarious practice of investing in failing companies, and then cutting the dead weight to turn them around.
Then came Trump.
Trump didn’t do anything aside from failing to comply with media’s standards of behavior. He didn’t pander to them or treat them with respect. And the media melted down. They treated Trump horribly, of course — but they’d already treated Bush and Romney just as badly. More importantly, the media lost their ability to pretend having standards of honesty and decency after selling their souls to the Obama White House. It was difficult to take their cries of incipient tyranny seriously after they bent over backward to flatter a White House that cracked down on reporters from Fox News and the Associated Press.
Why does any of this matter?
It matters because conservatives would be wise to understand that Trump didn’t destroy the media; he inherited the shell of a media ready to crumble. He tapped the shell, and it fell apart. But that’s not enough. Trump now has a golden opportunity to promulgate an alternative narrative in place of the one pushed by the discredited leftist media — if he can demonstrate credibility himself.
So far, he hasn’t. And that means that his credibility will crumble at first contact from someone who hasn’t already destroyed his or her credibility. Hence the media’s renewed love for former FBI Director James Comey — they believe that they can restore their own credibility by watching him destroy Trump’s.
Trump can do significant damage to the media, but only if he tells the truth. Now would be an excellent time to start.