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Is The Media Too Mean to Joe Biden?
Plus: The Secret Service story gets worse
Stories to keep an eye on:
The disgrace of the Secret Service
The House votes on Gay Marriage
The week’s worst media criticism
We start with some notes from my colleagues, Tim Miller and Amanda Carpenter:
The Dems Actually Did Some Good Politicking Tuesday
By Tim Miller
Tim's Tenet (we're still workshopping this name) is to choose fights on issues that unite your party and wedge the other side. For some reason the Democrats have spent much of the last 19 months ignoring this advice and fighting amongst themselves.
That was not the case yesterday when the House voted to codify the right to marry for gay couples with every Democrat voting in favor. By contrast, only 47 Republicans supported the bill with 157 apparently believing that my marriage should be able to be revoked by the state. Freedom!
This is a case where the politics and the policy align perfectly. If Chuck Schumer brings this bill up it may very well attract 10 Republican votes, giving President Biden a worthwhile win. And if it falls short, then the Democrats will have another campaign issue to use targeting suburban swing voters and the apathetic youths.
In fact the House vote is already providing political opportunity for Senate Democrats. Among the NAYs in the marriage vote was Rep. Ted Budd, the GOP nominee for Senate in North Carolina. Budd is now on the record with a vote that would allow the state of North Carolina to annul gay marriages if the Republicans are swept into power. That is...not a winner in Charlotte, let me tell you. Will it be the #1 voting issue in NC? No. But it could be part of a broader campaign to demonstrate how radical the GOP is.
Imagine if the Democrats expanded this same notion out across a host of issues. Codifying Lawrence. Guaranteed access to contraception. A right to abortion in the case of rape and incest. A ban on semi-automatic firearms for people under 21. Prescription drug prices. Hell how about the Mike Pence Memorial Act of 2022 clarifying that the Vice President has no role in overturning an election.
Would some of those garner 60 votes in the Senate? Maybe! Would the Republicans look insane if they blocked all of them? Yes!
This is something Democrats could build on, if they chose to, and prioritized it over the oh so critical August recess that appears to be Dick Durbin's top priority.
The Secret Service’s Deplorable Timeline
By Amanda Carpenter
The Secret Service’s story about its lost texts from Jan. 5th and Jan. 6th keeps getting worse. Last week, the Jan. 6th committee issued a subpoena to the Secret Service after the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General notified the committee that relevant messages were “erased” supposedly due to routine data migration.
But now we know the migration didn’t start until Jan. 27th, which is after multiple congressional committees made explicit requests to preserve such records. Absurdly, the Secret Service still insists it properly reviewed and turned over all relevant documents. Including the ones the agency disappeared. That sounds unbelievable–in the truest sense of the word.
The Squad’s No-risk Arrest
To hear AOC and the rest of the squad-aligned Democrats tell it, they were arrested yesterday after they put “their bodies on the line” during an abortion-rights protest outside the Supreme Court. Which is like slapping a fake tattoo on your arm and pretending to be Kat Von D.
The only body parts they put on any lines were their posteriors when they plopped themselves on the lane markings in the middle of the street outside the Supreme Court.
Blocking traffic on a tourist street — so hardcore!
These kinds of protests happen so often in Washington D.C., that the police blared a pre-recorded message to issue the three standard warnings asking them to move. The Squad kept squatting. Then, just as they wanted, per standard procedure, Capitol Police had to ask them to leave. But there were more obvious tells. Like the way members were escorted away.
To make it look believable, a couple of them put their hands behind their back and marched solemnly. But, even they broke character when they raised their arms in solidarity with their fans.
Why bother with the charade? Well, it worked. After being tipped off, because duh, it was a planned media event, all the big outlets covered it and gave the progressives their desired headlines. Everyone pretended the squad actually put their bodies at risk, in the tradition of civil disobedience and “good trouble” embodied by leaders such as Martin Luther King and John Lewis, when in reality, they weren’t risking anything more than getting a slight sunburn from being outside in the middle of the day. They were soon back on the House floor for votes.
Sure, they may have technically been arrested, but all they really did is make a mockery of the process.
This is not how journalism works
By Charlie Sykes
Is the media too mean to Joe Biden? Is that why his numbers are in the tank? Perry Bacon Jr. thinks so. In a widely shared (by the Biden White House) op-ed Bacon complains that negative coverage hasn’t just hurt Biden — it’s bad for democracy itself.
The mainstream media has played a huge, underappreciated role in President Biden’s declining support over the past year. Its flawed coverage model of politics and government is bad for more than just Biden — it results in a distorted national discourse that weakens our democracy. The media needs to find a different way to cover Washington.
Such complaints are not new either from pols or their partisans. And surely there are many things that the media has done that chap the Biden-stans. But Bacon centers his critique on the coverage of (checks notes several times) Afghanistan. He writes:
One of the sharpest dips in Biden’s approval rating — which has dropped from 55 percent in January 2021 to less than 39 percent today — happened last August, when it declined almost five points in a single month. There wasn’t a huge surge in gas prices, nor some big legislative failure.
What caused Biden’s dip was the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — or, rather, the media’s 24/7, highly negative coverage of it. [Emphasis added.]
In Bacon’s telling, Biden’s problem wasn’t just the shambolic, chaotic, disastrous pull-out, but the “highly negative’ coverage.
This complaint is also not new. Ramesh Ponnuru wrote about similar grumbling last year:
President Joe Biden’s handling of Afghanistan has few vocal defenders. What they lack in numbers, though, they make up for in unity of message: The press is being too hard on Biden. The president is a victim of “a press corps desperate to show they do not have a liberal bias.” It’s the “overt editorializing” from the press that has made Biden’s Afghan record unpopular — editorializing that reflects the media’s alliance with national-security hawks. On Aug. 22 and 23, White House chief of staff Ron Klain used his Twitter feed to publicize five critiques of the media’s coverage of Afghanistan.
Despite the kvetching about the Afghanistan coverage, Ponnuru noted, “the reason for the bad press is the most important: The news that’s being reported is just bad.”
But now with Biden’s numbers south of 40 percent, Bacon has decided to revisit the mean-media meme. He concedes that Biden “deserved blame” for what he called the “tumultuous” and “chaotic” exit. But he saves his indignation for the media that covered the retreat.
Journalists and outlets tore into the president, with Axios calling the withdrawal “Biden’s stain,” NBC News correspondent Richard Engel declaring that “history will judge this moment as a very dark period for the United States,” and CNN’s Jake Tapper asking an administration official on his show, “Does President Biden not bear the blame for this disastrous exit from Afghanistan?”
Of course, Axios, Engel and Tapper were right.
But Bacon describes this as “media hysteria.”
As other critics have noted, Bacon’s account leaves out several salient details about the Afghan disaster, including the death of 13 service members.
Okay, pop quiz for news junkies. Thinking back on the Afghanistan withdrawal, what would you say were the worst moments, let’s say the top three? I think the desperate Afghans clinging to the outside of planes is certainly one of the worst moments. But what about the deaths of 13 US service members?
Yes, the death of service members and all of the people we left behind, including some Americans, who were facing the real possibility of being murdered by the Taliban also probably deserved a mention in a piece about why the withdrawal garnered a lot of negative coverage.
There was also the drone attack that ended up killing an innocent aid worker and several children.
Again, Perry Bacon doesn’t mention it but if you want to know why the withdrawal was regarded as the moment the White House started having a crisis of competence, that’s another reason why.
While neglecting those details, Bacon tries to put all of this in a larger context. Biden’s coverage shifted, he writes “because of the media’s long-standing biases toward bothsidesism and strong criticism of those in power.”
Bacon recognizes that this is how journalism operates:
Reporters tend to view their role as a check on politicians. This means presidents are always covered skeptically — but when one party dominates Washington, the political media often scrutinizes that party’s president even more.
But Bacon argues that Washington journalists “consciously or unconsciously, were poised to “balance” that negative Trump coverage with criticism of Biden, even if his actions weren’t nearly as deserving of condemnation.”
And now Biden is polling even worse than Trump two years ago. For Bacon, “these poll numbers reflect something gone wrong.” Bacon’s solution?
Yes, I am calling for the media to cover Biden more positively.
Lord knows, the media often deserves the criticism it gets. It can be one-sided, too quick to pull the trigger on stories that turn out to be half-baked, and there is a definite herd mentality to much of its coverage.
But calling for more positive coverage is not substantive media criticism. It is a call for partisan hackery.
Exit take: Denial is seldom a sound strategy. Blaming media coverage is excuse-making at a time Biden World desperately needs an actual course-correction. The problem with inflation is not the media coverage: it’s the inflation. The problem with the climate is not the coverage: it’s the climate. The problem with Biden’s age is not…. etc. etc.