There’s an emerging media narrative that Joe Biden is more difficult for the press to cover than Donald Trump because Mr. Biden allegedly has superior character and therefore generates fewer scandals. Accepting this spin naturally requires one to ignore the Biden family influence-peddling business. But the fear among media executives about their own businesses is real. Bashing Donald Trump has been profitable. Can you hold an audience by lauding Joe Biden?
“CNN and MSNBC Fret Over Post-Trump Future” is the headline on a New York Times story. But the paper could have just as easily been writing about itself. Timesmen John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum write:
CNN and MSNBC thrived during the Trump years, reaching new heights in ratings and revenue while devoting countless prime-time hours to criticizing a White House antagonist their viewers just could not quit.
Now faced with a Trump-less future, top executives at the rival cable news networks have summoned star anchors and producers to private meetings in recent weeks, seeking answers to a pressing question: What’s next?
People at both networks know that viewers who abhorred President Trump may no longer need their nightly therapy sessions with Rachel Maddow or Don Lemon. And President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. seems unlikely to generate the 24/7 grist of drama and scandal that resurrected cable news, taking it from a dying medium to a focal point of modern politics…
“What happens,” asked one MSNBC on-air personality, “when you don’t need us?”
Whether the medium is cable television, the internet or print, who needs a news organization that won’t challenge the people in power? Beyond the Biden family, the Times and other anti-Trump media outlets have been given another opportunity to start exercising their nonpartisan journalistic muscles again. But they don’t seem to be taking it.
“The New York Times has yet to cover the growing controversy surrounding Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and his relationship with an alleged Chinese spy,” notes Joseph Wulfsohn of Fox News.
It’s been a week since Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and the Aspen Institute’s Zach Dorfman reported in Axios on the alleged spy, a Chinese national known as Fang Fang or Christine Fang, According to the Axios report:
Among the most significant targets of Fang’s efforts was Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).
Fang took part in fundraising activity for Swalwell’s 2014 re-election campaign, according to a Bay Area political operative and a current U.S. intelligence official. Swalwell’s office was directly aware of these activities on its behalf, the political operative said. That same political operative, who witnessed Fang fundraising on Swalwell’s behalf, found no evidence of illegal contributions…
Fang helped place at least one intern in Swalwell’s office, according to those same two people, and interacted with Swalwell at multiple events over the course of several years.
Former FBI assistant director of intelligence Kevin Brock opines in The Hill:
Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) represents the state’s 15th Congressional District, which sits like a splattered trapezoid between Berkeley and Silicon Valley. The Blue Man Group is less blue than Rep. Swalwell’s district…
Swalwell’s prior experience in the world of foreign intelligence operations was limited to his role as a small-town councilman. Why then, you might logically wonder, was he assigned to the prestigious and sensitive intelligence committee? It wasn’t for his keen understanding of Russian tradecraft, that much we know. Think more along the lines of the business and philosophical interests of the China-groveling high-tech companies and socialist academic communities whose districts he straddles.
Remaining incurious about stories like this one could certainly make it hard to engage readers looking for news.
This Day in Political History
Four years may seem like a long time ago, and perhaps it was given the changes since then in American politics. By mid-December of 2016 Hillary Clinton and her supporters had accepted the results of the November presidential election and were treating America’s president-elect with graciousness and respect.
Just kidding. On this day in 2016, the FBI secretly recorded a conversation between a bureau source and Trump associate Carter Page. Two months earlier, the FBI had used a bogus Clinton-funded dossier of Russian collusion claims and misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court into approving the first of several warrant applications focusing on Mr. Page.
Mrs. Clinton would continue for years promoting fact-free Russia conspiracy theories about her political rivals. And back on Dec. 15, 2016, many of her supporters were still seeking to prevent the winner of the November election from taking office. Calvin Woodward and Rachel La Corte of the Associated Press reported on an effort among Democrats to derail Donald Trump’s victory at the Electoral College. According to the AP report:
Republican electors are being swamped with pleas to buck tradition and cast ballots for someone else at meetings across the country Monday that are on course to ratify Trump as the winner. AP interviews with more than 330 electors from both parties found little appetite for a revolt…
The interviews found widespread Democratic aggravation with the electoral process but little expectation that the rush of anti-Trump maneuvering can stop him. For that to happen, Republican-appointed electors would have to stage an unprecedented defection.
This column’s most celebrated alumnus observed:
Call it the “Animal House” ploy, after this exchange from the classic 1978 comedy: “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!” “We’re just the guys to do it.”
But the idiots have a lot of loud megaphones. Mediaite notes that “there’s a new celebrity PSA out” in which “Martin Sheen, Richard Schiff, Debra Messing, James Cromwell, BD Wong, Bob Odenkirk, Moby, and some other big names” urge electors “to do the right thing and step in to vote their conscience”—that is, the conscience of Sheen, Schiff, Messing, et al., who can’t stand Trump…
The idiots are also getting plenty of respectful attention from the so-called mainstream media. Politico reports that Larry Lessig, a Harvard law professor, “claimed Tuesday that 20 Republican members of the Electoral College are considering voting against Donald Trump.”
Only two GOP electors ended up voting for someone other than Mr. Trump, fewer than the five Democratic electors who voted for someone other than Mrs. Clinton. (Three other Democratic electors attempted unsuccessfully to do so and had their votes invalidated under state law; one changed his vote to Mrs. Clinton, and the others were replaced by alternate electors.)
The chance that “faithless electors” will override the decisions of voters has lately become even less likely. In July of this year, Mr. Lessig represented the losing side as the Supreme Court unanimously decided that states can require electors to honor the votes of their citizenry and penalize those who don’t.
Back in 2016, it quickly became clear that there was little appetite among Republican electors to vote for a Democrat, no matter how much effort Mr. Lessig devoted to raising liberal hopes. Observed James Taranto:
So this is fake news. But the idea of an Electoral College revolt is being widely propagated by anti-Trump journalists and commentators. Some of them, like E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, more or less acknowledge that the idea is a fantasy.
According to the AP, it was a fantasy that even some Democratic electors didn’t want to indulge:
“We lost the election,” said John Padilla of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a Democratic ward chairman. “That’s how elections are and you shake hands with your opponent and you get on with what you have to do and support your candidate.”
Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
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(Lisa Rossi helps compile Best of the Web.Thanks to Steve Thompson.)