Donald Trump’s supporters complain that the media is fixated on the billionaire’s wild and crazy campaign while ignoring or at least downplaying Hillary Clinton’s gaffes, missteps and outright scandals.
And they’re right. There is a double standard.
Actually, it’s a multipronged standard.
For some in the mainstream media, good old-fashioned left-wing bias is at work. Every four years, the Republican presidential candidate is treated like some alien warlord wandering in from the badlands beyond the frontier to seize power in our glorious capital city.
One small example: It’s a wistful nostalgic exercise in the era of Trump to think back to 2012, when Mitt Romney explained how, after being elected governor of Massachusetts, he worked with women’s groups so he could hire more females for his administration. He said the groups sent “binders full of women” – i.e., binders full of resumes – for him to review. In other words, Romney did exactly what feminists want politicians to do, but he used the phrase “binders full of women” and the mainstream media collectively ran around like their hair was on fire.
They should remember that the next time they wonder why so many Trump supporters discount media hysteria about Trump.
But what about the conservative media? Notwithstanding some talk radio and Fox News opinion hosts, and a few Trump-friendly political operatives moonlighting as pundits, most of the conservative press is hostile to Trump. If you’ve been reading me over the last year, you know I am part of this group.
I am a senior editor at National Review magazine, which has been extremely critical of Trump for the most part (though we have run some dissenters). Other conservative outlets – The Weekly Standard, Commentary, and the websites The Federalist, HotAir, RedState and The Resurgent – have taken similar approaches.
Objections to Trump from the right cover the waterfront, from his glandular personality and narcissistic character to the threat his populism poses to the conservative movement and to the country.
But virtually every conservative I know – including those openly saying they will vote for her – thinks Clinton is awful. Indeed, a great many of the mainstream reporters I know think she’s pretty terrible too.
As P.J. O'Rourke, the brilliant libertarian satirist, (quite un-satirically) put it on NPR: “I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises. It’s the second-worst thing that can happen to this country, but she’s way behind in second place. She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.” He added in an essay for The Daily Beast, “Better the devil you know than the Lord of the Flies on his own 757.”
Thanks to my fear of spontaneously bursting into flames, I can’t follow O'Rourke all the way to pulling a lever for Hillary Clinton – I'll write-in some third choice – but I think O'Rourke’s analysis offers insight into the media coverage as well.
As has been confirmed for the umpteen-billionth time this week, Clinton is corrupt and deceitful. She and her husband operate as if they are some medieval royal family, above the petty rules and customs that govern the little people. It’s why I’ve been calling them the Medicis of the Ozarks for so long.
If you don’t think they are aloof, entitled graspers and grifters, it’s probably because you haven’t been paying attention. And that’s the problem. Their grafting and grifting is so well established, so well known, it never really surprises anyone. Her corruption is priced into politics. In a normal, healthy political system, the Clintons would be shunned like pimps in an Amish colony. But we don’t live there, so the Clintons bore rather than shock.
This is Hillary Clinton’s greatest advantage. The devil we know is a boring, paper-pushing bureaucrat.
Meanwhile, the one thing no one can deny: Trump is not boring. It’s possible to love him or hate him, but no one can be indifferent to him. When you drive past a part of town that has been blighted and run-down all your life, you don’t slow down to look at it. But if an 18-wheeler loaded with bovine manure jackknifes on the highway, sending its cargo in all directions, whether you’re horrified or amused, you’ve just gotta slow down and take a gander.
This rubber-necking magnetism largely explains Trump’s primary victories, but it also explains his probable general election defeat.
Enough primary voters loved the spectacle, but general election voters are apt to recoil at such a spectacle in the Oval Office.
Reach Jonah Goldberg at JonahsColumn@aol.com.