by Michael Goodwin
There is nothing more to learn about Hillary Clinton’s home-brew server, deleted e-mails, chronic cough or anything else that makes her look bad, according to The Washington Post.
And The New York Times, stung by Clinton’s woeful performance at last week’s presidential forum, believes the debates are going to be a total disaster unless moderators get much, much tougher with Donald Trump.
To judge from her tone, the Gray Lady finally has found somebody she wants to waterboard. Naturally, it’s a Republican, not a terrorist.
America’s two most prominent newspapers used to compete for Pulitzer Prizes and readers, but now they’re competing to see which can suck up more to Clinton. On Friday, both papers’ editorial pages turned on fellow liberal card-carrier Matt Lauer for his performance as the moderator of the commander-in-chief forum, with The Washington Post blasting him for being too tough on Clinton and the Times accusing Lauer of letting Trump ramble, boast and lie.
The unsubtle point was clear: journalists must focus all their firepower on Trump, or they will get a beatdown from the Clinton Praetorian Guard. She must be protected, even if that means taking the “new” out of “news.” How odd for businesses protected by the First Amendment to demand that others shut up.
Then again, the stakes are high. The best lap dog can expect better access and more leaks from a Clinton White House. Whoppee.
In any other era, there would be staff revolts as both papers trash their standards and torch their credibility in their partisan quest. But Trump Derangement Syndrome is creating an unprecedented spectacle as elite news organizations reveal contempt for their own traditions and the millions upon millions of Americans who don’t agree with them.
Put it this way: With polls showing a tight race, Trump is on track to win at least 50 million votes in the fall. That’s a lot of Americans to dismiss as idiots, rednecks and racists just because you hate their candidate.
Yet the partisan shrillness reflects desperation as much as conviction. Clinton, viewed as inevitable from the start, just as she was in 2008, is having trouble putting Trump away and is actually sliding backwards in key areas. Her slump suggests that the media’s nonstop bashing of the GOP nominee — in their news and opinion pages — is yielding diminishing returns and might be backfiring.
With no end in sight of the drip-drip-drip of bad news about Clinton’s e-mails and the growing evidence of a slipshod FBI investigation, the new efforts to help her carry a heightened sense of urgency.
The editorial in The Washington Post was especially striking. Headlined “The Hillary Clinton EMail Story is Out of Control,” the paper lamented that Lauer and most other journalists still find the subject newsworthy. It called the stories much ado over a “minor e-mail scandal,” and insisted coverage “has vastly exceeded the boundaries of the facts.”
Days earlier, the Post’s political blogger, Chris Cillizza, made himself a health expert in declaring that stories about Clinton’s health are “ridiculous.” He insisted there is “zero evidence” that there is anything wrong with her.
What, she has to cough up a lung before her uncontrollable hacking is news? Many Post readers objected to the Cillizza rant, with a number recalling that the same paper relentlessly raised health and age concerns about Ronald Reagan and John McCain.
But, of course, they were Republicans, and the Washington Post has never, ever endorsed one for president.
The Times has — but not since 1956, when it backed Dwight Eisenhower. Since then, every Democratic nominee, no matter how pathetic or unqualified, has gotten the Times’ backing. It even had zero doubts about George McGovern and Walter Mondale, both of whom lost 49 states.
In its Friday editorial, the Times wanted Trump to be asked “why he should be allowed to be commander in chief,” as if there is some higher approval needed beyond the ballot box. It also faulted a “tendency among some journalists to let Mr. Trump’s deceptions go unchallenged,” as if Clinton is a font of pure honesty.
She knows she has the Times and the Post in the bag, notwithstanding her policy failures, lies and shameful selling of access. The papers should end any pretense of having an open mind and endorse her now.
It would be the most honest thing they have done in the campaign.