A lot of big-time journalists believe they speak truth to power, but according to Esquire’s Charles Pierce the attitude of the elite media toward presidents and certain presidential nominees is pretty much the opposite: “giddiness in the face of power.” Because of that longstanding state of affairs, suggested Pierce in a Tuesday post, “a fully armed and operational bullshit station” better known as Donald Trump might be the next POTUS.
Pierce conceded that Democrats John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton benefited from credulous and even reverent coverage, but he devoted much more space to how Republicans had been similarly advantaged. He claimed that “the real precedent for the helplessness of the elite political press” was its treatment of Ronald Reagan (bolding added):
No matter how widely ol' Dutch smiled, ketchup is not a vegetable and neither do trees cause air pollution. He did not liberate death camps after World War II…and, yes, there is a Russian word for freedom.
By the time that Reagan got around to the big impeachable whopper of his career—"We did not trade arms for hostages"—too much of the elite political press was so numbed by the avalanche of non-facts that Reagan managed to skate…[His] constant disengagement from the truth were chalked up to his lifetime as a "storyteller," his love for "parables," and, very late in his term, his advancing age.
The elite political press simply was not prepared to call the man a liar. It would not have been sporting. It would have been against The Rules.
As a result, argued Pierce, “the skids were thereby greased for Bill Clinton's slickness, especially after it became obvious that he was going to win. The skids were thereby greased for the shabby mendacity with which [George W. Bush] brought the country to war and the Middle East to the ongoing misery. The skids were thereby greased for He, Trump, who doesn't know what he doesn't know, but who lies about it anyway.”
Pierce lamented that Timothy Crouse’s The Boys on the Bus, which examined those who covered the 1972 presidential campaign and how they covered it, didn’t lead to improved reporting: “Every problem that Crouse identified…has gotten worse, not better…These included pack journalism, groupthink, the fact that the campaign spin apparatus was far ahead of the ability of journalism to keep up with it, and the paralytic influence of ‘balance and objectivity’ in the coverage of baldfaced lying by a candidate…Crouse's book was not the curative it should have been. It was merely (and sadly) prophetic.”