It was thirty years ago this week that the FCC, wanting to “extend to the electronic press the same First Amendment guarantees that the print media have enjoyed since our country’s inception,” abandoned the Fairness Doctrine. Some liberals hoped that the Obama administration would retrieve it, but that didn’t happen. That was too bad, indicated The Washington Monthly’s D.R. Tucker in a Monday post. Getting rid of the doctrine, Tucker claimed, was a “destructive” move and “a shamefully successful effort to divide our public airwaves along partisan lines, a choice that made a few people rich while impoverishing our democracy.”
Last week, vehement anti-Trumper George Will declared that conservatism in 2017 is “soiled by scowling primitives.” Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman doesn’t disagree, but he contends that Will is partly to blame for that sordid state of affairs.
In a Friday post on the website of The Washington Monthly, not of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Martin Longman discussed President Trump in strikingly medical terms. “The reason Trump has become so vulnerable so quickly is because he’s treating Washington like the pathogen when he’s the infectious agent,” declared Longman. “A better politician might be able to take over the host and turn to it his own purposes, but what Trump is experiencing instead is a massive and determined immune response.”
Should the mainstream media lead, to borrow a term from religion, a great awakening? Yes, in a sense, suggested longtime journalist Steven Waldman in a Thursday Washington Monthly piece. “Donald Trump and his campaign have pushed the idea that each of us has our own truth, or ‘alternative facts,’” wrote Waldman. “Suddenly I feel like journalists are the most religious people in America. I don’t mean that journalists are suddenly enamored with the supernatural, but rather that we’ve re-embraced the idea that there’s a thing called ‘truth’ -- an absolute value that lives above and apart from the world of framing and spin.”
Donald Trump: future war criminal? You never know, suggests Paul Glastris, who believes there are “apt” and “worrisome” parallels between Trump and Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian and Yugoslav president who was facing charges that included genocide when he died in prison in 2006. “During the years of carnage...the ethnic cleansing, the rape camps, the 100,000 people killed...journalists and foreign leaders who met with Milosevic came away with impressions of the man remarkably similar to what many today say about Trump,” wrote Glastris. “He was brash and confident in public, but polite and conciliatory in private. He was obsessed with controlling and manipulating the press. He seemed not even to believe the nationalist rhetoric he spouted, but to be using it to gain and hold power. He trusted nobody but his family.”
Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote margin continues to be a compelling news story for some, including Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who believes that the Electoral College should vote next month for Clinton because she was “the people’s choice.” Even though The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman thinks Lessig’s view is “nonsense” and that Donald Trump’s loss of the PV is trivial under our current rules, he also wants the Electoral College to choose Clinton. “What Lessig should have argued,” wrote Longman in a Friday post, “is that the Electors should plainly judge Trump a menacing incompetent and reject him with extreme prejudice...Trump is already demonstrating his unfitness for office in many ways.”
Liberal bias in news coverage has bothered conservatives ever since there were only three TV networks. But in Nancy LeTourneau’s odd telling, conservative media bias came first, about twenty years ago, and liberals then had to catch up. “In order for Fox News to be successful, they had to convince potential viewers that the mainstream press was liberal,” wrote LeTourneau in a Friday post. “That led to a whole cottage industry of right wing media that thrives today because conservatives bought the premise. Eventually liberals needed to create their own counterweight to combat the lies and spin emanating from these sources.”
George H. W. Bush apparently won’t vote for Donald Trump and reportedly “harbors a deep disgust” for him. Still, according to The Washington Monthly’s D. R. Tucker, the “race-baiting on steroids” of Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign paved the way for Trump’s current approach. Tucker was referring to two television ads: the so-called Willie Horton ad, from a pro-Bush PAC, and the Bush campaign’s “Revolving Doors,” which skewered the prison-furlough policy of Bush’s Democratic opponent, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, and, in Tucker’s view, “engaged in sick racial stereotyping.”
Some left-wing pundits, anticipating that Donald Trump will lose on November 8, are pre-emptively trying to make sure that conservatives take the blame for Trump’s nomination. Gary Legum of Salon argued that right-wing news outlets “have both spent the better part of the Obama administration pushing the exact silly demagoguery and conspiracy theories that riled up the conservative base and pushed it into nominating a demagogue of its own.” The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman claimed that “other than John Kasich, at times, and short-timers like George Pataki and maybe Jim Gilmore, the rest of the field represented (or, at least, pandered to) a far right-wing conservative worldview that has been steeping in weaponized stupidity for the entire Obama Era.”
According to one left-of-center blogger and one right-of-center professor, a major takeaway from the 2016 presidential contest is that ideological conservatism is unpopular, even in the Republican party. Samuel Goldman, a political-science prof at the George Washington University and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative, stated that the “great message” of Donald Trump’s campaign “is that there really are not that many movement conservatives” in the sense of average Americans “who are vested in a conventional combination of limited government, a relatively hawkish foreign policy, and a sort of religiously inflected public morality.” From the left, The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman alleged that for most Republicans, policy ideas take a back seat to raw resentment: “‘Small government’ and ‘local control’ and ‘free enterprise’ and the rest of the GOP’s ideological playbook simply never had much appeal to their base except as signifiers for Trumpian impulses to smash outsiders and oddballs and anyone who discomforts them.”
A current MSNBC personality just passed the half-decade mark as a host on the channel. A former MSNBC personality who’s made plenty of comebacks just made another one. The Washington Monthly’s D.R. Tucker praised each man to the skies this past weekend. Tucker called Chris Hayes "the classiest man on cable” and opined that from the get-go, he was brilliant, “an engaging, charismatic host whose mind moved faster than Usain Bolt’s legs." As for Keith Olbermann, now of GQ, Tucker gushed that Olby "recognizes that conservatism…is a metastasizing cancer within the American body, and that if that cancer is left untreated, the American body will be consigned to hospice care."
At the Democratic convention, Bill Clinton accused Republicans of fabricating a “cartoon alternative” to the real Hillary Clinton. The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman claims that Democrats don’t need to create cartoon versions of conservatives since there’s already “something cartoonish about the right,” and in that regard Donald Trump “seems like a natural successor” to Sarah Palin and (wait for it) Ronald Reagan and (wait again) Dwight Eisenhower. Conservatism, concluded Longman, has “always been a charade. It’s also a cloak or a mask for selfishness and greed that they gussy up in Bill Buckley style and sell us as intellectualism."