By tomorrow night we’ll likely know the name of the next president. But we already know the loser in this election cycle: political reporters. They’ve disgraced themselves. Conservatives have long complained about liberal bias in the media, and with some justification. But it has finally reached the tipping point. Not in our lifetimes have so many in the press dropped the pretense of objectivity in order to help a political candidate. The media are rooting for Barack Obama. They’re not hiding it.
Consider Benghazi. An American consulate is destroyed and a US ambassador murdered at a time when the president is boasting at every campaign stop that he has crushed al-Qaida. In an effort not to disrupt this narrative, the White House and the Obama campaign spend weeks claiming the incident was merely a protest over a video, rather than a real terror attack. Then intelligence surfaces showing just the opposite: The killers in Benghazi were no street mob, and Obama knew as much from the beginning.
Imagine if George W. Bush, or even Bill Clinton, had tried something like this during a re-election campaign. The howls from journalists would have been deafening, and unceasing. Instead, Obama has enjoyed every benefit of every doubt from the press every step of the way. Candy Crowley even broke character in the middle of a presidential debate to defend him. From their retirement, former presidents must be looking on in envious bewilderment.
For Obama, treatment like this is standard. Remember his last press conference? On August 20, the president made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room. (Obama has held fewer press conferences even than George W. Bush.) The first question went to Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press. Here’s what Kuhnhenn asked, in full and unedited:
“Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for being here. You’re no doubt aware of the comments that the Missouri Senate candidate, Republican Todd Akin, made on rape and abortion. I wondered if you think those views represent the views of the Republican Party in general. They’ve been denounced by your own rival and other Republicans. Are they an outlier or are they representative?”
In other words: Just how horrible are your opponents? That’s not a question. That’s an assist.
Most telling of all, nobody in the press corps seemed to find Kuhnhenn’s suck-up remarkable, much less objectionable. Reporters who push Obama for actual answers, meanwhile, find themselves scorned by their peers — as we discovered the hard way when our White House reporter dared ask Obama an unapproved question during a presidential statement in the Rose Garden. Months later, longtime Newsweek correspondent Jonathan Alter confronted us on the street and became apoplectic, literally yelling and shaking and drawing a crowd, over the exchange. His complaint: our reporter was “rude” to Obama.
Yep. Good reporters occasionally are impolite, especially to people in power who refuse to answer legitimate questions about their own policies. We don’t hire for table manners. We hire for persistence and toughness and the ability to spot a story among the fluff. We’re traditional that way. It’s the legacy media that have changed.