WASHINGTON — As the second week of the impeachment hearings began, Republicans re-introduced an old theme for the usual purposes: Everything is the media’s fault, and America wouldn’t be in this jam but for their being puppets of the Democratic Party.
Such were the sentiments expressed by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, in his opening statement Tuesday morning. Nunes was obviously trying to create a backdrop for the day’s testimony, which included such witnesses as an Iraq War combat veteran, who was wounded in battle, and an aide to Vice President Mike Pence. It’s much harder to demonize such highly respected individuals than it is to drag out the media for yet another lashing.
If you had just tuned in from your interplanetary travels, however, you might have thought the media, not President Trump, were the subject of the impeachment inquiry. It was stale bread. Making an enemy of the media has long been a feature of Donald Trump’s modus operandi. From his earliest campaign days, the then-future leader of the free world created an enemy to divert attention from his more problematic escapades and as a target to use when needed.
From alleged collusion with Russia to supposed bribery with Ukraine, the media have been performing as instruments of the Democratic Party, according to Nunes. He illustrated his point Tuesday by listing a series of headlines from various media outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, Slate and others (but not The Washington Post), all of which had been proved incorrect. It was effective as a diversion, if not as the filtering lens he surely sought to create.
To Trump’s base, the Nunes roster was simply further amplification of what they’ve long believed and for which they are enjoined with the president in a political matrimony of sorts. And though it is true that the media, by which we mean human beings, sometimes get things wrong, it is also likely that Nunes’ team scoured the print and broadcast universe for mistaken headlines. A half-dozen or so examples do not a conspiracy of misinformation make. Is that all you got?
This is not to excuse careless journalism or what legitimately appears to be bias against Donald Trump but to offer some balance. Without question, certain folks, especially on cable news shows, have picked sides. That’s what they do. The incessant, looping criticism contra the president can seem like an onslaught of unfair proportions. As a spectator, I agree that the steady diet of smirk and scorn becomes tiresome and, frankly, boring. Television gets an unfair proportion of audiences because, well, it’s television. Watching is easier than reading.
But a careful reading of a broad spectrum of readily available ideas and investigative journalism might prove valuable to those wishing to understand the reasoning behind the critique. There is ample cause to call out this president, from a self-regard that seems detached from reality to his dubious courtship of bad actors.
As to the impeachment inquiry, it’s difficult to fathom how anyone would not see a problem with the president of the United States soliciting a foreign country to investigate his political opponent in exchange for promised military aid.
Other avenues for such an investigation, if warranted, would be both more credible and less risky. But Trump specifically wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make a public announcement that he was conducting such an investigation, according to testimony Wednesday by Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Also, Sondland said, the quid pro quo of a White House invite in exchange for the investigation was obvious, even if Trump never said the words.
The only question remaining is whether Trump’s actions justify impeachment, the answer to which seems plainly partisan. Americans have had numerous opportunities the past three years to ask how Republican elected officials could still support such a president. Almost nostalgically, one recalls the days when, innocently, one would think: Surely, this time they’ll jump ship?
Of course, they didn’t — and likely won’t this time for the simple reason that their constituents aren’t demanding it. And, by the way, they hate the media, too.
Nunes’ blame-the-media tactic, however, should be seen for what it was — a desperate act in the face of credible, damning testimony.
For an alternative media narrative, one might entertain the possibility that when, say, a conservative columnist agrees with the Democrats, they might both be right.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Washington Post and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.