New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg was granted front-page real estate in the August 8 newspaper for an essay called, "The Challenge Trump Poses to Objectivity." As with all things revolving around this candidate, this is a Crisis demanding Deep Thinking.
Rutenberg asks, "If you're a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation's worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?"
Answer: like a dangerous, racist demagogue.
Some questions on the matter:
Why wasn't the answer "Impartiality is mandatory in political coverage"? If a reporter cannot manage this -- and some simply cannot -- then he should recuse himself from the assignment. This is first-semester journalism. Why can't that cardinal rule be followed?
How is this suddenly a crisis? Trump's been campaigning for over a year. Where were all those journalists presumably struggling with this issue (Rutenberg wouldn't otherwise be writing about it) during the primaries? Answer: Trump was running against other Republicans, and that was fun. But now he's running against Hillary Clinton, and her camp is pushing this narrative, so an obedient media must project it, as it always does, which leads to the next point.
How is it that in August 2016 a New York Times columnist finds himself struggling with such a crisis of objectivity and journalistic ethics when the press has broken the rules for decades? The same question could have been posed in 1964. Just substitute Barry Goldwater's name. It works perfectly. What about Ronald Reagan in 1968, 1976 and, most emphatically, 1980? Substitute the name. Or Pat Buchanan in 1992? Or Ted Cruz this year?
One needn't be a conservative to suffer this treatment. Just run against a Democrat, and see what happens. Take Mitt Romney in 2012. (In fact, every Republican candidate in that race.) Bush 41. Bush 43. Even when a Republican enjoys media sympathies (John McCain and Bob Dole), come general election time all niceties go out the window.
So when Rutenberg suggests that Trump is so objectionable that the conscientious, or even patriotic journalists "would move closer than (they've) ever been to being oppositional," which he sees as "uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist (he's) ever known," conservatives shake their heads in disbelief -- or burst out laughing.
Rutenberg concluded that a "Murrow moment" of advocacy against Trump is required. To do less would be "an abdication of political journalism's most solemn duty: to ferret out what the candidates will be like in the most powerful office in the world." Bill Clinton was surrounded by scandals -- legal, political and personal -- when he ran for president, but there was no need for a Murrow moment. Obama was surrounded by one pile of scandals when he ran in 2008, and then an even bigger, far more serious heap when he ran for re-election. No Murrow moment. And now we have Hillary Clinton, who's surrounded by the most serious political, legal and personal scandals of them all.
The solution? Go after Trump.