“Even Richard Nixon, that most divisive of political figures,” he averred, “chose to concede a knife-edge election result in 1960 rather than split the nation by contesting some questionable results. If only Donald Trump could be as honest and principled as Tricky Dickie.”
Please indulge me for a moment as I point out a couple of things that are wrong with that statement.
In 1972 Nixon was no more divisive than any other politician elected to the presidency by a narrow margin, and he was evidently much less divisive than most, since he won an overwhelming, landslide victory when he ran for re-election four years later.
“Divisive” is part of the media rap-sheet on Donald Trump, and Republicans in general, though the vehemence of their hatred for him and, by extension, his supporters seems to me far more divisive than anything he has done.
And then there is that “knife-edge election” and its “questionable results.” Even at the time the propensity of the Democratic machine politics in Chicago to come up with whatever number of votes was necessary to put its candidates over the top was well known. It has become even better known since. It is, perhaps, a little more than just questionable whether or not the Kennedy-Johnson ticket carried Illinois and thus really won the election, as history tells us it did.
Finally, there is the “honest” and “principled” Tricky Dickie. I believe that Nixon was a lot more honest and principled than people now (or then) gave him credit for being, but his decision not to contest the election had nothing to do with either honesty or principles. It was out of a civic-minded unwillingness to put the country through the ordeal of uncertainty and, yes, divisiveness that a drawn-out process of investigating electoral irregularities would have created.
If either honesty or principle had been his first concern, he would have contested the result.
I don’t want to be too hard on Mr. Harris, a writer whose work I generally admire. He is too young to remember what the political world was like in 1960, and the norms of behavior and debate that prevailed then. He should go back and listen to the Nixon-Kennedy debates of that year and contrast them with the recent encounters between this year’s candidates which, having been largely confined to an exchange of insults, don’t deserve the name of debate at all.
Media See Themselves
Well, that’s the way we do things these days. That’s the way we have done them ever since the media discovered that there was more money to be made out of political emotion and moral indignation than out of reason and moderation—since the worlds of politics and entertainment became indistinguishable from one another.
The media like to blame Mr. Trump for this, of course. They like to blame him for anything and everything. But media gigantomachy was going on long before he came on the political scene. The Trump political career is unimaginable apart from the long-running melodrama that the media have made out of our political culture and that he merely reflects back to them.
In fact, I believe this is a big part of the reason that the media hate him so much. They look at him, and they see themselves. And they don’t like what they see.
What we should look at is the way The Washington Post greeted its remaining readers on the morning after the election: “With final outcome uncertain, Trump unleashes an assault on integrity of the U.S. election system.”
Who was it again who was attacking the integrity of the election system? For months the Post, along with much of the rest of the media, had been lending credence to the claims of both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden that Mr. Trump could only win by fraud—and that they fully expected such a fraud the army of lawyers their party recruited for post-election litigation amply demonstrated.
In this, of course, the media were perfectly consistent, for like Mrs. Clinton and many other Democrats they never accepted that the election of 2016 had been legitimate. They lent both their editorial and their reportorial weight, such as it was, to every effort by Democrats to delegitimize the election system, supposedly corrupted by Russian “interference,” along with the Trump presidency.
And then, in a second assault, on Nov. 4 the Post headlined: “Presidential election hangs in balance as Trump falsely asserts fraud and makes a claim of victory.”
How can they possibly know that the President’s assertion is false at the very moment when he makes it? It must be in the same way that they pretend to know his allegations of his campaign having been “spied on” by the Obama administration or of Joe Biden’s corrupt influence-peddling as vice president to be false.
Not, that is, through a careful examination of the evidence, but on the bare word of their own misnamed “fact-checkers” whose Stakhanovite labors in compiling Mr. Trump’s supposedly “false and misleading statements” have contributed so mightily to the public perception behind Joe Biden’s taunt in the first “debate”: “Everybody knows you’re a liar.”
As a general rule, if you believe that anything the media accuse the President of doing they have done or are doing themselves you won’t go far wrong. I find that, looked at in this light, my own natural skepticism about his claims of fraud encounter something of a check.
Looking back on the last four years, I can think of no instance when either law or conscience or civic mindedness—or honesty or principle for that matter—has stayed the media or the Democrats from making reckless and incendiary charges of wrongdoing against the president on little or no evidence. From lying to treason and from cheating on his taxes to white-supremacism there has (so far) been no charge at which they would stick if they thought it would help to pry the presidency loose from his grip.
Are we then to make the automatic assumption which the Post makes—that they would stick at election fraud?
Is it impossible that the lawlessness they encourage on the part of illegal immigrants or the Antifa and Black Lives Matter protestors could also be encouraged on the part of election officials?
I don’t think so. I do think, however, that there just might be something to the president’s allegation of fraud—not because he made it, but because the media and the Democrats made it first.
James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for the American Spectator and the media critic for the New Criterion.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.