Who Gets to Decide What’s a Scandal and What Isn’t?

August 20, 2022 Updated: August 22, 2022

Commentary

“Trump’s Scandals Are Never Done,” David A. Graham wrote for The Atlantic recently.

Well, he ought to know.

Like most members of the progressive media, that is, he likes to pretend that “Trump’s scandals” are wholly owned by the former president (hence the possessive) and more or less fortuitously stumbled upon by the public-spirited media before being relayed in good faith to the rest of us to pass judgment on them.

That such scandals are the modern media’s bread-and-butter is supposed to be merely coincidental. It’s just their good luck that there are so many of them—indeed, in Graham’s telling, an endless supply.

Such people can only avoid being laughed off the page by relying on you and me to forget the glaringly obvious truth that it’s the media themselves who are privileged to decide what’s a scandal and what isn’t.

That’s a big help in ensuring that the well of scandal never runs dry.

Thus, the media and their Democratic allies made a huge scandal—a supposedly impeachable offense—out of Donald Trump’s telephone call to the Ukrainian president in search of information about the possible corruption of former Vice President Joe Biden while making no scandal at all out of the alleged corruption itself.

Indeed, when Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop came to light shortly before the 2020 election, it was all hands on the media deck, including 51 government “intelligence experts,” to suppress it.

The real owners of today’s scandals, as of those throughout the Trump era, are those in the media–Democratic axis who manufacture them—often, as in the case of Trump’s Ukrainian phone call or the bogus Steele dossier—out of the most unpromising materials.

And what do you suppose is the purpose of the media’s thriving scandal manufactory? The answer to that, too, is obvious. It’s to advance the electoral fortunes of their fellow progressives in government and to ruin those of any nonmember of the progressive cabal with the temerity to get in their way.

But the raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach should tell us something else—not only, that is, that the progressive media are working hand-in-glove with subversive elements of the deep state, which we knew already from the Russiagate hoax, but also that these sworn enemies of Trump are prepared to go to almost any lengths to bring about his downfall.

Even, as I pointed out in these pages recently, to the point of destroying the reputation of the FBI and of the United States as a democratic republic under the rule of law—so clearly has the law been weaponized for use against the former president.

Any excuse for harassing him will do for the media. This time, it’s said to be mishandling of classified information. Elsewhere, a brigade of lawyers is poring over his tax returns to see if they can find anything there to use against him.

Did anyone else think of this when Biden reassured us middle-class nobodies that 87,000 new IRS agents weren’t going to be used against us? Sure. As long as we don’t ever do anything to displease him—or any of the 87,000 new monitors employed to watch over us.

The anti-Trump jihad that had its origins in a collaboration between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama Justice Department in 2016 has now been taken over by the Biden administration, for which it has apparently become more important than its own good name for probity or that of the United States as a country under the rule of law that’s made it a haven of refuge for victims of authoritarian regimes in less enlightened countries around the world.

Now, we must appear to such oppressed people to be living under an authoritarian regime ourselves—one of the Russian kind that puts critics and opponents of the ruling party in jail. Or worse.

Given, then, that the obsessive hatred of Trump still burns hot in the breasts of his political enemies—like Mrs. Clinton, they scorn to call them mere “opponents”—why do the media so eagerly participate in it to the detriment of their own reputation for fairness and decency?

I don’t know, but a possible explanation does occur to me. From the moment in 2015 when he descended the escalator at Trump Tower, Trump has represented an existential threat both to the media and to the deep state with which, as we know from Russiagate, the media routinely collude for the advancement of their common political purposes.

This isn’t just because of what turned out to be little more than rhetoric about “draining the Swamp,” but because the Trump phenomenon has always been a threat to the media’s most potent weapon against their political enemies: the power to declare a scandal.

Remember back in 2016 when Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters”? He was much ridiculed for it at the time, but the media were and are mortally afraid he was right. Here, at last, was an enemy Republican who seemed impervious to the media’s endless scandal-mongering.

The impression was only reinforced when he went on to win in that November’s general election in spite of other scandals with which the media, as with one voice, had tried to tar him.

And with every new scandal, and every failed attempt to take him down, the media have since become more like Captain Ahab in search of the white whale—obsessed by their need for revenge against the monster who once deprived them of a vital part of their potency.

For without the power to declare a scandal whenever one is needed to take down some uppity Republican who couldn’t be defeated on substantive grounds, the media would be a spent force in U.S. politics.

They might even have to return to reporting and editorializing on the tedious business of politicians’ policy choices and philosophy of government, and forsake the much sexier kind of stories about their character and personal behavior.

The horror! The horror!

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

James Bowman
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.