American media worse than the Russians

You don’t know how lucky you are, boy. Back in the U.S., back in the U.S., back in the U.S.S.R.

— The Beatles, 1968

The Russians weren’t the only ones meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. So was the American press.

The Russian interference ended on Election Day, at least for now, but the American press didn’t stop there. It has been actively trying to overturn the result of the election ever since.

As they say in Vladivostok, that ain’t kosher, comrade.

It’s one thing for the American press to try to sway an election before it happens. It does that all the time with partisan coverage. It’s another matter when the press tries to undo an election after the fact. That’s going a bridge too far.

After Donald Trump won the Republican nomination last summer, the mainstream press was as shocked as anyone. Worse, the press felt guilty. It had given the mad mogul 24/7 coverage for a year and felt complicit in his rise.

By way of atonement for this disaster, many news organizations made a concerted effort to see that Trump lost the general election (except Fox News, which was working the other side of the street). When the unthinkable happened and Trump won anyway, the press immediately took the fatal next step — purposely trying to bring down a sitting president.

That’s why, ever since the election, the press has been making a federal case about “possible” Trump connections to the Russian meddling. Before the election, the press wasn’t all that worried about it. Neither were the Democrats. It was only after Trump won that they suddenly saw it as a threat to our way of life. Like Captain Renault in “Casablanca,” they were “shocked, shocked” to find gambling at Rick’s place.

Even the Obama administration seemed more concerned before the election about any possible effect the Russian story might have on Hillary Clinton’s expected victory than it was about the meddling itself.

For all its Cold War overtones, the Russian interference never really amounted to much, as President Obama himself said. Few minds or votes were changed by reading John Podesta’s emails or some looney-tune blogs filled with fake news. A much greater effect was had on the voting by our own media’s monumental effort to torpedo Trump and crown Hillary.

Liberal press bias is always worth at least a few points to Democratic candidates in national elections, but it was so pervasive in 2016 that it may have added five or even 10 points to Hillary’s total, although that still wasn’t enough to get her elected.

Since then, rather than wait like the Russians until the next election before interfering again, the press and the Democrats have been frantically searching for some pretense to overturn this one. Such a patently undemocratic effort makes last year’s cloak and dagger from Moscow seem like detente.

As constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz puts it, Trump’s American adversaries “are falling all over themselves, trying to find a statute that they can expand and they can apply only to Donald Trump.”

Trump himself says it’s a witch hunt, and he’s right. Dershowitz asks, “Do you really want the presidency to turn on a subjective definition of a corrupt motive, rather than on objective evidence?”

Trump brings much of it on himself, of course. He’s even more of a target than Richard Nixon was. The press couldn’t stand Nixon, personally or ideologically, and didn’t stop during Watergate until they nailed him.

They won’t stop with Trump either. Follow the emails … follow the meetings … follow the in-laws … follow anything … just get Trump. Maybe he uses Russian salad dressing — that’s collusion.

It’s the old story of media bias. If the Watergate mastermind had been a Democrat like Robert Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson, both of whom were gone by then but capable of anything Nixon did, one wonders if the press, especially the Washington Post, would have pursued the story much beyond the initial “third-rate break-in” of opposition headquarters. More likely the whole thing would have petered out peacefully with barely a blip in history.

Similarly, if Hillary had won last year and the Russians had tried to help her, the meddling story would have died long ago, at least insofar as the press was concerned about any possible collusion on her part.

If the F.B.I. finds that Trump did something impeachable, by all means throw him out. Until then, it’s a democracy and the people spoke.

The press and the Democrats should drop their fishing expedition. They’re worse than the Bolsheviks.


Mark Godburn is an antiquarian bookseller and writer in North Canaan. His book, “Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets,” is available from the Oak Knoll Press.