The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: biden media coverage

Beltway Media Blame Biden For Vaccine Refusal, Ignore Fox Brainwashing

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Busy extending the list of "crises" that President Joe Biden must face, the Beltway media are busy adding Covid vaccinations as a looming failure for the Democrat, as the nation readies a national mandate for the inoculations.

By putting the onus on Biden for the millions of defiant Trump voters who refuse to take the free, safe, and effective shot even as their neighbors become sick and die around them, the press is boosting the GOP — and missing a huge story.

We're witnessing one of the great mass brainwashings in American political history, as millions of Fox News Covid zombies eagerly swallow an ocean of lies, distortions, and misinformation. Yet the press blames Biden for not being able to convince them otherwise. Worse, the press blames the president without ever acknowledging the large-scale brainwashing that is happening.

Uncomfortable with reporting on a conservative movement that has lost touch with reality, the Beltway media are much more comfortable treating the vaccine story as one about a Democratic president who's failing to properly communicate and persuade. And one who's being outmaneuvered by Republicans.

Incredibly, the Washington Post recently cited as a "political win" for the GOP the fact that "Republican governors in several states have also had success in undermining Biden's efforts to require masks for schoolchildren and others in an effort to limit Covid-19 spread."

In a headline that was later changed, the Associated Press claimed that with his mandate announcement last week Biden had declared "war on the unvaccinated."

The New York Times announced, "Delta's rise has been fueled in part by the inability of Mr. Biden and his administration to persuade millions of vaccine-refusing Americans to inoculate themselves against the virus," in a type of dispatch that has been repeated nonstop by news outlets in recent weeks.

Virtually every reporter is working from the same script: Covid is surging and deaths are up because of Biden's "inability" to persuade vaccine "skeptics." What the Times report never addressed, and virtually none of them ever do, is that the reason millions of Americans still won't get vaccinated is because there is a choreographed, deep-pocketed political and media campaign designed to make sure millions of people don't get vaccinated. Period.

The press wants us to believe this is all just happening, by chance. It's not. Biden is battling powerful forces that reject science and are committed to prolonging the pandemic. That's essential to understand our continued health crisis, yet the press refuses to address it. Holding vaccine dead enders responsible for their actions is just not something they want to do.

Following Biden's Covid address to the nation on Thursday, CNN's Jake Tapper not only deducted points for the president's supposed "scolding tone," but the CNN anchor suggested Trump voters should not be singled out for extending the deadly pandemic. By Tapper's telling, because Trump voters are being lied to about the vaccine by far-right players, it's the liars who are to blame — who are the "villains" — not the millions of people who willingly embrace the falsehoods.

Last month, the Times posted a seven-minute, narrated report about an Arkansas community in the Ozarks with a ridiculously low vaccination/high Covid rate. "Rhetoric on freedom and choice is dissuading people from getting the shot, at a terrible cost," the Times tweeted, while promoting the clip. But who was responsible for the rhetoric that was creating a"terrible cost"? The seven-minute Times report never mentioned Fox News and never addressed who was pumping out all the Covid lies. But the report did capture lots of Arkansas locals spouting virus untruths: "We're talking about an unproven, untested vaccine."

Eight months after the vaccine arrived we know millions of Trump voters won't take it. That's not the news, although it remains a simple story to tell — and to blame Biden. Instead, journalists ought to be telling the harder truths and fixating on the why, and specifically calling out the forces at play.

The Times' Arkansas report did acknowledge "misinformation certainly exists here," but that single sentence represented the entirety of the coverage of that topic. The report also never mentioned "Republican," and instead referenced "leaders" who have politicized the vaccine.

Just yesterday, the Times published a piece, "How Outrage Over Vaccine Mandates Became a Mainstream GOP Stance," and failed to reference Fox News, which has aired hysterical, non-stop attacks on the federal mandate since it was announced. Fact: That's how outrage over common-sense mandates became mainstreamed within the GOP. Also on Sunday, the Times produced, "The U.S. is Falling to the Lowest Vaccination Rates of the World's Wealthiest Democracies," which included not one sentence addressing the why.

More recently, CNN produced its own 10-minute video about another poorly vaccinated Ozarks community, in Carter County Missouri. CNN spent days interviewing locals who regurgitated anti-virus rhetoric: "I ain't takin' that shit." "There's not enough research on it." "I believe if the good Lord wants me right now it doesn't matter if I take a vaccine or if I don't."

CNN omitted all references to Fox News or the Republican Party, and other bad-faith actors who have brainwashed so many people into thinking the Covid vaccine is evil despite the fact that inoculations have been part of everyday American life for decades — school children all across the country are not allowed to attend classes without vaccines for measles, mumps and many other diseases.

As with the Times report, the CNN segment was exceedingly gracious while interviewing Trump voters as they spewed nonstop misinformation about the vaccine and prolonged the pandemic.

What Major Media Got Wrong About That August Jobs Number

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

"Disappointing" is the consensus of newscasters about the August jobs report. They are wrong.

The economy added 235,000 jobs as Covid made a big comeback, especially in the South where governors spurn science and people stay away from bars, restaurants and shopping malls.

Most news reports lacked context about how rare it is to add that many jobs in a month. Most of the reports I read also failed to note that under President Joe Biden jobs are growing at more than triple the rate under Trump before the pandemic began.

Overall, the American economy is growing even faster than the six percent that Trump promised voters. Pre-pandemic, Trump delivered barely half that growth rate.

July was excellent with more than a million jobs added. In June, the economy added 962,000 jobs. That makes the August number seem small, but only by very short-term comparison.

Under Biden, the economy has added an average of 636,000 jobs per month, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics "all employees" report CES0000000001 shows. That's close to 4.5 million jobs added since Biden became president on Jan. 20.

On Donald Trump's watch – before the pandemic – the economy added only 188,000 jobs per month. President Barack Obama did better than that once the collapsing economy he inherited turned around in early 2010; more than 200,000 jobs per month on average were added.

Genuinely Awful

Looking at Trump's entire time in office, his jobs performance was genuinely awful. On Trump's watch, the economy lost an average of 2.8 million jobs per month. That's primarily because in March and April of 2020 the economy lost 22.4 million jobs.

Since Ronald Reagan assumed office four decades ago, only one president has added an average of more than 235,000 jobs a month. That was Bill Clinton. During Clinton's eight years, the economy added an average of 242,000 jobs per month.

Clinton did even better than those figures suggest because there were about 62 million fewer Americans on his watch. Adjust for that smaller population and the Clinton economy added the equivalent of about 297,000 jobs per month with today's population of 333.3 million people.

In August, the economy added 37,000 manufacturing jobs. Under Trump 1,800 more factories closed. Thousands of factory workers lost their jobs, primarily because of his disastrous and ill-informed tariffs.

The most interesting August job developments were in the delivery of goods compared with the traditional retail trade and in services like bars and restaurants.

Jobs in transportation and warehousing, which benefit from the home delivery of products, grew by 53,000 and brought the total to a modestly new high with 22,000 more such jobs than before the pandemic.

Retail employment – think clerks at malls – declined, with 29,000 fewer jobs in August and 285,000 fewer than in February 2020, before the pandemic.

Bars and restaurants shed 42,000 workers, evidently because fear of coronavirus infection is keeping more people at home. That number may worsen in the months ahead as the anti-vaxxers, sheep worm remedy users and mask refusers spread more gratuitous disease and death.

Trump Faltering In 2019

The Trump economy was faltering even before the pandemic, as I reported here citing official government data. Trump's overall economic performance was subpar, as I detailed from official government data in April 2019 when I gave Trump a grade of C for economic performance.

Candidate Trump repeatedly said he would produce 6% annual economic growth. He only got above 4% for one quarter. Even that was only because businesses stepped up purchases ahead of his disastrous tariffs.

After three years in office, economic growth under Trump was worse than every other president after Harry S Truman except for George H.W. Bush.

Under Biden, the economy grew at a 6.5% annual rate from April through June, the second quarter of this year. the Congressional Budget Office estimates that "real GDP will grow by 7.4 percent in calendar year 2021."

Happy Go Magic Land

Many Trump fans refuse to accept that Trump was bad for the economy and jobs even before the pandemic. These Trumpers seek solace in the childish fantasy world of Happy Go Magic Land.

And don't forget, Trump ran in 2016 promising to pay off the entire federal debt in eight years. Instead, during his four years, it grew and grew, in good part due its use to finance tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.

So read the 235,000 jobs added in context. It's a sharp fall from June and July, but that's mainly due to Covid making a comeback in states headed by Republican governors who deny science and thus kill their own citizens.

Viewed in context, the 235,000 jobs created in August are a clear positive for America.

While Bashing Biden, Beltway Media Ignored Assault On Abortion Rights

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Wednesday morning's Politico Playbook, the AM round-up of Beltway news, led offwith a "BREAKING NEWS" update: "The Supreme Court allowed a controversial Texas law banning abortion after six weeks to go into effect just months before it hears a more direct challenge to Roe v. Wade this fall."

"Controversial" is putting it mildly. The Texas law, passed in May, bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is well before most women even know they are pregnant. The Supreme Court on Tuesday night, without comment, refused to block the bill from becoming law, despite the fact it runs counter to Court precedents, which prohibit states from banning abortion prior to fetal viability, usually between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. If the Texas law remains, it would block the vast majority of abortion patients from obtaining services in the state.

In short, the law represents a legal and political earthquake, as Republicans march closer toward overturning Roe v. Wade. Yet loyal Politico readers were excused Wednesday morning if they were caught unaware, because in the weeks leading up to its midnight trigger, Politico didn't publish a single stand-alone article about the historic GOP attempt to deny women choice. That, according to a search of Politico's online archives. (The site then published three articles on the topic yesterday.)

Politico wasn't alone. Across the national media spectrum, outlets in the last 24 hours scrambled to play catch-up with the story, which could alter nearly fifty years of choice in America. The stunning lack of coverage plays into the hands of conservatives who likely don't want a loud debate about overturning Roe v. Wade, since a clear majority of Americans support the right to choose.

"I literally watch the news for a living, and I had little to no knowledge of this abortion ban in Texas until late last night," tweeted Media Matters' Lisa Power. "It's a huge indictment of cable news that something this important can occur with practically no cable news coverage until after it's too late."

During the week prior to the bill becoming law, "Texas" and "abortion" were not mentioned in any Fox News segments over that seven-day stretch, according to TVeyes.com. For all three news channels, "Texas" and "abortion" were referenced together less than 10 times. During that same stretch, "Afghanistan" was mentioned nearly 4,000 times.

It's impossible to miss the fact that the media's virtual Texas abortion blackout occurred while the press gorged itself on Afghanistan "optics" coverage for weeks. For most of August, the Beltway press presented nonstop, 24/7 "crisis" coverage, condemning President Joe Biden for a "disaster" and "debacle" — as he oversaw the successful evacuation of 120,000 people from the Kabul airport.

The U.S. troop withdrawal was obviously a big story and required lots of attention. And within that coverage, the Taliban's inhumane treatment of women represented a pressing news story, and the media were right to focus on the fears that surround Afghanistan's future. But the GOP's appalling treatment of women in the United States also represents an urgent news story that deserves constant attention. Instead, it's being ignored.

And it's not just cable news viewers largely left in the dark.

Prior to the bill being enacted, both the Washington Post and New York Times ran a couple of perfunctory news updates about the unfolding legal challenges. Readers had to visit the papers' opinion sections though, for in-depth analysis of what the Texas bill meant and how radical and dangerous it was. Meanwhile, CNN.com during the month of August published just one news article about the history-making bill.

Most of the thin national coverage glossed over stunning aspects of the Texas law. Aside from effectively banning choice, the law's enforcement is head spinning and dangerous. From the Texas Tribune, which has been excellent on the story [emphasis added]: "The state wouldn't enforce the law. SB 8 instead provides enforcement only by private citizens who would sue abortion providers and anyone involved in aiding or abetting an abortion after a "heartbeat" is detected."

Texas Republicans have basically created a taxpayer-funded system for snitching on abortions and anyone associated, where an Uber driver who takes a woman to a health clinic to get a procedure could be targeted under the law.

The media's lack of coverage is especially galling considering the one area of the abortion story over the years that the press normally focuses on are the various legal and legislative tracks, as Republicans ceaselessly try to overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, the topic is usually treated as a political football, and not a pressing healthcare issue.

Media analysis from 2019 sponsored by the pro-choice group NARAL found "that more than 77 percent of articles about abortion were written by political, legal, breaking news or general assignment writers—rather than health reporters," Ms. magazine reported. "Just 13.5 percent of articles analyzed quoted a physician, and only 8 percent referenced the lived experience of someone who has had an abortion."

A separate media study from 2019 confirmed that, "The personal experiences of people who get abortions are present in only 4% of the sample, and language personifying the fetus appears more often than women's abortion stories. State abortion restrictions are newsworthy, yet basic facts on the commonality and safety of abortion are virtually absent."

In their radical attempts to outlaw choice, Republicans don't want a lot of attention lavished on their actions. This week they got their wish.

New York Times Puffs DeSantis — And Blisters Biden

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Within the span of 24 hours, the New York Times provided more evidence that the paper treats the two political parties differently, especially when it comes to Democratic and Republican leaders facing crisis. In this case, it's President Joe Biden grappling with the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, versus Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state became a global epicenter for Covid this summer.

The Times showed how it's willing to normalize atrocious behavior by Republicans while holding Democrats to unfair standards.

On Sunday, the paper published a striking whitewash of DeSantis' nearly criminal actions regarding Covid this year. Eying a White House run in 2024, and hoping to tap into the GOP's anti-science base, DeSantis has played politics with public health. He's tried to bar schools from mandating masks, stood in the way of hospital vaccine mandates, and demanded cruise lines allow unvaccinated passengers to set sail. He even placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump. And now the state is paying a steep price for his cavalier governance.

"The viral load in Florida is so high right now, there are only two places on the planet where it's higher," Dr. Jonathan Reiner recently told CNN. "It's so high in Florida that I think that if Florida were another country, we would have to consider banning travel from Florida to the United States."

Yet reading the Times' Sunday article you'd think DeSantis, who is referenced just four times in the lengthy piece, was a bit player in this man-made drama. You'd think the Sunshine State's descent into mass Covid death was some kind of unavoidable, twist of fate. "Exactly why the state has been so hard-hit remains an elusive question," the Times reported, naively throwing up its hands.

The daily also engaged in misinformation when it claimed Florida under DeSantis "emphasized vaccinations" and "made a strong push" to innoculate people. "Florida State Representative, here. This is ridiculous," tweeted Democrat Omarji Hardy, responding to the Times. "There was not anything resembling a "strong push" for vaccinations in Florida."

The Times piece didn't bother quoting a single DeSantis critic, even though just days earlier Miami Mayor Dan Gelber had announced unequivocally that DeSantis' policies "are literally killing people."

Compare that brand of kid-glove analysis to the Times page-one piece by White House correspondent Peter Baker on Saturday, who suggested the Afghanistan troop withdrawal was entirely Biden's doing, the president used questionable judgement, and Biden's responsible for U.S. loss of life.

Unlike the DeSantis piece, the Time's Biden article was overflowing with quotes from his critics, eager to second guess. In fact, the first person Baker quoted was someone who worked on President George W. Bush's Iraq War team; the war that doomed U.S. to failure in Afghanistan. One week earlier, Baker had been on the front page with another Afghanistan piece, implying Biden was incompetent and lacked empathy, two descriptions the paper won't apply to DeSantis.

Over this weekend, the Times also published a nasty opinion piece, which called the evacuation of 120,000 people from the Kabul airport "incompetent," and suggested Biden, whose late son served in the Iraq War, does not "value" men and women who serve our country.

The Times POV couldn't be clearer: DeSantis is trying his best, Biden's in over his head.

The Times' Sunday DeSantis whitewash, which was widely criticized online, represents a larger pattern by the newspaper to run interference for the Republican governor this year. Three weeks ago, the Times again tried to normalize DeSantis' dangerous behavior, suggesting that outlawing mask mandates and threatening to withhold pay from teachers during a pandemic might be the new normal [emphasis added]:

If, however, Florida comes through another virus peak with both its hospital system and economy intact, Mr. DeSantis's game of chicken with the deadly pandemic could become a model for how to coexist with a virus that is unlikely to ever fully vanish.

Amazing — if DeSantis' policies don't obliterate Florida's healthcare system and its economy, then maybe he's creating a new model. That Times article also failed to quote a single DeSantis critic, in a look at how the controversial Republican was managing the pandemic.

The newspaper actually began covering for DeSantis back in April when the Times published a front-page valentine, typing up his press office spin about how Florida was "booming" and he had somehow figured out how to carve out a Covid-free region for the Sunshine State. "In a country just coming out of the morose grip of coronavirus lockdowns, Florida feels unmistakably hot," the Times gushed.

All three DeSantis stories were written by the paper's Miami bureau chief Patricia Mazzei. Why would she seemingly go out of her way to provide cover for DeSantis as he eyes a likely presidential run? My guess is it has to do with access and maintaining cordial relations with DeSantis' communications team, which I guarantee was thrilled with the latest Times dispatch from Florida.

If and when DeSantis runs for president, journalists who are covering him now likely want to be assigned to his campaign, which would then serve as their ticket out of Florida. That's how the Beltway media game is played — scores of reporters who covered George W. Bush in Texas were rewarded with campaign assignments and then re-assigned to cover him in Washington, D.C.

Fact: It's not too late for the Times to fix its Florida coverage.

When Good News For Biden Is No News For Beltway Media

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Friday's job numbers released by the Department of Labor were shockingly good. Easily beating analysts' expectations, the U.S. economy posted 943,000 new positions in the month of July, as the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent delivering one of the strongest reports of the last decade. It was welcome news not only for President Joe Biden, since presidents are routinely graded on the strength of the job market, but for the U.S. economy as it tries to free itself from the year-and-a-half constraints of the pandemic.

Friday's red-hot accounting also went off like a firecracker on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average soaring to new heights, setting its 44th record-high close of 2021. That benefits 60 million Americans who participate in 401K accounts and whose retirement funds balloon every time the Dow soars.

So, the fantastic jobs news and record-setting Dow climb were treated as a huge deal by the press, right? Recall that back in May, when a disappointing jobs report badly missed expectations, the press hovered over the story for days, suggesting Biden faced an economic crisis, while Republican critics condemned his handling of the economy. So to be fair and to be consistent, the media ought to have treated the July numbers just as intensely as it did the May findings, right?

Turns out lots of news outlets weren't that interested in the breakthrough job news. As has become custom, good news under Biden is often treated as no news by the press, which is far more enthusiastic pushing Biden "crisis" stories. (Remember this April headline from Politico? "How Good News Could Complicate the Biden Agenda")

Three days before the sterling jobs report, CNN's Chris Cillizza announced Biden was suffering through "the worst week of his presidency." What was the evidence of that? In part, Cillizza pointed to the fact that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had tested positive for Covid.

Wait, what? Addicted to the Dems in Disarray storyline, journalists have trouble properly focusing on good news for Democrats, like last week's economic home run.

For the blockbuster jobs report, lots of news sites greeted the development with a shrug. At 4 p.m. on Friday, roughly seven hours after the job numbers were released, the story was highlighted in the 37th headline as you scrolled down the NBC News homepage, and ran behind such pressing reports as "Scientists Unveil Extinct Ice Age Lion Cubs Pulled From Russian Permafrost," and "What to Buy in August and What Can Wait."

Truly stunning fact: Friday's "NBC Nightly News" did not mention the jobs report.

At the CBS News homepage on Friday afternoon, none of the top 50 headlines at that time addressed the jackpot economic report. CBS News did find space of this headline, though: "How to Watch Team USA Men's Basketball Compete For Gold Medal."

Another stunning fact: Friday's "CBS Evening News" did not mention the jobs report.

Online at ABC News, the jobs report was shut out in the afternoon, making room for stories about a Buffalo stopping traffic at Yellowstone National Park, the US women's volleyball Olympic victory, and a movie review of "Green Knight."

When readers clicked on the "U.S." section at ABC News' homepage, none of the top 13 headlines listed were about jobs. If they scrolled down further, at the bottom right corner they'd finally catch a glimpse of the headline for a video report, "Biden Touts Jobs Report Numbers, But Says There Is More Work Left to be Done."

To its credit, Friday's "ABC World News Tonight" did mention the jobs report, but not until the end of the broadcast.

The Washington Post slotted the blockbuster workplace numbers as its 11th most important headline on its website, behind an article about Sen. Joe Manchin's houseboat.

At CNN? By Friday afternoon the jobs report had been blacked out, as the network's homepage made way for "This Underrated Form of Exercise is So Good for You," and "Lucy Lawless Reunites With 'Xena' Costar."

Visiting the "CNN Biz" homepage, readers did find "The US Added 943,000 Jobs, The Biggest Gain Since August 2020." But that was immediately followed by a pessimistic reported headlined, "The Big Picture On Jobs is Still Grim." There, CNN stressed that employers were still struggling to find workers, thanks in part to the runaway jobs market.

The press has been slightly obsessed with that economic narrative all year. Eagerly echoing complaints from Republicans and the business community that workers had become lazy because of the federal assistance paid out during the pandemic, news outlets have hammered that point and been portraying it was bad news for Biden. Worse, the coverage often only focused on the viewpoint of business owners, not on employees.

But when there was great news for workers — and for Biden — in the form of nearly one million new jobs posted in July, the press was far less interested.

For the record, some news organizations got the story right. Late Friday afternoon, the New York Times' jobs report update was still prominently displayed as the second headline on the paper's homepage. And at the Wall Street Journal, its jobs story was the top headline all day long.

Proving once again that good journalism isn't really that hard.

'Flubs And Blunders': Beltway Press Desperately Stirs Controversy Around Biden

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

It was the kerfuffle that fizzled.

Anxious for some tension to jolt the No Drama Biden era, and missing the nonstop, frantic news cycles of the Trump years, the Beltway media just spent a week in hyperventilation mode. In the end, the story they desperately wanted to push — bipartisan negotiations for the proposed infrastructure bill were unraveling thanks to a Biden "blunder" — went nowhere, and the press once again revealed how it chases over-hyped Democratic White House controversy instead of straight news.

The overheated media excitement for a ho-hum story was the latest proof that the press, five months into Biden's term, is still struggling to adjust from the Trump era tumult. With clicks and views down this year and more news consumers embracing the return to news cycle 'normalcy' under Biden's steady, non-psychotic hand, reporters, editors, and producers are leaning into any attempt to create headlines and conflict.

It also marks the return to process journalism, which Beltway reporters love, as they focus on the theatrics of lawmaking, often at the expense of the substance.

For the infrastructure story, the Washington Post excitedly announced that Biden "flubbed" the "rocky rollout" of the preliminary bipartisan deal that had been struck in the Senate when he said he wouldn't sign it unless a simultaneous and larger bill favored by Democrats didn't land on his desk. "If they don't come, I'm not signing," Biden said. "Real simple."

Republicans immediately launched into outrage mode, insisting the president had blind-sided them with a new demand. (Fact: He had discussed it for months.) And when the GOP goes into outrage mode, the press quickly falls in line, loudly amplifying the claims of foul play, along with lots of coverage about how Biden supposedly messed up the Democrat's legislative agenda.

"White House Scrambles to Manage Fallout of Biden's 'Tandem' Remarks" Politico announced. Bloomberg dubbed it his "blunder," followed by this from Financial Times: "Biden Seeks Support for Infrastructure Deal After Bungled Rollout." At CNN, they breathlessly claimed Biden's comments had set off a "48-hours chaos" cycle inside the Beltway, and "exposed Biden's continued ability to throw his agenda for a loop with a few misplaced words." (Gaffes!)

What's actually in the infrastructure bill? That was of less interest to most news outlets, as they myopically focused on the process and would-be horse trading that was underway on Capitol Hill. That included insomnia-inducing bouts of process questions during White House press briefings, as reporters asked the same question over and over about Biden's comment and whether he'd sign the bipartisan bill without the Democratic one.

All of it was driven by Republican posturing and the mainstream media's public assumption that they were acting as honest brokers. "The tantrum clearly wasn't rooted in good faith," noted MSNBC's Steve Benen. "And yet, much of the political world went along with the theatrics anyway, as if there was some degree of sincerity in Republican complaints about Biden and Democratic leaders having gone too far."

Added the Post's Jennifer Rubin: "The Republicans routinely play the mainstream media, which indulges them by creating controversy. "Biden may have blown it" banter filled the cable TV shows. Instead of closely examining whether Republicans' outburst was illogical, and pointing out that any threats were empty, they ran with the story for days."

It was hard to watch the cringe-worthy coverage and not think a lot of it was driven by a media desire to gin up controversy for an extremely uncontroversial president. With the nation no longer locked into Trump news cycles that horrified millions of voters, demanded attention, and sparked genuine outrage, there's a temptation now to widely overplay middling stories.

On Wednesday Reuters hyped the results of its latest presidential polling and presented the results as sweepingly bad for Biden. "Support For Biden Erodes Among Democrats," read the headline. Yet the piece noted that Biden today is nearly 20 points more popular than Trump was at this juncture of his presidency. That's one of the biggest polling jumps in modern American history.

This approach to Biden coverage isn't new. Back in May, the press pushed the strange narrative that the Biden White House was being overrun by "a flurry of crises" that threatened to stymie the new, popular president. The administration was "struggling to find a clear narrative." "Multiple Crises at Home and Abroad Provide a Reality Check for Biden's White House," a CNN headline declared, while NBC's Meet the Press announced, "Biden Battles New Crises as Honeymoon Fades." And from The Hill: "The Imminent Crises Facing Joe Biden."

But journalists often strained themselves trying to construct the new narrative. In an effort to paint the picture of mounting "crises," several pointed to the already-fixed Colonial Pipeline shutdown from the previous week as proof Biden was facing "new" calamities.

This followed a silly March media outburst of gotcha stories: Biden travels during the pandemic! Biden rides an expensive exercise bike! Biden wears a Rolex! Biden hasn't given a press conference! Biden hasn't credited Trump for the vaccine! Biden hasn't "united" the nation!

Not only were the attacks dopey, but they lacked all context. Biden's predecessor waged war on free and fair elections during his final months in office and inspired a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. Yet the press spent days treating a stray, misdirected Biden sentence regarding infrastructure negotiations as "chaos"?

The press really struggles with the new drama-free White House.

With Biden In Power — And Doing Well — The Optics Police Are Back

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Leaning hard into the task of creating conflict and controversy where none exists, the Beltway press is trying its best to rustle up gotcha stories that ding President Joe Biden. Struggling to adjust to the new media landscape that does not feature a narcissistic, pathological liar president, and one who does not purposely create outrage, journalists are swinging and missing as they work too hard to manufacture news.

Biden travels during the pandemic! Biden wears a Rolex! Biden hasn't given a press conference! Biden hasn't credited Trump for the vaccine! Biden hasn't "united" the nation! The breathless exercise is already tedious. And it's only March.

In a way this is the Beltway press returning to "normalcy" after Trump's four years of deliberate chaos. And normalcy for the D.C. media is pelting Democrats with gotcha stories about optics and how something the president has done doesn't look right, as determined by journalists. Not that the president has done anything wrong. Just that it doesn't feel right, and that now that gets treated as Important News, just months after a president who ran the White House as a criminal enterprise and tried to demolish free and fair elections in America left office.

Under that Republican president, the daily optics were routinely so horrendous as he tweeted out racist taunts, bullied adversaries, and buddied up to foreign dictators. Faced with an openly corrupt president who didn't even try to hide his misdeeds, the media's optics squad went into hiding and stopped handing out tickets altogether.

Now they're back, as the Beltway press goes searching for infractions, while journalists obliterate all sense of proportion. This double standard has now become commonplace. As a rule, there were no brazen corruption or bouts of lawbreaking when recent Democratic presidents were in office, or running for president. So the press had to lean into optics in order to create drama and allegations of wrongdoing.

Remember during the 2016 campaign when the Boston Globe and other media outlets demanded that the Clinton Foundation, an A-rated global humanitarian powerhouse, be shut down because it didn't look good for it to be operating if Hillary Clinton became president? No such high-level demands were made of the openly corrupt Trump Foundation, or when his tentacles of business dealings created an almost impossible-to-map conflict of interest.

Today, news outlets are straining to create news where none exists, like Biden not yet having a solo press conference with White House reporters. The topic was the very first question asked at a recent daily briefing, signaling how important journalists view the story. It's been the topic of endless cable TV news chatter, especially on Fox News.

In the last week, the Washington Post published no less than three pieces on the supposedly hot topic — a news story, an opinion piece, and an editorial — even though the White House has already announced Biden will have a presser by the end of the month. The administration has also renewed all kinds of access points for journalists that were cut off under Trump.

The fact that Biden arrived in office having to deal with a pandemic, an insurrection, and an impeachment trial rarely gets mentioned in the hand wringing press conference coverage. Do journalists think Biden, who's been in public life for 50 years, isn't capable of answering questions?

Recall that just days into Biden's first week in office, the New York Times dinged him for being out of touch with voters because of the expensive watch he wears, and the exercise bicycle he uses. It was a dishonest pursuit that looked especially absurd following Trump's four years of gaudy, country club excess, which the Times ridiculously labeled "populism." Trump regularly wore a $36,000 watch while president, a fact the Times politely omitted in its optics article about Biden's $7,000 Rolex, which was "a far cry from the Everyman timepieces that every president not named Trump has worn conspicuously in recent decades," the Times stressed.

That urgent wristwatch update came three days after the Times reported on Biden's exercise bike of choice, Peloton, noting the high-end workout machine "does not exactly comport with Mr. Biden's 'regular guy from Scranton' political persona."

Over this weekend, the Associated Press returned to a weird Biden gotcha storyline: He should avoid air travel during the pandemic. "The White House defends those [Delaware] visits at a time when the administration is urging the public to avoid unnecessary travel," the AP tweeted.

The wire service first pushed the Fox News-sponsored narrative last month, stressing that Biden's decision to fly on the weekend to his home in Delaware ran counter to CDC pandemic guidelines. The obvious hole in the gotcha story is that the CDC urges Americans not to travel because it wants people to avoid crowded airports and crowded planes, which is not something Biden has to encounter as the President of the United States. The idea that the Oval Office occupant cannot safely travel one year into a pandemic makes no sense.

Fact: Biden has deliberately unplugged Trump's outrage treadmill. The press needs to adjust and stop trying to concoct gotcha news.