- In September and early October, the news cycle was unfriendly to Democrats, but the focus shifted dramatically when Hamas attacked Israel
- The media largely overlooked critical issues, such as intelligence failures leading to Israel's 9/11 incident
- President Biden's request for emergency funding received media attention, and there was an emphasis on the terms "terrorism" and "aggression"
If Rip Van Winkle were alive, he would not believe what has been happening in the media during the last two weeks.
Winkle, a Dutch-American character in a short story by Washington Irving, first published in 1819, lived in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. A drunk who loved his bourbon, Winkle went away into the hills and, upon returning, couldn't recognize his own village. Everything had changed so much.
All of September and into the first week of October, the news cycle was heavily unfriendly to the Democrats. Under former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the House refused to pass a long-term continuing resolution (CR) and rejected any money, not even $300 million, for Ukraine. The Senate grudgingly went along, and Biden meekly signed the short-term CR to avoid a government shutdown.
Then, Hamas attacked Israel, and the news media got its cue. Everything changed.
An adage in politics says that a week is an eternity. It has been two weeks since the gruesome attacks, and the intense coverage is suddenly portraying Biden as a wise statesman who understands America's leadership role in an uncertain world. A wartime leader who did not hesitate to visit a war zone, some news outlets said. [One wag compared him favorably to former President Donald Trump who would not even visit a cemetery in France during D-Day celebrations (never mind that Trump wasn't feeling well that day).] No rockets were fired into Israel, and no air raid sirens went off during Biden's visit: even Hamas ceased fire not to cross POTUS, went the news narrative.
News organizations failed to cover related stories with the same impunity. There was little reflective coverage of the intelligence failures - the CIA and Mossad are legendary institutions with a deep and broad network of assets in the region - which led to Israel's 9/11. How could such an attack even happen?
Biden was supposed to meet Arab leaders in Jordan but was rebuffed, and the entire Amman leg of his trip was canceled. There was scant mention of this diplomatic insult. We can only imagine how the media would have covered a similar story if Trump had been insulted by foreign leaders in this fashion.
But no matter. Things were looking up for the Biden team. So confident was the Biden administration that they arranged for an Oval Office address covered by every network worldwide. Looking presidential, Biden conveniently and brilliantly mixed two words, terrorism and aggression, into the same emergency funding request from Congress, saying it is America's national emergency to fight both even though America was not attacked.
"You know, history has taught us that when terrorists don't pay a price for their terror, when dictators don't pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos, death, and destruction. They keep going, and the cost and the threats to America and to the world keep rising."
Biden was laying down a dangerous framework for a new doctrine, and no media outlet questioned it. There are 20 authoritarian governments worldwide, so henceforth, the White House will request taxpayers to foot a mammoth bill each time dictators act aggressively, including invading a neighbor, even if the countries involved are thousands of miles away from America's shores?
There was another trick in the Biden proposal, enabled by clever collusion between the media and the Beltway complex. He was asking for a whopping $106 billion, with more than $60 billion for Ukraine and only $10 billion for Israel. But news reports led their coverage by saying Biden was asking for funds for "Israel and Ukraine." In marketing, the ordering of terms matters.
America has a deep, long-standing commitment to Israel going back to Israel's founding, spanning both parties. The Senate rubber-stamped Biden's sentiments with a 97-0 vote. Did the Senate not see that Ukraine's funding was nearly 60% of the request? Oh, of course, they did. They had all along meant to fund Ukraine and had cleverly used Israel's brand to slip in the Ukraine line item. Terrorism and aggression, remember? So get used to "Israel and Ukraine" from now on.
Pouncing on numerous unforced errors in the GOP house, coverage became decidedly pro-Democrat. It gave sufficient fuel to Republican holdouts, some of whom had initially voted to nominate Jim Jordan for the speakership. Yes, he was still far from securing the 217 votes to become speaker. Still, in a strange turn of events, the resistance to Jordan became so solidified, primarily by GOP members of appropriations and defense committees where they could see a pot of gold brewing, that they decided to sink Jordan's candidacy altogether in a secret ballot. Jordan was firmly opposed to Ukraine funding. The media erupted in glee.
And there were numerous negative news stories about former President Trump. Judge Tanya Chutkan's position regarding a Trump gag order was heavily cycled through without adequately airing concerns about the leading contender for the GOP nomination next year. In New York, the judge presiding over a civil trial threatened Trump with jail time for his social media posts. Never mind that Letitia James has been aggressively pursuing the case in public.
And in Georgia, the coverage was all pro-Fani Willis, who secured guilty pleas from two Trump associates. Neither pled guilty to racketeering, which was the primary charge, but it did not matter. Trump was in mortal political danger, went the news coverage, and it stuck.
Gone from the newspaper headlines were any stories about the Biden family corruption or the Hunter Biden case. The southern border, which became a prominent news story in late September or early October, has miraculously disappeared from all coverage. Every negative news item about Biden and the Democrats is being meticulously buried. And every negative news item, however small, about the Republicans is being amplified.
Does anyone see a similarity to the 2016 and 2020 election news coverage? Just asking.
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