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The Media's Timely Return Raises Hopes For American Democracy

Is the change for real?

Photo by ABC via Getty Images

The media is back to becoming the neutral, curious, and aggressively inquisitive arbiter of life in America.  Regardless of who wins the 2024 presidency, this turnaround is the single most consequential milestone in over twenty years.

The latest example of this notable shift aired on Friday night when George Stephanopoulos, one of the most partisan journalists who had been doing the Democrats' bidding reliably for 27 years on ABC News, suddenly transitioned to a role reminiscent of NBC's Tim Russert. For 22 minutes, Stephanopoulos dug in, asking the same questions in different ways and attempting to get the truth out of President Biden.

Biden, who hasn't faced a challenging press interview since becoming Obama's sidekick in 2008, was sadly out of shape. When confronted with a tricky question, he resorted to dismissing it, a tactic that had consistently produced impressive results for 16 years. A media figure previously would never have pressed him again to clarify, allowing the response to stand.

But on Friday, Stephanopoulos would have none of it. There were none of the usual initial pleasantries as the two sat down together.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, thank you for doing this.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you for having me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start with the debate. Eh, you and your team have said you had a bad night. But your —

BIDEN: Sure did.

The media to which we have been used would have probably stopped right there and let Biden go on to whatever snake oil he was selling.

On Friday, Stephanopoulos pressed him not with one or two follow-ups but eight probing questions - as revealed by an ABC News transcript reprinted by the New York Times.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your friend Nancy Pelosi actually framed the question that I think is on the minds of millions of Americans. Was this a bad episode or the sign of a more serious condition?

BIDEN: It was a bad episode. No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted. I didn't listen to my instincts in terms of preparing and — and a bad night.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you say you were exhausted. And — and I know you've said that before as well, but you came — and you did have a tough month. But you came home from Europe about 11 or 12 days before the debate, spent six days in Camp David. Why wasn't that enough rest time, enough recovery time?

BIDEN: Because I was sick. I was feeling terrible. Matter of fact, the docs with me, I asked if they did a Covid test because they're trying to figure out what was wrong. They did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, a virus. I didn't. I just had a really bad cold.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And — did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

BIDEN: I don't think I did, no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what I'm try — what I want to get at is, what were you experiencing as you were going through the debate? Did you know how badly it was going?

BIDEN: Yeah, look. The whole way I prepared, nobody's fault, mine. Nobody's fault but mine. I, uh — I prepared what I usually would do, sitting down as I did come back with foreign leaders or National Security Council for explicit detail. And I realized — about partway through that, you know, all — I get quoted, The New York Times had me down at 10 points before the debate, nine now, or whatever the hell it is. The fact of the matter is, what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn't — I mean, the way the debate ran, not — my fault, no one else's fault, no one else's fault.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seemed like you were having trouble from the first question in, even before he spoke.

BIDEN: Well, I just had a bad night. You've had some bad interviews once in a while. I — I can't remember any, but I'm sure you did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I've had plenty. I guess the question of — the problem is here for a lot of Americans watching is, you've said going back to 2020, "Watch me," to people who are concerned about your age. And, you know, 50 million Americans watched that debate. It seemed to confirm fears they already had.

BIDEN: Well, look. After that debate, I did 10 major events in a row, including until 2 in the morning after the debate. I did events in North Carolina. I did events in — in — in Georgia, did events like this today, large crowds, overwhelming response, no — no — no slipping. And so, I just had a bad night. I don't know why.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And — how — how quickly did it — did it come to you that you were having that bad night?

BIDEN: Well, it came to me, I was having a bad night when I realized that even when I was answering a question, even though they turned his mic off, he was still shouting. And I — I let it distract me. I — I'm not blaming it on that, but I realized that I just wasn't in control.

It was not just ABC News. Peter Baker of the Times, who has been the Biden administration's chief offensive line journalist and has protected Biden all these years by playing the all-in-one role of the center, the two offensive guards, and the two offensive tackles in a traditional football game, suddenly switched positions to the sidelines as a referee. In his analysis piece of the Stephanopoulos interview, Baker starts with:

"All sounds fine in President Biden's world. That devastating debate? Just a bad night. Those dismal poll numbers? Simply inaccurate. The gloomy election predictions? The same old doomsayers, wrong again. The Democrats who want him to drop out? No one has told him that."

Just imagine how America would have been different if the media had acted this way for the last ten years. We wouldn't have had the Russia-Russia-Russia hoax, the first Trump impeachment as the press dug into the Alexander Vindman-Adam Schiff cabal to uncover Biden's corrupt actions in Ukraine. The 145 ballot rule changes in 2020 that made voter authentication and validating votes cast a thing of the past would not have occurred resulting in a fairer election. We also wouldn't have witnessed the events of, January 6 or the Antifa riots the prior summer.

And we wouldn't have had the disastrous economy, the endless wars in two theaters, and 18 million illegal immigrants swarming the country since Biden took office.

It's not for nothing that the Supreme Court gave media organizations so many protections to create the Fourth Estate so that the first three branches are constantly under scrutiny.

On Friday night, ABC News, led by George Stephanopoulos, brought legitimacy to the press. For the sake of American democracy and its global standing, let's hope Friday was not an aberration.

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