This week, The New York Times announced that they hired Michael Bender, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, to be their new reporter on what they describe as former President Donald Trump and the “Trumpism” beat.
This is the same newspaper that has relentlessly attacked Mr. Trump and his followers for the last seven years or so. This is the same newspaper that has repeatedly insisted that Republicans move on from Mr. Trump and all he stands for, especially his claims about the 2020 elections.
This personnel announcement highlights the ugly truth about the media, especially the legacy media. They made money off Mr. Trump. He was edgy, current, topical and always ready to scramble a boring news cycle. He drove eyeballs to websites. He still does.
Here’s how The Times played it: “The Trump and Trumpism beat, as we are calling Mike’s new role, exists at the intersection of classic political reporting — on candidates, issues and elections — and coverage of the special challenges presently confronting American democracy.”
Special challenges confronting American democracy? Spare us. The real reason it hired a new guy to do the Mr. Trump beat is that it expects it to make cash. Whatever its editorial stance or opinions, The New York Times and its reporters care more about clicks and page views than anything else.
On the other hand, The Times has made it clear that it views Mr. Trump and his followers as the leading edge of a fundamentally authoritarian movement in this country. It thinks of “Trumpism” (whatever that is) as a pathology. But it is willing to overlook all that for some extra cash.
While there are some followers of Mr. Trump who are authoritarian, more authoritarians in the United States voted for the current occupant. There are indeed a few elements of American politics that are pathological. In some instances, those pathologies have been amplified by Mr. Trump and his team; in many more instances, they have been amplified by Mr. Biden and his team.
Let’s assume The Times honestly believes that Mr. Trump is a danger. Having a senior beat reporter focused exclusively on giving Mr. Trump and his followers free media exacerbates the problem. If it were really, honestly, concerned about the pathologies, it would do what the rest of America is doing — getting on with their lives and thinking about who should lead us after the current version of President Jimmy Carter exits.
Do newspapers have beat reporters on former President Barack Obama? Bill Clinton? George W. Bush? Reaganism? Where does it end?
It will no doubt be argued that Mr. Trump is the most important political leader in the Republican Party and will be the party’s nominee in 2024. Maybe. Maybe not. The track record of his endorsements in this election cycle and rally locations and attendance suggests a waning rather than waxing enterprise.
It is the height of hypocrisy to spend years rending one’s garments and pulling one’s beard over the deficiencies of a particular individual and the terrible, existential risk he poses to the nation, and then feeding that same individual’s need for attention to make a few more bucks.
The nation’s “newspaper of record” should take a long, hard look in the mirror and assess its role in perpetuating the problems we face. It needs to do what most Americans always do and have, in this case, already done: Decide that the best course of action is to move confidently into the future and leave the past in the past.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.