During the 2012 presidential campaign, somehow each and every Republican presidential contender had a sink thrown at him (or her) via what reporters call “investigative journalism.” Every time a Republican rose in the polls, the media tried to knock him or her down, like a game of Whack-a-Mole.
The very last man standing was Mitt Romney, who didn’t receive the official “Gotcha!” from The Washington Post until May, with a 5,000-word opus on “Teenage Haircutgate.” That’s why it’s so strange that the national media would decide so early it was time for journalistic carpet bombing of the Great Squishy Northeastern Hope of 2016, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
It was just weeks ago that NBC’s Matt Lauer was swooning over Christie and lining him up to denounce House Republicans as cruel and miserly on superstorm Sandy subsidies. After he won, CBS reporter/former Biden aide Chip Reid was announcing that Christie “wanted a big reelection victory, in part, to show that Republicans who favor consensus over ideological purity can win – even in blue states like New Jersey.” CBS claimed wins by Christie in New Jersey and liberal Terry McAuliffe in Virginia showed America was engaged in a “move to the middle.”
Christie can forget all that hugging and mugging with Obama in 2012, as if that was going to inoculate him forever. Democrats have been harping for weeks – especially on their propaganda channel MSNBC – that a “Bridgegate” scandal was going to be Christie’s undoing.
On January 8, the scandal exploded. The Bergen Record revealed Christie’s deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly declaring in an e-mail in September “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The Democratic mayor of Fort Lee wouldn’t endorse Christie for re-election, so Christie aides decided to punish the public on the George Washington Bridge that goes from Fort Lee into New York City.
There goes the image of Christie “favoring consensus.”
The same national press that conducted a blackout of the trial of Philadelphia murderer Kermit Gosnell as lawyers exposed his horrific late-term abortion mill – that was dismissed as a “local story” – decided a few autumn days of traffic jams in Bergen County to be the hottest outrage for everyone from Jacksonville to Boise. In fact, their burst of reporting indicated they believed this was the most important story in the world – by far.
In the first two days of the story after the e-mails on the manufactured traffic jams came to light, ABC, CBS and NBC devoted 88 minutes of breathless coverage to the story. To put their transparently partisan aggression into perspective, that’s 88 minutes in two days compared to two minutes of coverage in the last six months of the IRS-Tea-Party-targeting scandal.
In less than a week, there was 44 times as much coverage of The Bridge than to the IRS in six months. Had Christie absolutely zero national potential or ambitions, the traffic jams would have remained a local story. But he’s a presidential hopeful who would challenge the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton – and so, it was time to take him down.
The national Democrats are grateful. Hand in glove with the negative media coverage, DNC communications director Mo Elleithee sent out a fundraising e-mail. “Before the next campaign starts, we need to make sure that Americans across the country know the real Chris Christie, and that Democrats have the resources to keep him out of national office. Chip in $10 to make sure we can stop Chris Christie.”
What’s not in any doubt is that the publicity and fundraising aims of the White House and the Democratic National Committee line up remarkably well with the “news agenda” of our national TV networks and newspapers.
Even conservative pundits have insisted that when Gov. Christie maintained during his endless press conference that this was planned, he had better be telling the truth or his career is finished.
At the risk of sounding casual about the truth, it could be argued that lying your face off to the press and the American people has never impeded the careers of Bill or Hillary Clinton, and it certainly didn’t keep Barack Obama from being elected or re-elected.
Our “objective” journalists would be worthy of respect if they observed a single standard on truth-telling and political scandal coverage. But once again, with “Bridgegate,” we are reminded this is a pipe dream.