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Bacon isn’t totally off the mark, though. We had to be in the UK in April to learn from their TV news that of the G-7 nations, the United States has had the second strongest post-Covid economic recovery, close behind #1 Canada, but well ahead of #3 (I can’t recall who- but it wasn’t the UK). Something I’ve never seen or read in US media. Virtually every story on inflation over there put it in a global context. The lack of a broader global context for inflation and gas prices in the US feeds the “it’s all Biden’s fault” GOP narrative. Which of course allows the GOP to avoid talking about exactly what they would do to bring down inflation and gas prices.

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Not how journalism works....

Journalism works to generate as much revenue as it can. That is how journalism tends to work--especially in today's environment. That hard work to generate revenue is one of the things that has gotten us to where we are currently at.

It also tends to be on the negative side against whoever happens to be in power--regardless of what political affiliation the people in power have--it is part of the oppositional narrative built into western journalism, particularly American journalism.

A lot of the people in the center right or Anti-Trump media are quite happy to take pot shots at the Democrats and Biden which tends to set up a false equivalency...

and a lot of the center left and left media are happy to take potshots because a President with effectively limited power (given the way the Senate works and who some of the Senators are) didn't manage to get their pet policy into action.

So you are either damned if you do or damned if you don't--and the general emotional tenor this days generally means you are just damned, period.

I will be amazed of another US President during my lifetime has a positive approval rating, TBH... unless it is a cooked approval rating.

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Revisiting this a bit:

1) Biden is a decidedly uncharismatic, and basically uninteresting person from an audience/readership perspective. He is a guy that got the job because his opponent was a total piece of excrement and because he was probably the only available Democrat who could probably do it (and BARELY managed to do it, at that, by something like 40K votes, I believe)--THAT was his qualification for the job. He is and always will be something of a placeholder.

#1 there is a bit problem for a media coming down off of its Trump high. I wonder how much revenue is down.

The press is often unfair because it (and the public) assign blame where blame is either not due or where it is not due to the degree presented. The whole BS that the President is responsible for all that happens when he is President is just that, BS. It is a gross oversimplification of something complex--but it is a gross simplification of a popular perception.

And no, it is not comparable to the responsibility of a commanding officer for ship (and people's understanding of that isn't exactly clear or correct, either)... and yes, I was in the Navy, so I know something about that.

2) Nuance: There is a decided lack of nuance in most coverage--particularly the coverage that the general population actually reads and understands. More nuance will not be forthcoming. Nuance doesn't sell and few "get it" anyway--or WANT to get it. Nuance also takes more time, work, and knowledge than most media personnel actually have or want to spend (if they do have it). There are these things called deadlines.. and bills to be paid.

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I will say that Perry Bacon had it right in diagnosis, but wrong in prescription. All that’s needed is neutral coverage. E.g. Afghanistan - Biden was faced with a mess because the Government ran off before Intel thought they would. He was far from flawless - the drone strike and the left behind translators were both horrible, but the suicide bombing was to be expected once the government fell and the exodus became improvised - but the breathless coverage and reflexive buy in to negative talking points (including by you, Charlie) was overdone and unwarranted. And inflation - the press’s handling is disgraceful. The whole media establishment seems to have turned into a bunch of tabloid reporters - can’t print or say “gas prices” without adding “soaring”, and can’t tell the complex story of this inflation - more like 1946-48 than 1973-82 - because it doesn’t fit into their narrative. The press’s poor performance disgusts me, starting with The NY Times and the gotcha-chasing lemmings that are the current White House press corps.

That being said, Biden has made plenty of messaging mistakes, starting with his Fourth of July Covid pronouncements last year (“mission accomplished” redux) and continuing through inflation today. But if he got the neutral coverage that a president acting in good faith should receive, and if the press were doing its job of trying to educate the population and not choosing stories to advance its narrative and/or focusing on an election horse race that is TWO F***ING YEARS AWAY BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT COMPETENT TO COVER SUBSTANCE, we’d be in a much better position as a country today.

Btw - despite some occasional pieces or perspectives that I perceive as unfair, I think that the Bulwark folks have done an overall good and fair job in their Biden coverage, and what I perceive as lapses or unfair slants never strike me as products of bad faith - which is why I am devoted to reading them.

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This is a very good post. Bulwark is great as frank said however I’m pretty sure I remember Charlie, Mona, and especially sarah all saying last year after the shots had gone out saying he needs to give a “mission accomplished” moment. No one could have predicted delta but let’s be honest we all wanted it over, wished it would be over, and when it turned out to be wrong, we blamed Biden.

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founding

Charlie, a good example of the media’s eagerness to take shots at Biden is in this morning’s Hill. A few progressives take shots at Biden’s priorities and the headline reads “Dems Attack Biden Strategy”. There is a willingness to conflate any random progressive with the Party, but they don’t do the same when MTG calls out Jewish Space Lasers.

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Are my eyes ok? Last week?

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I persist in the notion that Trump announced the withdrawal and Biden, in withdrawing caught all the heat. The actual military withdrawal could hardly have gone better in that time frame. Leaving the Afghan people who supported the decades long effort was tragic and much of it inexcusable. In reality, the withdrawal at the end should not have shocked anyone. There were two months hard warnings. Leaving the equipment in functioning condition was also inexcusable. Since the buck stops with the president, it indeed fell to him to shoulder that blame. Are we worse off for it now? Not in my mind. There could have been far more deaths in the endgame.

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founding

It looks like we "demilitarized" the equipment that was in our possession during the withdrawal.

https://www.factcheck.org/2021/09/republicans-inflate-cost-of-taliban-seized-u-s-military-equipment/

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Trump, not Biden, negotiated the withdrawal stages. He wanted the final withdrawal to occur early in his second term so he could boast about ending the war. It was left to Biden to fulfill the final withdrawal by the deadline negotiated by Trump. The US military has already made their withdrawal plans before the Biden inauguration. It was very odd that the withdrawal was negotiated with the Taliban, not the legitimate government. Trump gave Afghanistan to the the Taliban, and we wonder that the "puppet" government collapsed. Biden was not responsible. Give Trump the credit for ending the war, but also give him the blame for the debacle. Biden gets credit for the most massive air evacuation in history, over 100,000 people.

The press did a very poor job of explaining things to the public. They continue to say that Biden left hundreds of Americans behind in August. That is not quite right. They wanted to remain behind. As of October 2021, half of them still wanted to remain, and the US has been removing all who want to leave. https://rollcall.com/2021/10/26/hundreds-of-americans-remain-in-afghanistan-pentagon-official-says/ Just yesterday, in a stunning example of false equivalency, JVL blamed Biden for the monkeypox outbreak. Biden HAS NOT downplayed the outbreak or otherwise engaged in any of the other politically motivated actions characteristic of Trump in 2020 regarding Covid. Also yesterday, Noah Smith trivialized Biden's legislative achievements, even calling the Infrastructure Bill "good and necessary but really just plugged a hole from the previous decade of disinvestment," forgetting that no president before Biden got it done. Bacon has a point.

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It will be far worse if States begin to refuse to recognize legal marriages across state lines. I can see that happening.

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I agree that Bacon got it wrong to suggest the Media should have covered the Afghan debacle LESS. However, I think there is a distinction to be made here that I saw few in the media making: Biden DELAYED the pullout of Afghanistan after Trump surrendered to the Taliban. The US agreed to be out of the country by April... and it went into the summer. Many of our allies left behind could have been saved with better preparation, or if the Trump administration had done more to expedite US Visas for those allies knowing a pullout deadline was coming in 2021

Did the Biden administration do anything useful with that extra time - it appears not, or certainly not enough. People in US uniforms, and unknown numbers of translators and other Afghan allies in the US, were failed by our Country. But the idea that Biden has full responsibility for a executing a surrender negotiated by Trump leaves out a critical part of the story.

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Trump via Miller deliberately sabotaged the visa process for the Afghans. After all, who wants all those Muslims invading the US?

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Yes, Biden did delay. It is probably not accurate to conclude the Biden administration did little to nothing with the extra time based solely on what happened https://www.factcheck.org/2021/08/timeline-of-u-s-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/ What apparently was NOT planned for was the speed of the collapse after intelligence and military sources revised down their estimates of time to collapse to thirty days. It took five days. It is only "on Biden" in the same way Trump opponents say everything is on Trump whether it is his fault or not.

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Fair clarification - looks like most of the Bulwark readers understand the nuances of what actually happened. It is just too bad the electorate doesn't appreciate that nuance. Polling suggests they did blame Biden, just like they blamed him for the war in Ukraine or gas prices or inflation

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The media coverage issue is an interesting one. And lots of folks below have some great takes on it. I'd like to offer one more angle: structural differences in the polities.

Painting broadly here, when Trump screwed up, the press did its thing, the outrage-fatigued left tried to muster some more outrage, and the right...did nothing. Or, more likely, made excuses or cheered and said that the bad thing was actually a good thing.

When Biden (or Dems) screw up, everyone condemns it.

Yes, I'm slightly overstating it for effect, but it's not hard to see it. For example, consider the reaction here by center-left folks on Afghanistan. Plenty (most? all?) have conflicted/nuanced views about it and none were happy about it. Now, imagine if it all went the same way except Trump was president. Do you think anyone in the MAGA-verse would have anything but praise? Besides Romney and a (one) handful of other Congressional Republicans, would any seriously condemn how it was handled? What would Hannity and Bannon be saying?

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Regarding Afghanistan, blaming Biden for the bungled withdrawal when Trump set the date and then undermined the Afghan government and military seems incredibly unfair, and just plain inaccurate.

Biden had 2 choices - either break the deal and stay, or keep it and leave. Both were terrible options, but the one he took was the best of the two. Fair coverage would have made that a constant theme. Biden's big failure was to fail to see the pit Trump dug in his path.

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Biden's decline in popularity is a non-story, he wasn't all the popular in the first place as Obama's Veep. Hiding in his Delaware basement in 2020 avoiding any real campaigning to avoid his problem of a gaffe a day history whilst Trump's lie a day worked them, it isn't working now. He's been largely silent on Jan. 6, hasn't followed through with campaign promises, thinking nobody would notice the over promising on the stump which has been his hallmark, claiming he's helpless. It's not my fault will never be a formula for successful leadership.

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Jul 20, 2022·edited Jul 21, 2022

I wouldn't say the media is "mean" to Biden, but they're far from fair.

For example, I keep seeing CNN headlines about Biden's terrible polling and legislative failures, but nothing about GOP obstruction and equally terrible Congressional polling. The media needs to be fair, and that means backing off the sensationalized clickbait headlines and shooting for objective descriptions.

"Biden and GOP Legislators Fail to Reach Compromise" is dry, but it's true. ""Biden Fails to Advance Agenda" frames Republican obstruction as a failure on Biden's part and implies that he could somehow overcome the outright refusal of the GOP to work with him on certain issues. He can't. He's not a king.

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founding

The media coverage of Biden has been on doom loop mode, almost entirely unfairly and often hysterically, since Afghanistan. It is both symptom and cause of our current dysfunction-- we are basically spoiled teenagers who when faced with a bump or crisis, lose our minds. FDR presided over both Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Bulge. And lots of other strategic disasters. Did the media relentlessly describe him as failed and incompetent- and if they had, would he have been re-elected 3 times? There were voices like Hartling, Stravidis and McCaffrey who noted the mess of Afghanistan but equally noted that it was almost always going to be a messy dismount and that after a bad 24-36 hours, things were remarkably-- truly remarkably-- smooth, efficient and competent. And yet, then the narrative shifted to the "many" Americans facing the prospect of being left behind.... the same Americans the US govt implored and begged repeatedly over several months to get out of dodge. The coverage framing of "This bad/not so great thing has happened; Biden is president; therefore regardless of how said disaster is handled, it is bad on Biden" has continued non stop. NBC News had peacock Peter Alexander lambasting Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia and repeatedly included completely non factual assertions by McCarthy about Biden's energy policy-- no other side, no rebuttal, just amplification of a completely inaccurate partisan talking point. So, yes, the media has crucified Biden who, if he can get a few more things accomplished and doesn't face any more major disasters (no assurance of either), will have had a very good first term in terms of actual important accomplishments. And compared to the alternative corruption-chaos-incompetence, a massively undeniably obviously better scenario for America and the world.

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The real problem I see with media coverage of Biden is more subtle. It’s more one of routine shadings. Before inflation got out of hand, reports of economic growth and such always had a caveat of “but people are still worried about…”. Under Trump I don’t remember seeing “but inequality is still worsening” being attached to all good economic news. Similarly, if Biden makes a barn-burning statement about something, the headline is apt to include, or even lead with, “Dem left says response is weak.”

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founding

If there's even a headline at all.

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The real problem I see with media coverage of Biden is more subtle. It’s more one of routine shadings. Before inflation got out of hand, reports of economic growth and such always had a caveat of “but people are still worried about…”. Under Trump I don’t remember seeing “but inequality is still worsening” being attached to all good economic news. Similarly, if Biden makes a barn-burning statement about something, the headline is apt to include, or even lead with, “Dem left says response is weak.”

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While the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a sh*tshow, I just want to ask people one thing....How did y'all think that war was going to end? There was never going to be a happy ending, no ticker-tape parade, no peaceful transition of authority to a unified Afghan government, etc. Biden was given a list of bad options and took the least worst one. Yes, it was a clusterfrack. But it always was going to be, whether it be in 2021 or ten years prior

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It was going to be fraught with issues. I can fully admit that I would have blamed Trump pretty exclusively for that, but I was surprised that Biden's administration appeared so incompetent in doing it. My guess is that it would have been worse if Trump did it, but again...Biden has to own how badly it went.

Trump did set up Biden in a way with that Taliban agreement. Remember how Trump had planned to meet with the Taliban at Camp David on 9/11 when all of his advisors screamed how bad the optics would be. Classic....the flag flying patriot Trump having no clue about US history recent or not.

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Honestly, I think they did the best they could with the terrible hand dealt. That doesn't make it any less of a mess, but who honestly thought on 1 Aug that Kabul would fall only 2 weeks later? It was a shitshow, but it also always had been, no matter how much we preened otherwise

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The withdrawal from Vietnam was even worse than Afghanistan - didn't seem to hurt Nixon. Then again, Watergate was about to explode in his face.

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