On Friday, Trump tweeted that he was withdrawing the nomination of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to succeed the departing Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence.
There’s no need to even mention how the left-wing (i.e., mainstream) media reacted. Everyone knows how that went. (But if you want to sample it and verify what you already know, feel free to check out the links aggregated at Memeorandum, which should be up in their current groupings for a few more hours.)
It’s still of some interest to survey the responses from the right. Although you’d know you were reading about the same event — not always guaranteed if you compare coverage by left- and right-wing media — you would definitely come away with different impressions, based on the diverging emphases of the Old Consensus versus the Trump-friendlier sites.
Townhall, for example, lets Trump and Ratcliffe speak for themselves, embedding their tweets in Katie Pavlich’s article. Trump’s tweet makes a salient point that is a valid one, independent of every other factor: the Democrats and mainstream media are so determined to stop Ratcliffe that they will put him through “months of slander and libel.”
….John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country. I will be announcing my nomination for DNI shortly.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2019
The Democrats and media will manifestly do that. It’s a demonstrated M.O.
That doesn’t mean there is nothing to inspect with empirical vigilance in Ratcliffe’s background. He is alleged to have inflated his involvement in some law enforcement activities touted in his biography, and it’s not unfair for that issue to be raised, or for Ratcliffe to have to give an account on it to the Senate.
But what you emphasize about these factors is informative. And it’s possible to both acknowledge Trump’s point and acknowledge the point that Ratcliffe may or may not have problems getting through a Senate confirmation process because of other factors.
Townhall came off as less inclined to acknowledge the latter point (basically since they didn’t mention it). That’s tendentious, sure, even if it wasn’t deliberate. It’s not as counterproductive, however, as ignoring an elephant in the room — which, in fairness, we don’t know that Ratcliffe’s past claims necessarily amount to.
The elephant isn’t Ratcliffe. It’s the certainty that the left will mount a slander-and-libel assault. National Review, in contrast to Townhall, came out of the gate with the opposite, elephant-ignoring emphasis. Their post at The Corner omitted entirely Trump’s point about the months of slander and libel — probably from fear of seeming to endorse that implicitly as an excuse.
NR didn’t just show fear, however. They went out of their way to characterize withdrawing Ratcliffe’s nomination as an effort to “escape the media scrutiny surrounding the already-contentious confirmation process.”
The buried premises in that formulation have probably been voting from the grave in Cook County for the last 60 years. The proposition here is not media doing their “scrutiny” job and a president and nominee seeking to “escape” it. The proposition is media and Senate Democrats who will go beyond unfairness to vile, slanderous character attacks — some of them quite probably manufactured; i.e., outright lies — in order to stop a nominee; and a nominee who, with the smallest chink his armor, may be unsalvageable under those conditions, even though he might make it through a fair hearing, with the nation well served by that.
It would have been possible to address withdrawal of the Ratcliffe nomination by acknowledging both factors: the grotesque level of viciousness and weaponized media power Trump has every reason to expect from the left, and the point that Ratcliffe may have resume irregularities that would disqualify him anyway.
But the most important point is not Ratcliffe. The most important point is that the media and the Senate Democrats will work actively to prevent the truth about him from being elucidated, and from being the basis for any confirmation vote on him. For that, there is no excuse or justification.
NR writes as if that is not the case — as if we can trust the media to merely be engaged in good-faith scrutiny. There is no excuse for that either.
Townhall seems to write as if the slander-and-libel problem is the only thing at issue. That is criticizeable, to be sure, even a basis for rebuke; but it’s not inexcusable at the same level as ignoring what the media have been doing.
I thought RedState did a pretty good job of acknowledging both concerns. The treatment by streiff there also has the virtue of making the crucial point that Trump needs a DNI he can trust to not become a partisan advocate for the intelligence community. He needs someone who won’t try to prevent necessary truths from coming out about the IC in the probe being done by Barr and Durham. This DNI appointment, at this time, carries freight beyond the mere personnel change; the motivation of both Trump and Democrats (and media) is intensified.
That means the appointment is not “contentious” because of Ratcliffe. It’s contentious because the stakes for this particular appointment have never been so high. That’s a key reason we should expect a malicious media campaign against any nominee to the right of Arlen Specter (or, at a minimum, one likely to cooperate in rigorous investigation of the intel community).
There is still a contingent on the right that doesn’t get that, or at least speaks and writes as if it doesn’t. The good news is that so many others have come to recognize clearly that the mainstream media aren’t just letting lies go; they’re trying to enforce lies and operate on the basis of lies. Not all journalists and pundits are doing that, of course. But it’s hard to find an editorial staff that isn’t.
Not even the most virtuous, qualified nominee comes to a nomination immune from lies. There will be times when facing lies down and outlasting them is the only remedy. Trump may not have chosen the time well in this instance, but the answer is not to let the media or Democrats choose it for him.