I was reflecting this week on my brief stint, many years ago, as a newspaperman. It was a job I loved. I signed on not too many years after the Watergate scandal, and journalists were still flush with heroic ideas about themselves. Woodward and Bernstein — and all reporters by extension — had toppled a corrupt presidency and saved the republic and the Constitution from the kind of behind-the-scenes government tyranny dramatized in such thriller films as “The Parallax View” and “Three Days of the Condor”.
So we took ourselves very seriously. We felt we mattered. If you didn’t believe us, you just had to go see the film “All the President’s Men.” Robert Redford played one of us. How much more could matter than that?
I look back now and the whole thing seems a sham, a self-congratulatory illusion created by leftists in both the news media and in Hollywood.
Recently, reading Mark Levin’s “Unfreedom of the Press”, I was reminded that, before reporters went on their great crusade against Richard Nixon, they had overlooked a whole lot of corruption in the Democrat presidents who preceded him.
Levin tells how John F. Kennedy, with the knowledge of his brother and Attorney General Robert, nudged the IRS into auditing conservative groups. With Kennedy’s approval, the FBI was also employed to investigate those the administration disliked, including Martin Luther King Jr. Lyndon Baines Johnson would later increase the politically motivated auditing and spying. None of this was uncovered until later on.
Ben Bradlee — the editor of the Washington Post, where Woodward and Bernstein broke the Watergate story — was well aware of his pal Kennedy’s misuse of the tax and investigative agencies. Not only did he not report it, he allowed himself and his paper to be manipulated by information JFK had wrongly obtained.
This totally changes the Watergate narrative. Nixon’s dirty tricks and enemy lists may have been creepy and wrong, but the press exposure of these misdemeanors came after years of ignoring similar and worse malfeasance by Democrat administrations.
That changes what Watergate means. That transforms it from a heroic crusade into a political hit job, Democrat hackery masquerading as nobility. The press turned a blind eye to the corruption of JFK and LBJ, then raced to overturn the election of a man they despised — despised in part because he battled the Communism many of them had espoused.
What is it Karl Marx said: History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce?
Journalism today is a corrupt shadow of even its biased former self. Competition, cutbacks and desperate attempts to appease a dwindling audience have turned former newspapers like the New York Times into little better than college rags run by starry-eyed leftist children and answerable to an audience that demands to have their prejudices confirmed.
As a result, the reportage on the Donald Trump administration has been a two and a half year hit job. The constant, breathless reporting of the incipient end of the administration — this is a tipping point, the walls are closing in, the president will be impeached! — has been nothing but the out-loud infantile fantasies of under-read underage make-believe radicals who are not equipped to do the job they are paid to do.
As Obama aide Ben Rhodes told a weirdly sympathetic Times reporter: “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
Like the Nixon takedown, the attacks on Trump come after years of turning a blind eye to the corruption of a Democrat. Obama’s IRS campaign against the Tea Party? His lies about Benghazi? His Fast and Furious fiasco? His shutdown of a massive drug investigation to appease Iran? No big deal. Obama was, as almost every mainstream outlet has declared, “scandal free.”
And yet unlike during the Watergate years, a virtual army of conservative bloggers, podcasters and talk show hosts have given voice to the opposition. As a result, the only actual scandal that is close to being exposed is the possible misuse of federal agents and spies by Barack Obama in an underhanded attempt to keep his opponents out of office.
This time, “Watergate” may have backfired. This time, perhaps, we will be able to say: History repeats itself, once as leftist deception, and once as the truth.