We're witnessing a political revolution in this country, and the press is missing this monumental shift. It’s not that journalists can’t spot the game-changing story; it’s that they’re too afraid to document it. They’re too bullied to address it forcefully.
In the Donald Trump era, lying has become an unequivocal hallmark of the Republican Party and its political strategy. It now defines the GOP, whose top officials, including the United States attorney general, lie early and often about hugely important issues. The press continues to let them get away with it because the media continues to grapple—in slow motion—with how to deal with a major political party that lies about everything. None of this is normal. But the Beltway press is doing its best to make it so.
The torrent of once-unthinkable fabrications the GOP now traffics in was highlighted this week with new revelations about Brett Kavanaugh's soiled confirmation to the United States Supreme Court last year. In order to secure his lifetime position, and facing specific and multiple and credible allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh lied about witnesses; he lied about corroboration; he lied about friendships; he lied about parties. He also lied about the state drinking age, vomiting, his yearbook, his accusers, and drinking. Kavanaugh lied about his grandfather, federal judges, warrantless wiretaps, and stolen emails.
“Republicans shamelessly covered for him by limiting the testimony against him to Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her in high school,” Armanda Marcotte writes at Salon. “They refused to hear testimony from any other witnesses who might have been able to corroborate her account, or discuss Kavanaugh's behavior at the time.”
Credit where due: HuffPost and GQ were among those outlets that published lengthy, detailed pieces last year chronicling Kavanaugh's long list of confirmation lies. But in terms of the day-to-day Beltway media coverage of the confirmation fiasco, good luck finding dispatches clearly stating that a United States Supreme Court nominee was constantly lying his way onto the bench. That kind of stark, accurate language simply wasn't allowed.
Once again, it seemed to be a case of the press being unwilling to break a longstanding etiquette tradition. In this case, it was a tradition of not identifying a Supreme Court nominee as a liar. “That's simply not done!” the traditionalists would cry. But what happens when a Supreme Court nominee, such as Kavanaugh, turns out be a compulsive liar? Is the press supposed to just look away and pretend it's not happening, thereby giving Republicans a pass, as well as allowing them to change the rules of the confirmation game? (In other words: Truth-telling is now optional?)
This is why I shake my head when observers, including some journalists, suggest that it's not important to call Trump a liar, that everybody knows that already, so what's the point, because it's not going to change his behavior, etc. That sounds like desperate rationalizing and an attempt to cover for a collective newsroom failure. The reason all this matters is that it's not just about Trump; it's about the entire Republican Party, which has effectively divorced itself from reality.