Our politics now seems once massive and relentless blame game, our fingers growing tired from all the finger-pointing.
And then there’s the distancing—a high art in itself—by former officials. Scott Gottlieb, who ran the FDA under President Trump, now tells “Face the Nation” (as he promotes his book) that the pandemic “would have been different” if “the White House was exercising different leadership,” that “the lack of consistency was a big mistake” along with failing to use the White House “as an effective bully pulpit.”
Speaking of the coronavirus, we’ve spent months watching the current guy and the former guy blame each other for the response to the pandemic and the handling of vaccines.
Breitbart’s John Nolte has come up with a new argument:
“I am strongly pro-vaccine and now believe that Biden, the media, Hollywood, and the left, in general, are deliberately being as nasty as possible as a way to use reverse psychology against Trump supporters.
“They know that the uglier they get, the more unvaccinated Trump supporters will dig in and refuse to get vaccinated. Well, I think that’s the plan. They’re vaccinated. We’re not. The unvaccinated are almost exclusively the ones dying. Who’s winning that debate? Who’s owning who?”
I’m not a fan of taunting the unvaccinated—even the anti-vaxxers who die of the disease—in that it does nothing to persuade others to get these life-saving shots. But trying to psych out Trump backers so they’ll die? That, to put it diplomatically, is a stretch.
The new book “Peril” reveals that Gen. Mark Milley held backchannel conversations with China and reviewed the nuclear launch process with top Pentagon officials because he was worried about Donald Trump’s mental stability. Milley, who felt his reputation took a hit under Trump, obviously tried to vindicate himself by cooperating with the book. And Trump has struck back by calling the man he named Joint Chiefs chairman a “dumbass” and “idiot,” while also ripping Bob Woodward.
Woodward and coauthor Robert Costa defended Milley yesterday on “Good Morning America,” with Costa saying the general “was reading people in. While these calls with [China’s] General Li were held on a top-secret backchannel, they were not secret. This was not someone who was working in isolation…He was not going rogue.”
Well, maybe. But what Milley did was secret from the rest of us, and from Trump, which is why some conservatives have been demanding his firing or prosecution for treason.
Just to complete the finger-pointing, Jen Psaki, assuring reporters of President Biden’s confidence in Milley, repeatedly said that Trump “fomented an insurrection.”
When there were crises at the Texas border during the Trump years, the press went ballistic, and it was certainly fair game to challenge the administration’s heartbreaking policy of separating families. But every day there was one storyline: whether to blame the president for a humanitarian disaster.
When Biden’s policies led to a surge of migrants, especially unaccompanied minors, at the border, most of the media, in fairness, were quite tough on him. But now they seemed to have moved on from that story.
When 14,000 migrants, many of them Haitian refugees, converged on the Texas town of Rio, the press covered it—but not as a Biden failure or even a setback.
On Friday, the New York Times reported on the surge, and matter-of-factly noted in the sixth paragraph that Biden’s policies were “interpreted by many as a sign that the United States would be more welcoming to migrants.” The piece later added that “Mr. Biden’s term has coincided with a sharp deterioration in the political and economic stability of Haiti.”
Yesterday, the Times ran a sympathetic piece on Del Rio’s residents being overwhelmed by the surge, parenthetically noting that “all of these tensions have turned the town into a political battleground, with residents protesting the Biden administration.”
President Joe Biden speaks about the end of the war in Afghanistan from the State Dining Room of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) ____ Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to media at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci | REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)
Such framing is a way of deflecting blame, pure and simple, an approach the media almost never took under Trump.
The Nicki Minaj tweets were an almost perfect case study in finger-in-the-eye-pointing. First, the hip-hop star urged caution about the vaccine because, she tweeted, her cousin’s friend in Trinidad got swollen testicles, with zero evidence it was related to the Covid shot. Then MSNBC’s Joy Reid ripped her as irresponsible. Then Minaj blasted Reid as a traitor to her race. Then defenders said critics were trying to bully and silence Nicki. Just another day on Twitter.
One political figure who is quick to blame opponents, and get blasted by her critics, is Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. The sophomore congresswoman may have little clout on the Hill, but is very savvy at getting people buzzing about her.
So it was when she wore that white gown, with “Tax the Rich” emblazoned on the map, to New York’s ultra-glitzy Met Gala.
Supporters said she had struck a symbolic blow for The People in that glamorous setting. Detractors called her a hypocrite for hobnobbing with the rich themselves, many of whom pay relatively little in taxes.
But it turns out the gown’s celebrity designer, Aurora James, has been with 15 tax warrants for her company for failing to withhold income tax payments for employees. And when James didn’t resolve that, the IRS placed more than $100,000 in liens on her agency.
Finally, someone we can all agree to blame.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of “MediaBuzz” (Sundays 11 a.m.). He also hosts the MediaBuzzmeter podcast and is the author of “Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press and the War Over the Truth.” Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.