September 14, 2023 - 9:00 pm
Conservatives and liberals are suddenly united by a common feeling: a mutual disgust at the media.
Conservatives have long complained that they don’t get a fair shake in what former President Donald Trump calls the “dishonest media,” claiming that news outlets have a left-leaning bias.
But now liberals are getting drunk on the same “whine.” What has them boiling mad is the media’s attention to a subject that many on the left treat as off-limits: President Biden’s advanced age, 80, and whether it is diminishing the quality of leadership that he is able to provide.
At this point, Biden’s age is a part of his narrative. Already the oldest person to ever be sworn in as president, he would be 86 at the end of a hypothetical second term.
A lot of Democrats are upset over a spate of recent reports that seem designed to prod Biden into retirement. Many of these same Democrats appear to be in denial about just how bleak things look for the incumbent.
Consider a recent CNN poll that delivered some blows to Biden’s re-election bid.
Nearly three in four Americans (73 percent) are seriously concerned that Biden’s age might diminish his physical and mental competence, and even more (76 percent) are worried about whether he could serve out a full term if re-elected. A slimmer majority (68 percent) are seriously concerned that Biden doesn’t understand the problems of younger Americans.
Those findings echoed a Wall Street Journal poll from August in which 73 percent of registered voters said the phrase “too old to run for president” was a good descriptor for Biden. That same month, an Associated Press-NORC poll found that 69 percent of Democrats think Biden is too old to run for a second term, though 82 percent of Democrats said they would probably or definitely support him if he were the nominee.
Be careful. If you report or comment on any of this, many Democrats will accuse you of “ageism.”
Interestingly, that word was nowhere to be heard just a few weeks ago, when liberals questioned whether 81-year-old Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell should step down after freezing up at a media gathering, the second such incident this year.
Apparently, you’re guilty of ageism only if you question the mental acuity of an octogenarian who happens to be a Democrat. Elderly Republicans are fair game.
The Biden defenders don’t have time to worry about a little thing like consistency. They’ve got a presidency to save. So now, they’re attacking the media. Why not? Everyone does it.
In the Daily Kos, Mark Sumner recently wrote: “President Joe Biden is 80 years old. It’s possibly the least-interesting fact about a president who has been enormously successful at passing the most progressive (policies) of any president in generations. But it’s also the one fact that news outlets are trying to hammer home in every single story.”
On “The Michael Smerconish Show” on SiriusXM radio, Mark from Nashville called in to say that the media wrecked Biden’s poll numbers. “I’m not talking about the right-wing media because they will never give any Democrat credit for anything,” he said. “But even the mainstream media is focused on his age and not his accomplishments. And I think that is having devastating effects.”
And according to the Hill, the administration has begun “lashing out at the media’s fixation on President Biden’s age and his stamina for executing the job, seeking to go on offense on an issue that polls suggest is one of Biden’s biggest vulnerabilities in his re-election campaign.”
This sounds familiar. Speaking at a tech conference in 2017, Hillary Clinton blamed her failed presidential campaign on the media and its obsession with her email scandal. As she saw it, that was “the biggest nothing burger ever.” Yet, she said, the media covered it “like it was Pearl Harbor.”
Here we go again. Complaining about the media when things aren’t going your way? The right and the left are both guilty of that. Neither seems capable of taking responsibility for their fate. The media has made plenty of mistakes, but it isn’t the problem. When you have a fever, you don’t blame the thermometer. You try to get better. The only way for the political parties to fix what ails them is to stop making excuses — and start making hard choices.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.