It’s no secret that the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal is one of the loudest defenders of reactionary politics in America, Europe, and anywhere else rich Americans stand to make a dollar. But on Thursday, the WSJ editorial board stepped up their blatant shilling for President Donald Trump, taking a shot at the Washington Post for the unforgivable crime of adding context to a story about Trump’s visit to an air base in Iraq.
The story, which appears to have changed substantially since it was first published, opened with these two grafs when it was published on Wednesday:
President Trump touched down Wednesday in Iraq in his first visit to a conflict zone as commander in chief, a week after announcing a victory over the Islamic State that his own Pentagon and State Department days earlier said remained incomplete.
The president’s visit to Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad, which was shrouded in secrecy, follows months of public pressure for him to spend time with troops deployed to conflicts in the Middle East and punctuates the biggest week of turmoil the Pentagon has faced during his presidency.
All of these things are true. There is not a single wrong fact in either of these sentences. The Pentagon countered Trump’s statement that ISIS had been defeated almost immediately after he said it; people have been complaining for months that Trump hadn’t visited American troops; Trump’s Defense secretary just announced his resignation with a letter taking a big dump on Trump’s leadership ability and is now being removed from his post two months ahead of when he intended to leave.
It’s also notable that many of these details pop up in the Journal’s own coverage of this same story, albeit further down on the page and couched in much more cautious terms. But in addition to simply being the truth, the Washington Post’s writeup actually adds necessary context to Trump’s visit! (The original Post writeup, anyway; gone from the first two paragraphs are the references to “public pressure” and the Pentagon’s contradiction of his comments on ISIS, and the Post’s story now says that Trump used his visit to “assert his personal influence over the military at a moment of tremendous turmoil at the Pentagon.”)
The Journal’s editorial board, however, went all Bill Mitchell on the Post in defense of the helpless president of the United States:
We’ll admit we stopped reading there, so perhaps there was actual news later in the story. But can anyone reading those opening two sentences wonder why millions of Americans believe Donald Trump when he tells them that he can’t get a fair shake from the press?
These reporters can’t even begin a news account of a presidential visit to a military base without working in a compilation of Mr. Trump’s controversies, contradictions, and failings.
The point isn’t to feel sorry for Mr. Trump, whose rhetorical attacks on the press have often been contemptible. The point is that such gratuitously negative reporting undermines the credibility of the press without Mr. Trump having to say a word.
Reminder: Millions of Americans believe Donald Trump when he tells them that he can’t get a fair shake from the press because there are millions of ideological conservatives in America who think that no conservative will ever get a fair shake from the press. Millions of people thought that Richard Nixon was being railroaded by the liberal media and the left in general. Just because they believed that doesn’t mean that he was!
Trump’s controversies, contradictions, and failings are the story of his presidency. The President of the United States is, above all else, a bullshitter, and not even a particularly good one considering how many lies he’s been caught in. Fact-checkers have proved pretty useless thus far in countering Trump’s bullshit with, er, facts. So how, exactly, does the editorial board of the Journal—a paper six months removed from replacing its Trump fanboy of an editor-in-chief—expect reporters to honestly and accurately cover Trump?
The answer, it seems, is that they don’t. The Journal’s editorial board would apparently rather have reporters not do the more difficult work of holding power accountable and telling the truth, and instead just print the official version—the Trump version—of whatever the hell happens on any given day. I’m sure the reporters in their own newsroom are just loving this.