Bob Ehrlich: The Media Are in for a Nasty Surprise from a Biden Presidency


My new favorite political word is “uncurious.” The reason is that it so perfectly captures a light-touch national media’s dereliction of professional duty at the very beginning of the Joe Biden era.

But before a review of all the missing-in-action failures of the press vis-à-vis Amtrak Joe, it is appropriate to examine what is always so curious for the Fourth Estate, i.e. anything detrimental to a Republican running for president.

Here, we can think back to the brutal profiles of Ronald Reagan as a lazy, dumb, “racist” warmonger; to the hostility afforded the one-time media darling John McCain for his “racist” and hate-filled ads run against that era’s new media darling, Barack Obama; to the harsh treatment given to Mitt Romney because of his good looks, wealth, religion (Mormon), occupation (“corporate raider”) and, of course, for his alleged failure to pay federal income taxes (a “Dirty Harry” Reid special that Reid would not admit as knowingly false until after Romney had been defeated); to the horrific coverage of George W. Bush for his wealth, “racism” and ne’er-do-well life (recall Dan Rather’s infamously false report on the junior Bush’s time with the Texas National Guard).

Just Google any Republican nominee over the last sixty years for additional context. It’s a familiar, running horror show of hit jobs and low blows from the usual suspects.

And then there is the case of Donald J. Trump – also once a media darling while doing his man-about-town, Queens developer, casino owner, celebrity apprentice gigs.

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During this time, he was also a Democrat and a contributor to Democratic campaigns. He invited the attention and accordingly generated plenty of positive coverage.

That all changed on June 6, 2015, when The Donald and his striking family rode down the escalator at Trump Tower.

This Trump was different. He was still the unapologetic self-promoter but was now an unleashed right winger – ready, willing and able to attack liberals and their cherished institutions (and establishment Republicans when it suited his purposes).

Stunningly, and to the dismay of the media, the new Trump was pro-gun, pro-life, pro-deregulation, pro-tax cuts and happy to take on a Chamber of Commerce that in his view had supported trade deals detrimental to America’s working class.

Do you think the establishment will be "uncurious" about the controversies of a Biden presidency?

Immediately, the media changed course. Trump 2.0 was now the enemy and so the entire media establishment became curious about anything and everything Donald J. Trump: his previous marriages, his business operations, his children, his beauty contests, his casino developments, his dealings with foreign governments and, of course, his taxes.

What followed was five years worth of never-ending media exposés on these and so many other issues associated with Mr. Trump and his family. It was a 24/7 nonstop full-court press devoted to damaging the Trump presidency.

Back to the media’s benign attitude toward Mr. Biden and his family.

To this point at least, it is a stunningly uncurious approach despite concerning indications of Biden’s cognitive decline; a serious allegation of sexual assault; an unwillingness to take positions on controversial issues such as court packing; great wealth despite lifelong employment in the public sector; a son who has profited handsomely via foreign business deals while accompanying his father on official trips; and the specter of accumulating 80 million votes, mostly by the new medium of mail, while failing to campaign.

Some of you may have read the mild objections recently raised by a handful of reporters after yet another Biden “cupcake” press availability.

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There may indeed be additional such complaints in the future as even a pro-Biden mainstream media cannot continue to exist on nonresponsive “answers,” invariably brief press availabilities, and noontime “lids.” But you can bet the negativity will not amount to much.

The media are pleased with a Biden win but also complicit in what comes next. On the upside, they won. On the downside, there is not going to be a whole lot of action. Basements — even in the White House — just aren’t that exciting.

Uncuriousness has its price.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.