I knew we’d turned some sort of corner when ABC News’ Paula Faris called Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke a “rock star” during his failed 2018 campaign for Senate in Texas.
No, I was under no illusions the media would treat Republicans fairly. This was doubly true for Ted Cruz, a candidate they regarded as a cold, shuffling hypocritical corpse only capable of mendacity and references to “The Princess Bride.” (In fairness, it’s probably time to retire those.)
The fact that O’Rourke was a glib, sweaty white guy who’d screwed up until he found a niche in politics didn’t matter to them at the time. (They saved that for when he ran for president.)
Instead, the media decided he was better than the alternative, so here’s Paula Faris treating Beto as if he were Jack White:
ABC News reporter gushes over Beto O’Rourke: ‘You’re a Rock Star’ pic.twitter.com/7TdUh9hVh3
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) October 21, 2018
Yeah, I know — it was a silly segment, but it was also a watershed moment.
Picture Dan Rather doing a segment with George McGovern amid the fragrant supporters of his 1972 presidential campaign: “You do realize, sir, if I may, that you’re a rock star.” It’s not just Rather’s stilted verbiage that doesn’t make it work. When you realize that even Dan Rather wouldn’t go that low, something’s up.
Two years later, Joe Biden is the presumptive president-elect of the United States and we can see where we’re headed now that the corner has been turned.
When a Republican is involved, your copy had better drip with the fear of Mordor encroaching. Meanwhile, as for the Democrats (Tulsi Gabbard exempted), you can get away with stuff like this:
George H.W. Bush was known for his socks, maybe Biden will be too? Today he wore dark blue socks adorned with lighter blue dogs. (Yes, there are plenty of more substantive things to tweet about but we can have some fun sometimes too.) pic.twitter.com/8xxTusXafQ
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) November 23, 2020
Isn’t that cute? And notice, she was being bipartisan by mentioning George H.W. Bush’s socks, too — mostly because he’s the GOP president it’s still OK for younger media types to name-check as being The Kind of Republican Who’s Perfectly Acceptable™.
Of course, transport them back to 1992 and watch them firing missives over CompuServe fulminating about Bush 41’s socks and trying to tangentially connect them to Lee Atwater. Oh, and don’t that fake news story about how Bush didn’t understand grocery scanners. But H.W.’s dead, so he’s good!
There were some who derided this:
This is what we have to look forward to over the next four years. What a joke.
— Lisa Boothe (@LisaMarieBoothe) November 24, 2020
I think there must be a module in global Journalism about socks and nice inept leaders😃 pic.twitter.com/Y6viINzXZu
— Tomás Ó hÁinle (@Tomshinle) November 24, 2020
Ladies and gentleman! “journalism” in the golden age of Biden. Looking forward to these being the only substantive issues he’ll be faced with by lap dog media.
— President-Elect Tony Bruno (@TonyBrunoShow) November 24, 2020
Wow. What great reporting. Maybe next week you can tell us what his favorite breakfast is.
Journalism is dead
— Vincent Arrigo (@VincentAviator) November 24, 2020
And then some people were perfectly happy to welcome their be-socked overlord:
These are my favorite pair of socks he owns.
— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) November 24, 2020
Oh how I missed having fun with the whimsical 🧦🐕fashion of elder statesmen!
So much more uplifting than worrying daily about what new horror the abuser-in-chief was going to inflict on the American people.
— Matt (@Elvishfarmer) November 24, 2020
You don’t know about M Justin Trudeau socks? Lol pic.twitter.com/JMU5CR2LLW
— Gustavo Morales 🇻🇪🇨🇦 (@gusadolfomoral) November 23, 2020
Yes, apparently Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau likes novelty socks, too. Draw your own conclusions.
A few journalists even thought it was hilarious people were having a problem with a journalist showcasing a politician’s fun side:
Jen, don’t you know this website isn’t for fun!? JK please more tweets about politicians’ weird socks.
— Annah Backstrom Aschbrenner (@AnnahBackstrom) November 23, 2020
NOOOOOOOOOO FUN! NOOOOOO!
— Josh Gerstein (@joshgerstein) November 23, 2020
To which one respondent nailed the issue:
I remember all those times you just tweeted out some fun thing about Trump to let us all know about his gentle man of the people side.
— Henry Chinaski (@ashsoles) November 24, 2020
Now, disregard this gentleman’s questionable choice of Twitter handle or use of Charles Bukowski’s literary alter-ego as a name. (In fairness, it’s probably time to retire those.)
He gets that the paid press — the people who loudly declaim that Democracy Dies in Darkness™ without them — are giddy with “OMG LOOK AT HIS SOCKS!” when a similar tweet, if the situation were on the other (ugh, pun unintended) foot, would have been something akin to: “Dogs are kept in cages. So are children snatched at the border when immigration law is enforced. So why does the president think it’s ‘fun’ to don dog-themed footwear?”
Even when the media has fun with something in Trumpworld, it’s something like the infamous quote from Melania Trump, apparently fed up with Christmas decorating — as any first lady would no doubt be: “I’m working … my a– off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f— about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”
The reporting on that quote was mostly subtext, although give it a few years and it’ll just be text: “Ahahaha, Drumpf, even your wife hates doing this! You failure! Wait, you can’t use italics on Twitter? What the deuces?”
But imagine Jill Biden getting secretly recorded saying this.
It’s really only a question of which prominent clinical psychologist will appear on “Good Morning America” the next day to calmly explicate how she’s a heroine to women everywhere who are juggling holiday responsibilities: “You know, sometimes, you just need to let loose,” random clinical psychologist will say, very calmly. “I think this humanizes her. We all experience this during the holidays. I just feel bad for the kind of person who judges Jill.”
Yes, I’m projecting. However, I also know this much: If they could call Joe Biden a “rock star,” they would. That’s where our media is in the post-2016 era.
Given that this is an ossified human compromise whose knowledge of popular culture likely ended when kids were into “the Pearly Jam” — if not prior — I doubt that’ll fly. But he wears socks with dogs on them, right?
Let’s hope Biden has Trudeau’s footwear guy in his DMs. If this is a successful diversionary tactic, he’s going to need a whole arsenal of them. I can just imagine the hypothetical tweets from April of 2022: “Today Biden wore fuchsia socks adorned with ocelots. Completely different ocelot head design than the burnt-umber ocelot socks a few days back. Also, he apologizes for accidental drone strike against Djibouti.”
But ocelots are pretty cute. He may not be a rock star, but his socks will do.
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