During Obama’s 2008 campaign and for the entire near-decade that’s passed since them, the press has almost-uniformly adored him and been his willing handmaiden and booster.
With Donald Trump, it’s a bit more complicated. And that’s putting it mildly.
At first the MSM found him to be a joke. Then, when they realized he was catching on despite their efforts, they boosted him because (a) he was good for business—their business; and (b) they thought he’d be by far the weakest opponent for Hillary Clinton, who they didn’t love as they had Obama but who they still wanted to win the presidency.
Then Trump won the GOP nomination. That made the press’s task more complicated. They still wanted to milk his outrageousness for the ratings boost it gave them, but they still very much wanted him to lose the election and they covered him in such a way that they thought their coverage would add to the near-certainty that he would lose.
Then Trump won the election. That was completely unacceptable.
So now it’s an all-out war. Every utterance of his—and he still makes some outrageous ones, although fewer than while campaigning—is twisted and turned by the MSM for maximum negative effect. Democratic politicians, spokespeople, pundits, Hollywood stars, and a host of others have joined in the chorus, and they didn’t even need much encouragement to do so.
In the 1890s, journalists covering the president were forced to stand vigil outside the White House fence, querying visitors for scraps of information and appealing for audiences with presidential aides.
Today’s reporters are concerned that President-elect Donald J. Trump could send them back into the past.
The White House press corps was stunned on Sunday by reports of a proposal by the Trump administration to eject reporters from their home in the West Wing — a move that, if carried out, would uproot decades of established protocol whereby journalists are allowed to work in the White House close to senior officials.
The outcry has been tremendous, as though Trump is about to stifle freedom of the press. That’s how the report has filtered down to many people who have read the coverage, particularly the headlines and the first few paragraphs only. Easy, then, to miss or to discount the next paragraph:
Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s incoming chief of staff, appeared to backpedal on the idea after it was reported by Esquire magazine, saying that only the location of the press briefing room was being discussed and that the administration was merely considering a larger area to accommodate the hundreds of journalists seeking to cover Mr. Trump.
After that brief foray into stating what the Trump camp has actually said on the matter, we have this:
But for jittery Washington reporters, it was yet another salvo from an administration that has shown an unusual willingness to berate and belittle the news media, at the behest of a president-elect who has floated the idea of rolling back libel protections and, in a volcanic appearance last week, refused to take questions from CNN after it ran a story he did not like.
Forget about the press’s “unusual willingness to berate and belittle” Trump.
And—for anyone with a memory for events during the not-so-long-ago Obama administration—forget about Obama’s power plays on the press and in particular Fox News (see this), when Fox (practically alone among news outlets) ran stories he did not like. But his threats to the press began long before that, when during his 2008 Obama’s lawyer did this:
Straight out of the Democratic handbook Harry Reid used to threaten ABC’s broadcast license for showing the “Path to 9/11,” here’s Obama lawyer Robert Bauer warning station managers not to air the NRA’s new anti-Obama “Hunter” ad if they want to stay in the FCC’s good graces.
In the spring of 2010 I wrote an entire post on the subject of Obama’s power plays towards a press that still adored him. The title of the post was “Obama: the press’s abusive lover.” It’s a lengthy post with quite a few examples, and points out that “even the administration’s favorite reporters have been frozen out when they don’t toe the line.”
And remember, all of that was against a very friendly press.
[NOTE: Here’s a more fact-based report of what actually happened vis a vis this issue of where the Trump White House might put the press corps.]