As the Trump presidency collapses in full view, with more than a dozen investigations closing in on him, the federal government locked in permanent shutdown mode, and still more questions being raised about his bizarre loyalty to the Kremlin, newspaper editorial boards all across the country ought to be loudly calling for the president’s immediate resignation.
The Trump-era corruption by itself is simply mind-boggling in its scale and audacity and should be reason enough for clarion calls to action. Meanwhile, under Trump, obstruction of justice, once considered the third rail of American scandal politics, has become the norm.
Trump, who lines his pockets from inside the Oval Office, who paid off women he’d allegedly been involved with during the campaign, and who weakens democratic institutions each day, remains categorically unfit to serve. His nervous aides don’t don’t even trust him to carry out his duties, yet our nation’s largest newspapers won’t demand that he resign. The topic’s not even on the media’s table today.
The refusal to call for Trump’s resignation is especially stunning considering how freely the same press outlets demanded Bill Clinton leave office for offenses that, by any standard, completely pale against what Trump and his cronies have done in recent years.
Talk about a massive media double standard.
Why the deafening silence from media institutions regarding the moral sewer Trump occupies as he tries to fend off no fewer than 17 formal investigations into his shady dealings, from overseeing a fraudulent “charity” to colluding with Russian operatives during the 2016 election? Are newspaper editorial boards simply afraid of Trump? Are they nervous that calls for resignation will make them susceptible to empty GOP taunts of “liberal media bias”?
Perhaps. But by not demanding his resignation, media elites give the impression that they don’t think what Trump’s doing is all that bad, and that there’s no need for drastic action in order to safeguard America’s future.
Would demands for resignation force Trump from office? Would they cause his base of blind loyalists to lose faith in him? They would not.
But editorials coast-to-coast urging Trump to leave office—which would be entirely justified at this point—would help alter the national debate and more accurately reflect the crisis our country faces with a pathological liar at the helm. If there were a churning, daily media conversation on whether Trump was ethically fit to serve, that would raise the stakes and act as a powerful counter to the daily normalization that’s occurring. Indeed, the press remains too timid in dealing with Trump and the historic damage he’s doing to our institutions and our liberties. The day-to-day news coverage simply does not capture the unfolding White House calamity. It doesn’t portray the radical nature of Trump’s chaotic, authoritarian rule. (Example: Read this New York Times ho-hum write-up of Trump’s recent rambling, incoherent cabinet meeting.)
Instead, we have nervous newsrooms that won’t even label Trump a liar, even though he’s on track to tell 15,000 “falsehoods” during his first term in office.
To date, most editorial boards simply can’t summon the courage to call for Trump’s removal. Twenty years ago, they had no such trouble insisting Clinton resign. In fact, there seemed to be a media race to demand the Democrat exit the Oval Office. “He should resign because he has resolutely failed — and continues to fail — the most fundamental test of any president: to put his nation’s interests first,” USA Today announced in September 1998. America’s largest daily was unequivocal that Clinton lacked “both the courage and the character to make that sacrifice.”
Does anyone think the newspaper’s allegations against Clinton’s character don’t apply to Trump today? Does anyone think USA Today’s standard for resignation—not putting the nation’s interests first—doesn’t perfectly fit Trump?
AS the newspaper Tulsa World summarized in Sept. 1998, many, many newspaper editorial boards called for Clinton’s resignation, including the Philadelphia Inquirer (“Bill Clinton should resign. He should resign because his repeated, reckless deceits have dishonored his presidency beyond repair.”), the Detroit Free-Press (“Clinton should resign and go home to Arkansas.”), and the Atlanta Journal Constitution (“A president more concerned with the national interest than his own preservation would realize that resignation is his only responsible option.”).
Media demands for Clinton’s resignation were everywhere.
“Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune says President Clinton should resign. So do Garry Wills of Time and Lars-Erik Nelson of the New York Daily News,” the Washington Post reported in August 1998, before independent counsel Ken Starr released his final report on Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. “So do the Denver Post, Washington Times, Orlando Sentinel, San Antonio Express-News, Anchorage Daily News, Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, Economist, and Weekly Standard.”
But very few of those voices so sure about Clinton’s needed ouster are connecting the resignation dots to Trump today. As political strategist Jamison Foser recently noted on Twitter, the Hartford Courant has conceded that Trump’s current transgressions are worse than Bill Clinton’s in the 1990s. Yet the Courant, which demanded Clinton resign 20 years ago, won’t call for Trump to do the same today.
When Republicans tried to drive a Democratic president from office for having an extramarital affair, media elites couldn’t wait to tell Clinton to get lost. Obviously, most Americans didn’t agree, since Clinton left office with sky-high approval ratings. But it’s simply not debatable that, if media elites labeled Clinton morally unfit to serve (he lied about sex!), then they should have come to the same conclusion about Trump a long, long time ago.
Today, though, what we’re hearing is mostly crickets.