“Gosh,” The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney, seems to ponder in his latest missive about the 2020 race for presdient, “it sure seems like Donald Trump is having a harder time making attacks against Joe Biden stick than with Hillary Clinton.” One just can’t imagine how that could possibly be. “By a combination of design and circumstance, Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has managed so far to deny Mr. Trump the sort of damaging offhand remarks, campaign clashes and clumsy encounters with voters that he used as weapons against Mrs. Clinton in the last general election,” Nagourney writes in the news section of the paper that spent a good part of 2015 and most of 2016 deeming Clinton unlikable, untrustworthy, and unhealthy. What a fortuitous circumstance for Joe Biden that he is not Hillary Clinton, huh?
So Nagourney can write of the contrast between Clinton and Biden: “He is a moderate Democrat who lacks a history of harsh partisanship or scandal.” Which anybody who has been alive and cognizant of politics would recognize as patently false. It’s just that this time around, the Times isn’t interested in rehashing old scandals or taking the bait Republicans have tried to dangle. Hunter Biden and Ukraine is no more ridiculous than whatever it was Republicans were trying to sell on Benghazi. A search for “Hillary Clinton Benghazi” results in 1,021 hits on the Times’ site. Anyway, let’s proceed on as if the Times has no part to play in how Trump can smear an opponent.
“It is going to be more difficult for the Trump campaign to go after a man who really is a centrist, has dealings with people across the aisle and knows how to talk to people who disagree with him,” Priscilla Southwell, a professor emerita of political science at the University of Oregon, told the Times. “And 2020 is a different kind of year. Donald Trump can appeal to his core by being negative, but it’s such a difficult time for everybody. I don’t think negativity is going to sell as well as it used to.” Note the emphasis we’ve now seen twice on Biden as a “moderate” and as a “centrist” in Nagourney’s reporting. That could be handy for a future “Dems in disarray” story, should he need it.
Outside of the Southwell quote, which includes that it will “be more difficult for the Trump campaign to go after a man,” there’s no reference at all to the fact that Clinton was the first woman for president and that much of her bad press and many of the attacks from Trump against her were rooted entirely in sexism. That would be an important thing for Nagourney and every political reporter to recognize right about now given that Biden has vowed to name a woman as his running mate. Nagourney in fact writes that “Mr. Trump is likely to turn to Mr. Biden’s running mate. Going after the vice-presidential candidate would be an unusual but not unprecedented strategy, and might have some resonance in this election given Mr. Biden’s age; he is 77.” Trump will go after the woman Biden chooses as a running mate. Because attacking women is what he does, physically and verbally.
This time around, it might be nice if national political reporters called those attacks out instead of gleefully amplifying them for the clicks.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.