To read the media coverage of FBI Director James Comey’s firing on social media Tuesday night, you would have thought that the (not criminal) investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia had all been proven true, and that by week’s end, Donald Trump would be resigning, giving a pudgy little thumbs up while stepping onto Marine One for one last time. His brief, chaotic presidency would suddenly come to an end, swiftly felled by an avalanche of Twitter snark and unproven sources from journalists who believe they are the next Woodward and Bernstein.
Each edition of the New York Times or Washington Post is now sacred parchment, like the Magna Carta itself, to be persevered in perpetuum so future generations can marvel at the courage of our free speech warriors who toppled the great god emperor.
Times reporter Eric Lipton did a side by side comparison of the Wednesday Times front page on the Comey pink slip alongside the Times’ 1973 front page on the “Saturday Night Massacre” when Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox. “Many hear echoes of Watergate” blasted the Times on Wednesday’s cover. “The immediate echo: Saturday Night Massacre” blared The Washington Post. May 10th was the same day the House of Representatives initiated impeachment hearings against Nixon, about which The Washington Post went out of its way to remind readers — the idea being, of course, that there are eerie parallels with Trump dismissing an embattled FBI Director, whom many Democrats loathed.
“Okay, now is this Watergate?” begged Elizabeth Drew at Politico. John Podesta tweeted at Trump: “Didn’t you know you’re supposed to wait til Saturday night to massacre people investigating you?”
These comparisons between Trump and Nixon did not suddenly fall from the sky upon Comey’s firing. On March 28, Chris Matthews ran a segment comparing the two presidents, with Nixon biographer John Farrell as a guest.
Several established media outlets are convinced Comey’s firing means that Trump, like Nixon, is guilty of something. Of what, exactly, none can explain. They simply hope that by tossing out the name “Watergate”, the impression will stick and somehow Trump will magically vanish.
Collusion with Russia? Nothing yet. Senate committee Democrat Chris Murphy even told Morning Joe there is no smoking gun. Diane Feinstein told CNN on May 4th that there was no definite proof of collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia. Maxine Waters herself admitted as much on Jonathan Capehart’s podcast. “ I’ve got to ask you,” Capehart wondered, “because you leveled a whole lot of accusations out there about collusions and hacking and all of that. Have you seen anything, either through the intelligence briefings, anything to back up any of the accusations that you’ve made?” Waters responded that none has been found.
Nevertheless, the first instinct of many in the news media has been to jump to the conclusion of impeachment, and then attempt to engineer a backwards narrative which brings us to that conclusion.
Paul Krugman, for example, declared in a nonsensical tweet storm that Trump “deserves no presumption of innocence, and no deference to claims that he has the right to govern”.
Not two weeks ago, a comedian stood on the stage of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and thanked a very elderly looking Woodward and Bernstein (the guests of honor) for having created an entire generation of attack dog journalists. He then proceeded to thank Donald Trump for creating the next generation. CNN town gossip Dylan Byers gushed on Twitter that “the salience of Woodward & Bernstein hosting first Trump-era #WHCD is many here believe there could be a Watergate moment for them with Trump.”
And Trump is not just these journalists’ Woodward and Bernstein moment. Many hope he’s also their meal ticket to book deals, television show appearances and paid speaking engagements. And so they revel in the back and fourth slap fights between themselves and Trump’s twitter account that don’t seem to interest anyone beyond the Acela corridor.
The problem with our modern media and its passionate affair with anonymously sourced reporting is that when everything is a Watergate (for example, Trump stepping out for a steak dinner), then nothing is a Watergate. James Comey’s firing was abrupt and unprofessional, but it’s not Watergate. It wasn’t even unprecedented (That honor belongs to Bill Clinton when he fired high-living FBI director William Sessions).
Thanks to the media’s tabloid-esque dependence on anonymous sources, suddenly everyone’s Deep Throat, and every tidbit of information — even things like Trump screaming at a TV or wandering the White House in a bathrobe — is treated as another brick in building Trump’s prison cell. It’s the ultimate fantasy of this new generation of wannabe Woodwards and Bernsteins: Trump is hauled out of the Oval Office to the adoring cheers of Stephen Colbert’s audience and the nonsensical ravings of Michael Moore’s twitter account. Just like what happened with Watergate.
The other Stephen Miller . Follow on Twitter @redsteeze