by Victor Davis Hanson
Since at least 2016, CNN has mostly ceased being a news agency, but that hasn’t stopped it from being an active participant in #TheResistance. The network is so caught up in the fervor of this movement that many of its guests and regular hosts have been fired, reprimanded, or apologized for threats to the president or general obscene references (e.g., Reza Aslan, the late Anthony Bourdain, Kathy Griffin).
Many of its marquee reporters have resigned, were fired, or reassigned for fake-news bias (e.g., Thomas Frank, Eric Lichtblau, and Lex Haris), or came under fire for false reporting (Jim Sciutto, Marshall Cohen, and Carl Bernstein) or have had to offer retractions and/or apologies (Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper, and Brian Rokus.)
Its anchors have apologized for obscenity (Anderson Cooper) or simply making up false statements (Chris Cuomo), while analysts have been caught in a number of contradictions about their own role in on-going scandals (James Clapper).
The common denominator has been the new journalistic ethos that aborting the Trump presidency justifies any means necessary to achieve such noble ends. Throughout CNN’s descent into parody, progressives still smiled at the usefulness of CNN for the larger project of delegitimizing the Trump presidency. Few understood the Thucydidean concept that once nihilists destroy norms and protocols of ethical behavior for perceived short-term advantage, they usually rue the loss when they themselves become victims of their own biased zealotry and are in dire need of the civilizational help they recently ruined.
So it was last week, when CNN moderator Abby Phillip warped the recent Democratic presidential primary debate by not asking, so much as accusing, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) about a claim that he said a woman such as Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could not be elected president—in the fashion of a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question: “Senator Sanders, CNN reported yesterday, and Senator Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?”
Leftists were outraged at the CNN host’s flagrant bias – as if there was gambling really going on in Casablanca, as if CNN’s own Candy Crowley had not attempted to hijack the second 2012 presidential debate to aid favorite Barack Obama, or as if CNN’s Donna Brazile had not leaked a debate question to aid Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The same irony is on display with the Democratic presidential field. One strange theme has been dominant since the primary debates began: the more the white frontrunners pontificated on “diversity” and deplored “white privilege,” the whiter the Democratic field seemed to grow – until there were no nonwhite candidates left.
Those who followed the Democratic field were vexed, given that for three decades the Left has canonized its two fundamental identity politics principles of “proportional representation” and “disproportional impact.” These are the rather strange ideas that racial, ethnic, and gender groups must be represented in coveted jobs and billets according to their percentages in the general population – and its addendum that if there was not proper proportional representation, then no evidence of bias or discrimination was needed to take reparatory action to ensure that race governed hiring and admissions.
Thus, according to progressive doctrine, the white liberals and democratic socialists on the Democratic debate platform, not Democratic voters, pollsters, and donors themselves, are in a way culpable for the absence of candidates of color, whether or not a Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, or Warren was guided by prejudicial behavior in beating a Booker, Castro, Harris, Patrick, or Yang.
Perhaps if the Democratic candidates lived by the rules they had enforced on universities or other public agencies, then an underrepresented Cory Booker or Julian Castro would have been by fiat reinstated on the debate stage and an “overrepresented” Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg, the beneficiaries of centuries of “white privilege,” would be passed over from the opportunity – for the greater societal good of diversity.
The idea that a Biden or Warren “earned” their stronger polling or greater fundraising, based on any meritocratic notion of out-debating, out-hustling, out-campaigning, or out-politicking a Harris, Castro, or Booker would be considered not just absurd, but proof of the bias of any who embraced such a structurally racist position.
Absurd? Perhaps, but for the rest of the country that has been lectured unceasingly by progressive elite scolds, it was pure schadenfreude.
Democrats may also be hoisted by their own petard in the ongoing impeachment psychodrama. They more or less rigged the House impeachment proceeding, by using their majority to depart from past practice. They monopolized the witness lists, selectively leaked, and rushed to indict Trump on the theory that every day the president was not impeached was another day the country was endangered.
Then when bipartisan support never appeared, when there was no special counsel’s damning report, when there was no public majority support, and when there was not the appearance of constitutional indictments for treason, bribery, and specific high crimes and misdemeanors, the impeachment writs simply sat, ossifying as if the House prosecutors suddenly wished to be sober, judicious, and reflective, when in truth they were finagling ways to fortify their anemic writs before what they feared would be a disastrous and embarrassing Senate acquittal.
Democrats insisted that the Senate trial have witnesses and that Republican senators conduct the proceeding in a nonpartisan fashion antithetical to the partisan manner in which they had rammed through impeachment in the House. In other words, Democrats demanded that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not replay the roles of Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
Yet the obvious expectation in such a free-for-all impeachment and trial circus was always that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden would be the most preeminent witnesses called, given Trump’s logical defense that the younger Biden was utterly corrupt, was known to be corrupt but found useful by Ukrainians, and thus naturally such a high-profile case justified presidential suspicions of Ukrainian requests for aid—with the corollary that the elder Biden, the font for Hunter’s ability to leverage money for access, would not be able to testify honestly about the degree to which he knew of his son’s skullduggery.
Joe Biden, despite his senior moments and his lifelong reckless speech, may be for now the Democrats only hope to carry the Midwest swing states that sent Donald Trump to the White House. Thus, the Democrats in the very fashion they have conducted themselves throughout this impeachment farce, may be insidiously destroying the candidate with the best chance of regaining the White House – even while likely enhancing Donald Trump’s polls.
That the Democrats realized such risks and ignored them, either suggests the Left wants to finish off the Biden candidacy, or their obsessions with destroying Trump outweighs any practical considerations of replacing the president with one of their own.
These are strange times, in which progressives grow near quiet when courageous Iranians hit the streets to protest a murderous government, but express remorse over the killing of one of the most murderous of all Iranian autocrats.
For years, leftists have decried the bipartisan kid-gloves treatment of China, as its mercantilism systematically hollowed out the old Democratic blue-collar base in the Midwest—only to blast the first president who agreed that China had to be confronted before it eroded what was left of the American industrial heartland.
And we were always warned to fear the government overreach of the intelligence agencies, even as ex-high officials go on liberal networks, warping their use of their security clearances, to contextualize their own previous unethical behavior.
Of all the strange symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome, progressive self-immolation is the strangest.
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Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare.