Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson has a Republican pedigree and an evangelical Christian background. He wrote profound speeches for former President George W. Bush, who was mocked as a mangler of the English language. Today, he sounds like a speechwriter for the gaseous opening of the Brian Stelter show on CNN.
The headline of a recent Gerson column was "Trump has taken up residence in an alternate political reality." Gerson writes the most urgent national challenge is how "the president inhabits a different country from the rest of us."
One of the most consistent (and consistently annoying) tropes of Stelter's CNN is how the network claims its opinionated hot takes are "reality," that it deals in Facts. When the president disagrees with its opinionated hot takes, he's living in an "alternate reality." We all remember how, in their "reality," President Donald Trump wouldn't last a year, the walls were always closing in, and special counsel Robert Mueller would get him removed from office. Did that end up becoming reality?
Consider how "reality-based" Gerson describes Trump's current belief system about our country: "It is a land where the novel coronavirus is harmless. Where hydroxychloroquine is still a miracle drug. Where President Trump's handling of the pandemic is an example to the world. It is a land where Black Lives Matter is a movement of looting and violent subversion. Where the Confederacy is part of 'our heritage.' Where police brutality is the desired norm."
That, in "reality," is not an objective description of Trump's beliefs. It's a hostile political cartoon, like so much of CNN's reporting from "reality."
We could easily play Gerson's game against the CNN worldview: where Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handling of the pandemic is an example to the world, where Fox News is a movement of racism and violent subversion, and where abolishing law enforcement is the desired norm. Does that sound like a fair and sober description of liberal "reality," or does it sound like editorializing?
This is precisely why the "news" networks are disparaged. The power to describe "reality" can become the power to define the terms, and to conservatives, the terms can sound like terms of surrender. The "news" providers heavily insist to the public that in "reality," everyone has to bow to liberal "expertise" about the world or else be decried as somewhat unhinged.
It is obvious to everyone that Donald Trump boasts and exaggerates about his greatness. Just as it was obvious that former President Barack Obama never needed to boast or exaggerate about his greatness; he had CNN and the rest of the "objective" media gang to do it for him.
It should be obvious that the "news" deals in part with facts, but so much more of it these days is what Dan Rather called "context and perspective." The heavily biased "context" can make many Americans skeptical of the "facts" located inside it.
Gerson was making a larger and less cartoonish point about the president being unwilling to consider opposing points of view, even within his circle of advisers. Every president should be pressed to consider dissenting views and advice. But you can hardly say Trump isn't faced with that dissent everywhere, and even within his team, he has to wonder which adviser is going to burn him anonymously in Gerson's newspaper.
Trump losing in November is not yet reality, but the media huff that in "reality," Trump never had a chance in 2016. The odor of that arrogance has never dissipated. No one should pretend 2020 is like any other year we can remember. That's why we should all be humbler about defining the "reality" of our future.
Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.