I encountered this passage in what was supposed to be a news story about Donald Trump’s intervention in the Carrier factory job decision in Indiana:
And just as only a confirmed anti-Communist like Richard Nixon could go to China, so only a businessman like Mr. Trump could take on corporate America without being called a Bernie Sanders-style socialist. If Barack Obama had tried the same maneuver, he’d probably have drawn criticism for intervening in the free market.
Does that set of claims really qualify as news? I’m not even sure the passage qualifies as editorializing. Neither sentence expresses a verifiable fact. Both sentences just seem like handwaving slop.
Is it really obvious that only as confirmed an anti-Communist as Richard Nixon could have gone to China? Compare Nixon to a Democratic president proximate to him in time, Jimmy Carter. Granted, both Nixon and Carter were anti-Communists, but then, what American president has ever been pro-Communist? Maybe the point is that a conservative Republican is by definition more anti-Communist than a Democrat, even if the Democrat in question is the president who initiated aid to the Afghan resistance (to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), but how does the author know that Nixon did what no Democrat could have done? And how do we deal with the fact that while Nixon went to China, it was Carter who established diplomatic relations with it?
If the first part of the analogy is a wild speculation, the second isn’t going to be much better. Is it really obvious that Donald Trump has not been called or likened to “a Bernie Sanders-style socialist”? I somehow doubt that the author has done an exhaustive search to make sure of it. Ideological defenders of the free market sometimes say surprisingly non-partisan things.
As for the second sentence, it’s not even clear that the sentence qualifies as the sort of proposition that has truth-conditions, much less that it expresses a truth. Supposing it’s truth-apt, how would we know that it was true? Supposing it’s true, what difference does it make to anything? Is the author really sure that Donald Trump will not be criticized for intervening in the free market?*
Right wing critics of the media have repeatedly asserted that the mainstream media is biased. They don’t always have a point, but they sometimes do. This passage is a case in point, and a painfully typical one. How it got past a competent editor is a real mystery. But maybe that’s the sort of question we should be asking more often–questions about the competence of mainstream newsroom editors, and the competence of the decisions they make on a daily basis.
I’m a rabidly anti-Trump Democrat. If a pro-Trump Republican had written this post…
Feel free to fill in the blank. While you’re at it, feel free to prove that what you’re saying is true. Easier said than done.
*December 2, 2016: We just had to wait a few days before Trump and Pence repudiated the free market of their own accord:
“I don’t want them moving out of the country without consequences,” Mr. Trump said, even if that means angering the free-market-oriented Republicans he beat in the primaries but will have to work with on Capitol Hill.
“The free market has been sorting it out and America’s been losing,” Mr. Pence added, as Mr. Trump interjected, “Every time, every time.”
So much for worries about being criticized for government intervention in the free market. It’s a little unclear why a presidential campaign based on the repudiation of principled thought and action would worry about being criticized for violating free market dogma, but leave it to our journalists to confabulate a counterfactual world and then insist on reporting from it.