by Roger Kimball
Eventually, I am going to get around to saying something about CNN’s hostility to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – evidenced, most recently, by its energetic exertions on behalf of the campaign to elect Elizabeth Warren at last Tuesday’s Democratic debate. And I’ll say something, too, about the delicious exhibition of angst-filled hand-wringing that said hostility occasioned in many precincts of the leftwing media.
First, however, since CNN apparently undertook its cheerleading for Warren in order to declare its feminist bona fides, I would like to pose a few questions as a sort of prolegomenon, what Kierkegaard, in another context, called a “preliminary expectoration.” 1) Why are feminists so unpleasant? 2) Why do they insist on whining instead of getting on with the task at hand? 3) Why do they tend to blame other people for their failures?
I do not propose to answer these questions – I am writing a column, not a book – but I would like to register my suspicion that part of the answer to all three is the dim, imperfectly articulated awareness that feminism’s real complaint is not with men or “the patriarchy” but with reality, with human nature.
To illustrate this, ask yourself questions such as why are there not special incentives to recruit more men in engineering programs? Why aren’t grants available to encourage men to study math, or physics, or – when you come right down to it – to study anything? Why do politicians announce to general applause that this year there are more female representatives, or judges, or senators than ever before? Why is it thought to be a badge of virtue to have more women in this profession or that but the same is never claimed for men?
As I say, I am not going to attempt to answer these questions. I just want you to bear them in mind as you contemplate CNN’s quite extraordinary attack on Bernie Sanders after the last presidential debate.
The MacGuffin was the pas de deux between Warren and Sanders over the question of whether Sanders, as Warren asserted, believed that a woman could not be president of the United States. Bernie denied it vociferously.
“Anyone who knows me,” he said, “knows that it is incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be president of the United States.”
Directly after the debate ended, Warren strode over to Sanders and skirled, “I think you called me a liar on national TV.”
The debate was over. But CNN captured the exchange, leaked it, and then proceeded to engage in a day-long Beat Bernie Bash.
Mincing male pundits on CNN fed lines to the angry female pundits, who expatiated on Warren’s righteous “anger,” “frustration,” etc. In case there was any doubt about where CNN stood, one graphic put it all in a nutshell: “Old White Sexist Bernie,” a placard read. Tucker Carlson had fun with the spectacle, noting along the way that “Elizabeth Warren is not someone you’d ever want to have dinner with. That much is entirely clear. Tell her you’re busy if she ever calls.” A true observation followed by a bit of useful advice.
CNN may be in Warren’s wigwam, but the rest of the leftist press was appalled that their favorite socialist should be so rudely dismissed. The Chicago Tribune dilated on CNN’s shameful treatment of Bernie Sanders. The Nation worried that “CNN Has It In for Bernie.” Newsweek announced that “CNN Debate Blatantly Targeted Bernie Sanders And The Anti-Establishment.” The great Matt Taibbi, writing at Rolling Stone, castigated CNN’s “villainous and shameful” debate performance. “[T]he whole network tossed the mud,” Taibbi wrote.
Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging. . . . Episodes like this are why people hate the media.
Taibbi is undoubtedly right about that. But, stepping back, what is the significance of the episode? Is it simply an illustration, partly amusing, partly repellant, of the old adage that “the Revolution always devours its own”? Was CNN’s disgusting partisanship an expression of the judgment that Sanders, weighed down by age and fruitcake socialist policies, could not win?
The problem with the second hypothesis can be exposed by asking, “Would Elizabeth Warren, weighed down by her history of mendacity, policies that are every bit as crackpot as Sanders’s, not to mention her barking unpleasantness, would she really do any better in the election than Sanders?” To ask the question is to answer it.
It is said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But the circular firing squad that is assembling among Democratic candidates for president reminds us that that saying is not always or unequivocally true. All the Democrats hate and fear Donald Trump.
Their hatred is misguided, in my view, since Trump has in fact been a strong advocate for many traditional Democratic policies, including generous entitlements and attention to the priorities of the working class.
But hatred of Trump has been to some extent sidelined, put on the back burner, while what Freud called the “narcissism of small differences” plays out in bickering, backbiting, and political sabotage.
In 2016, Donald Trump stood aside while 16 Republican candidates trained their fire on each other, ultimately doing for everyone what Chris Christie did for – or to – Marco Rubio. With everyone dead or dying, Trump simply strode in and scooped up the prize of the nomination.
This time around, Trump doesn’t even need to be on stage. He can sit at home and watch – or ignore – the painful sniping of those contending to be his opponent. The smart money says that it is Joe Biden who will emerge victorious from this wretched free-for-all. Perhaps. I would not be surprised if the Democratic candidate is someone else entirely, someone not currently part of the debate.
Not that it will matter. Unless some economic and political tragedy intervenes, Trump will win. He would win against Joe Biden. He would win with a bigger margin against Bernie Sanders. And against squawking Elizabeth Warren, he would win in a landslide.
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Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books.
Photos Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by Gage Skidmore CC2.0.