The Media's Playbook For GOP Presidents, Trump and COVID-19

As Elizabeth Vaughn notes, it took the Obama Administration six months and up to a thousand deaths in the United States before he declared the H1N1 outbreak of 2009 a Public Health Emergency.


Where, one wonders, was the apocalyptic coverage of that Administration’s response similar to the one we see now for the Trump Administration and COVID-19? Where was the constant torrent of ominous headlines, critics of the Administration’s efforts on national television, bad faith questioning of the President and other Administration officials, and the attempts to stir up panic, back then?

Well, Barack Obama happens to be a Democrat – and there is a playbook the media follows for reporting on an Administration when it happens to be headed by a Democrat.

On the other side, there is another media playbook for reporting when there is a Republican in the Oval Office. It’s rules are quite different.

The Press’ coverage of a Republican President in normal times is calculated to sap the electorate’s confidence in his leadership, integrity and judgement. Panic words like “scandal!”, “crisis!”, “controversial!”, “divisive!” suddenly fill the headlines. His every decision, from policies to personnel, is treated as either based on stupidity, malice or corruption and is taking America to the brink of disaster.

As far as they’re concerned, the American people had the audacity to defy their betters and vote “wrong”, so it’s their job to punish the rubes and show them the error of their ways.


This doesn’t change during times of crisis, it is just escalated and narrowed to the issue at hand.

Which is why you see nothing today but attacks launched at the Administration’s every decision, on the personnel chosen to manage the situation, the promotion of every negative rumor to the top of the headlines, and critics being brought on as supposedly disinterested “experts” to pronounce their verdicts on the Administration’s efforts to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.

This presents one of those situations where there is no difficult choice to make between the media being stupid and ignorant or deliberately malicious. You can choose both.

After pictures of the Trump Administration crisis team handling the COVID-19 pandemic turned up, progressives on social media – journalists most especially included – first complained about the lack of “diversity.”

Being bad faith actors, they “failed” to notice that the Surgeon General, SecHUD and even the Commanding General of the US Army Medical Corps are Black men, while the SecHHS himself is of Lebanese descent – none of which matters in the slightest.

More worrying is that many journalists – people who are supposed to inform other people – seemed to think there’s no reason for SecTREAS, SecHUD, SecDEF or SecHLS to be on the task force, and that “only” a handful were medical doctors.


As our own COL. Ford points out, combating a pandemic is primarily about logistics, and the fact that “only” four of the meeting attendees were medical doctors is a ridiculous thing to worry about.

One would think journalists would know that you definitely need people whose competencies include finances, drug and medical equipment manufacturing, supply chains, travel patterns, residential patterns, border controls, etc. to handle a pandemic.

But apparently, one would be wrong. The media’s fundamental hostility to this Administration meant a lack of even a moment of reflection to avoid themselves looking even more stupid and petty than usual.

This is very much along the same lines as the contempt and guffaws in the media at President George W. Bush’s “stupidity” for sending a Carrier Battle Group to render assistance after the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004.

It was not until it was pointed out that a Carrier Battle Group came with aircraft for rescue operations, trained medical personnel, equipment, drugs, water desalination capabilities, scores of hospital beds, etc. that the scoffing stopped. It turned out it was the absolute best choice the Bush Administration could have made.

Naturally, this explanation was *not* by the Bush Administration, because the Bush White House’s de facto policy was to not respond to criticism or offer explanations of its decisions.


But then came Katrina at home. And Bush made it easy for his enemies.

He allowed them to get away with downplaying the logistical nightmare created by the hurricane’s 100 mile swathe of destruction, especially after the levees failed, and then gave them the uncontested space to mislead and panic the American people about what was going on and what the Administration and the agencies under its control were actually doing.

Lou Dolinar wrote the definitive article on what went wrong and what went very right during the Katrina disaster, and it is far different from what we still see in the popular culture today;

Remember the dozens, maybe hundreds, of rapes, murders, stabbings and deaths resulting from official neglect at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina? The ones that never happened, as even the national media later admitted?

Sure, we all remember the original reporting, if not the back-pedaling.

Here’s another one: Do you remember the dramatic TV footage of National Guard helicopters landing at the Superdome as soon as Katrina passed, dropping off tens of thousands saved from certain death? The corpsmen running with stretchers, in an echo of M*A*S*H, carrying the survivors to ambulances and the medical center? About how the operation, which also included the Coast Guard, regular military units, and local first responders, continued for more than a week?

Me neither. Except that it did happen, and got at best an occasional, parenthetical mention in the national media.


If you haven’t read Dolinar’s article, please do. It’s quite an eye-opener of just how powerful the media still is, 15 years later.

Make no mistake, the media coverage was what it was in 2005 because the President wore the “wrong” letter behind his name. And even worse, ever the gentleman, and political masochist, Bush allowed the blame for the “bungled” Katrina response to be placed at his feet.

Trump, on the other hand, rightly, and boorishly, refused to take the blame for Hurricane Maria and its aftermath in Puerto Rico, and lambasted local officials who tried to place the blame on him. Even I cringed at first, until I realised that the media was hoping to turn the crisis into “Trump’s Katrina” – an aim they didn’t even try to hide.

Trump recognized what was happening, saw clearly the bad faith of the local Puerto Rico officials and the media, and realized that being seen as an insensitive boor was a hundred times better than being seen as an incompetent.

Bush, unforgivably, forgot that it was his duty as President to maintain his countrymen’s confidence in his leadership, and by his silence in late August of 2005, essentially shot his own Presidency in the back of the head.

Once this COVID-19 pandemic, by God’s grace, is over, Trump should have a video documentary made, taking a victory lap and including a matter-of-fact non-critical comparison of the Obama Administration’s addressing of the H1N1 virus as a “lessons learned” segment while highlighting his cabinet members and people in the field who got it done.


Seeing what the culture still says about George W. Bush and his supposed “bungling” of Katrina, there’s no leaving any room for the media to set the narrative – not even to write the first draft of history


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