One of the most exhausting things about politics is a mindset that says "scandal for thee, but not for me."
Consider the perennial (alleged) scandal of presidential golf. When
Whether it was the political pressure or his own conscience,
Now it's President Obama who plays a lot of golf. According to the website Obamagolfcounter.com (yes, you read that right), he'd hit the links on 270 days of his presidency as of
But the left-wing crowd that denounced Bush for golfing has fallen silent, while the right-wing crowd that didn't care a whit about how Bush let loose is incensed by Obama's leisure activity.
One can play the same game with presidential vacations.
Whenever Obama chooses not to let a terrorist attack or other emergency cut short his time off, his supporters justify his absence by insisting that the president shouldn't be held "hostage" to the news cycle, or that he shouldn't get in the way of first responders. That's what they said last week when Obama stayed put in
These are good excuses, but ones that never seemed to work for his predecessor.
"We can talk about levees that couldn't hold, about a
In 2007, after the Bush administration had spent more than
Of course, politics is about more than simply making the best decisions on the merits. "Optics," as the political consultants say, matter. Asked why he hadn't been to
But the fact remains that the standards of politics often move like a seesaw, with the weight of one side's hypocrisy elevating the other. And that's OK for partisans. They are supposed to seek advantage over their opponents.
I'm much less forgiving of the media. Hurricane Katrina was undoubtedly a huge story, and investigating the federal response to it was squarely in the fourth estate's wheelhouse. But there's simply no denying that the news media used that disaster as a partisan cudgel against a Republican president it detested.
Worse, the media congratulated itself endlessly for its Katrina coverage despite the fact that it collectively did a terrible job. Reports of roving rape gangs were broadcast uncritically. While the media employed heroic skepticism about Bush's assurances, the
Eleven years later,
Journalism students are famously taught, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." But they also seem to have been instructed that if a president you hate is on the ropes, let it fly; if a president you love is in the same spot, fall silent.