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    Saturday, April 20, 2019-2:48:00P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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OPINION | Bad, press (3)

THE national press’s most infuriating habit is its selective defense of American institutions.

On cable news, on the New York Times editorial pages, at the many black-tie galas that the media like to hold for themselves, the word is deployed as a cudgel. “Institution.” “Institution.” “Institution.” At least…until it’s not. Institutions matter until the Supreme Court rules in a way that annoys the editors of the Huffington Post, who immediately cast the same judges who yesterday were beyond reproach as “illegitimate” or “corrupt” or too male or too white or too Catholic or too rich or too mean. Institutions matter until the economy produces results that irritate Paul Krugman, at which point the system is held to be “rigged.” Institutions matter until Barack Obama wants to change the law without Congress, at which point the story becomes what the president wants and not whether what he is doing is legal. Institutions matter until Donald Trump wins an election, and then the entire system needs junking and is probably being run by the Russians anyway. Institutions matter until the Senate is deemed an obstacle to progress, or the House disagrees with the president, or the wrong team is making demands, and then…

Nothing is safe — not even longstanding rules against diagnosing patients from afar. In early 2018, the White House held a press conference at which President Trump’s doctor, a U.S. Navy rear admiral, delivered a report on the president’s health and, in so doing, unleashed the most extraordinarily unethical frenzy in recent memory. At the press conference itself, ABC’s Cecilia Vega insisted that, despite passing the same test that is used at Walter Reed, Trump might have “early onset Alzheimer’s” and “dementia-like symptoms,” while her colleagues threw out maladies from which they thought the patient might be suffering and cited “the doctors and clinicians all across the country” who had diagnosed Trump without examining him. On CNN, Sanjay Gupta explained that, whatever the doctor said, “the numbers” proved that Trump had “heart disease.” The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin insisted on Twitter that “Trump got a cognitive test not a psychiatric exam,” which, she said, “does not rule out most of what’s in DSM [the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders].” Rubin’s speculation was swiftly echoed across the media, which spent the next week inviting experts to take guesses as to what might be wrong with the president.

The greatest service that Donald Trump has rendered these United States is to have exposed the many ailments of which he is a symptom but not a cause. We had political division and cultural alienation before him. We had overbearing government and an imperial executive branch before him. We had media that were arrogant, parochial, and impenitent before him, too. Alas, they have grown yet worse since he arrived.