By the time the presidential campaign had ended four years ago, the media’s role in driving the outcome had become a fact too obvious to dispute. The impact of the journalistic horde’s devotion to the Democratic candidates was clear, the evidence vivid—especially in the case of reporters transported to a state of ecstasy over candidate Obama’s speeches. One New York Times reporter wrote of being so moved he could barely keep from weeping. Not for nothing did the role of the press become a news story in itself—an embarrassing one that might, serious people thought, serve as a caution during future campaigns.
In 2012 Barack Obama is no longer delivering thrilling speeches, but an unembarrassed press corps is still available, in full prosecutorial mode when it comes to coverage of the Republican challenger. If you hadn’t heard the story about Mitt Romney’s bullying treatment of another student during his prep-school days—1965, that is—the Washington Post had a story for you, a lengthy investigative piece. On the matter of Mr. Obama’s school records, locked away and secured against investigation, the press maintains a serene incuriosity.
Mr. Obama continues to receive the benefits of a supportive media—one prone to dark suspicions about his challenger. The heavy ooze of moral superiority emanating from all the condemnations of Mr. Romney last week, all the breathless media reports on those condemnations, did not begin with something he said last week. But the moral superiority was certainly on its gaudiest display. Mr. Romney’s tone was offensive, unpresidential, his critics charged.