Journalists should stop cleaning up after Biden

The plan you’ll find on Biden’s campaign website doesn’t say anything about forcing the sale of existing assault weapons, although it would, among other things, make owners pay $200 to keep them. But if Biden was just flubbing his own position, it wasn’t the only time he has done so. In March, Biden had a testy and well publicized exchange with a gun-rights supporter, in the course of which he said, “We’ll take your AR-14s away.” He probably meant to refer to AR-15s.

This protective impulse toward Biden on the part of the press is sure to express itself in all kinds of ways as the campaign goes on. In early September, the candidate said he would raise the corporate tax rate “on Day 1” of his presidency. A few journalists noted that Biden would not have the power to make good on that promise, just as commentators note the many occasions when Trump engages in similar bluster. MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle pushed back on this criticism, saying Biden was just voicing “a sentiment” and that Trump often makes equally empty promises.

When people want to dismiss the importance of Trump’s inaccuracies, they sometimes say he should be taken seriously but not literally. But part of the press’s job is to report when candidates are departing from the literal truth. It should not be to protect a candidate from the voters, or from himself.