But this is 2019, which made the Biden episode so confounding. Donald Trump is president, and he reportedly wants to drop a nuclear bomb into a hurricane. He is toying with the global economy because of a long-standing personal grudge with China. Seven immigrant children have died in U.S. custody under Trump administration detention policies. The Amazon rainforest is burning. Russia and China are continuing to meddle in our political process. With the stakes so high, why is the press still assigning such news value to gaffes? “The severity of statements from these candidates needs to be judged in context,” said Ben LaBolt, a former press secretary for Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. “Donald Trump says and does something sinister every week that has implications for real people’s lives and has mobilized hateful elements in our society.” Carl Cameron, the former chief political correspondent for Fox News who resigned from the network after Trump’s election, said reporters “have to be careful not to trivialize” the race. “The idea that Joe Biden has loose lips is as old as Biden himself,” Cameron said. “The problem for the press is that Trump says so much more stuff, all the time, and the ratio is just beyond description. He makes what we used to cover as gaffes look meaningless. So are we really going to have a gaffe-fest over Joe Biden?”…

The dynamic is already blossoming into a damaging problem for Biden, who will never be able to rein in his worst impulses. But what the assassination episode showed is that the political media, even the towering New York Times, might not be able to control its worst impulses either, backsliding into the kind of superficial horse race coverage that helped give rise to Trump in the first place. Pack journalism, speed, incrementalism, posting first and fleshing out the context later: There are no signs that these habits are fading from view as Trump ramps up his reelection bid. For Biden, being gaffe-prone puts him exactly on the wrong side of the media’s incentive structure in the Twitter age, even when there are much more important things happening in the world. And that’s just where Trump wants his strongest rival to be.