Biden’s Decline Is a Legitimate News Story

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Grand Staircase of the White House on May 24, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: Kevin D. Williamson is kinda-sorta on leave for a bit; Wanderland will return to its regular form, with possible interruptions, in the immediate future.

The media isn’t the driver—the media is the passenger. That’s one of the things we consistently get wrong in how we talk about politics and political discourse. 

Former New York Times ombudsman Margaret Sullivan writes

Biden’s advanced age is, granted, far from ideal for a president seeking a second term, even the very effective president that he has been. Yes, he’s old; and, never a gifted public speaker, he makes cringe-inducing mistakes. It would be great if he were 20 years younger. His age really is a legitimate concern for many voters.

But for the media to make this the overarching issue of the campaign is nothing short of journalistic malpractice.

In other words, after the throat-clearing and the obligatory “to be sure” bit: Stop trying to make “fetch” happen.

But “fetch” is happening. And not because the “corporate media,” as Dahlia Lithwick of Slate calls it—meaning CNN and the New York Times and presumably the outlet in which she writes (Slate’s parent company does approximately $4 billion a year in revenue; it isn’t exactly Fugazi on tour in 1989)—wills it to be so. It is not as though media outlets and like-minded groupings of media outlets do not have agendas of their own—they certainly do. But their ability to drive the national political agenda is wildly overstated—traditionally by conservatives, who have got a lot of mileage out of complaining about being shut out of the mainstream media and persecuted by it, but also by Democrats and progressives when it suits them. 

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