This past Tuesday was the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of legendary ABC Radio newsman Paul Harvey. Known for his homespun and perceptive commentaries, Mr. Harvey used to say that “In times like these, it’s important to remember there have always been times like these.” He was right.
Wednesday’s anonymously authored New York Times Op-Ed featuring a supposed “senior-member” of the Trump administration decrying internal dysfunction set off an avalanche of criticism, and rightly so. If even a fraction of the claims are true – of aides stealing papers from the president’s desk to prevent him from signing them – the spectacle of rogue individuals secretly attempting to run the country – we have a problem.
But would it be the first time?
Friday’s Wall Street Journal featured a fascinating op-ed detailing the aftermath of President Woodrow Wilson’s stroke in 1919, which incapacitated him, though to what extent the public never fully knew. Only in the century since have we learned that First Lady Edith Wilson, presidential physician Cary Grayson and private secretary Joseph Tumulty were, in effect, running the country.
I mention this not to suggest an equivalency in any shape or form, but instead to highlight the cyclical nature of news, whether factual or fictitious.
Case in point: President Trump unleashed a ferocious tweetstorm last week, decrying what he perceives to be a recent frenzy of fakery – everything from “fake news” reporting (CNN, NBC) to “fake books” (Omarosa Manigault, Michael Wolff, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward) and “fake internet searching” (Google, Twitter).
The merits of the president’s charges notwithstanding, both supporters and critics of Mr. Trump would be wise to acknowledge that what we’re experiencing today isn’t really new news at all, but rather old news with new names attached to it.
Yes, today’s news cycle is a seemingly never-ending churn of breathless and exclamatory revelations, with each one promising to supersede the last in both might and magnitude. But today’s circumstances are far from unprecedented.
To quote the writer of the ancient Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Disgusted with what he considered slanderous journalism and unfair press, America’s second president, John Adams, writing more than 220 years ago, lamented, “There has been more new error propagated by the press in the last ten years than in an hundred years before 1798.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jim Daly