The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

ABC News analyst Matthew Dowd propagates gaping Trump-Clinton false equivalence, blames country

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People who work for the establishment broadcast TV outlets are programmed and required to adhere to the neutralist gospel that preaches, They’re all bastards — all of them. In this very spirit, Matthew Dowd, chief political analyst at ABC News, issued the tweet above. The imperative here? That these two issues — Donald Trump’s serial alleged sexual assaults on women and Hillary Clinton’s scandalous use of a private email server — must be paired at all times.

In ways far more eloquent than this blog could ever muster, Twitter ripped Dowd over and over for placing these two issues on the same plane. An excellent example is right here:

Any watcher of bland television news recognizes this timeless lament about “partisans.” Again, everyone is to blame. Sure, partisans on both sides generally go light on the drawbacks of their candidates. Because they’re partisans. It’s a truism that borders on tautology. It overlooks two important considerations, one being that email mal-usage is one thing, and assault of women is quite, quite another. And as long as we’re discussing differences between these two issues, it bears mentioning that Clinton and her supporters have acknowledged that the email setup was a mistake; Trump and his people have called the sexual assault allegations a “total fabrication.”

As it turns out, then, there’s ample justification for talking about one without the other. Dowd, however, wasn’t budging. Instead of perhaps acknowledging that his bundling of two disparate issues was amiss, he retreated to another cliche of the TV network news analyst. The hopelessly divided America cliche, that is.

As long as presidential elections feature main-party candidates with relatively respectable histories, Dowd’s game of equivalence works reasonably well. Romney vs. Obama; McCain vs. Obama; Bush vs. Kerry and so on: Speaking about their respective negatives in the same breath can squeak through the nonsense meter. Trump, however, has thrown this convention of American political analysis into a state of crisis. His lies are objectively more numerous and outlandish; his treatment of others more callous and heedless; his policies less thoughtful and existent; his temperament less stable and decipherable than not only Clinton’s, but also that of just about everyone else in national politics. Nor is this a partisan matter, as Dowd would like to claim: Plenty of Republicans have observed as much. In an interview this morning, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) just barely managed to mention the GOP presidential nominee’s name.

Maybe the episode will prompt Dowd — not to mention other pundits — to reexamine his closet full of analytical crutches. That might be one worthwhile legacy of Trump.