The President's policy is identical to Donald Trump's — but that's not how CNN sees it
This week Joe Biden announced that the United States would begin withdrawing it’s military from Afghanistan in May, with the aim of leaving the country entirely by September 11th.
Biden is not the first President to announce this move. President Trump did so in 2019, and again in 2020.
Given that Biden is enacting exactly the same policy Trump wanted to pursue, you might expect the media coverage of these announcements to be similar.
Take CNN as an example. When Trump said he was pulling out the troops they found a NATO general to condemn the policy, an ex-diplomat to call it “reckless” and “wrong”, and yet more diplomats to “worry” that Trump was risking the “success” of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
The same narrative framing was employed by MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, NPR, PBS and ABC. They all said the same thing: Trump’s plans for Afghanistan were risky, worrying, dangerous, and ultimately wrong.
How much has changed since January, when Biden entered the White House? Well, the same policy is presented in a completely different way.
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed sources in the Biden administration to get their thinking on the policy. She had no criticisms for them. The network then wrote up Barack Obama’s praise for Biden’s policy as “bold leadership”. At no point in CNN’s coverage, or in the coverage of MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, NPR, PBS and ABC, was Biden’s announcement condemned in the terms Trump’s announcement was.
Instead, the coverage frames Biden’s decision as one that is wise, just, thoughtful, and, as Obama put it, “bold”.
The goal of both President’s was exactly the same: withdraw American forces from Afghanistan. Much of the American media, especially during the Trump era, presented itself as impartial and truth-seeking. Or in the grand terms used by the Washington Post, the last barrier that could prevent American democracy “dying in darkness”.
It was always a fantasy. As this Afghanistan coverage shows, the narrative — regardless of the facts — trumped everything else. If it had to be twisted and shifted to make Trump look like a monster it would be. When Biden does the same thing, it can be twisted into something else all over again. Objectivity and detachment are gone — partisanship is the present and the future of American journalism.