SAN DIEGO — Politicians and the media are two of a kind. In both camps, you'll find plenty who lie, flip-flop, manipulate, accuse others of doing what they've already done, and morph from one thing to another.
The media are trained to demand or dig up information. Yet, when they get it, they can't wait to distort it to fit their narrative. After all, they are in the storytelling business. And sometimes the best stories are make-believe.
Even when members of the media have the transcript of a phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, they confuse what was actually said with what they wanted to hear.
Consider what MSNBC's Katy Tur said recently in reporting on the story. On air, Tur declared we now have "proof" that Trump asked Zelensky to do him a favor. That's true. But then, she went on to say in her own words that Trump had asked the Ukrainian president to "investigate Vice President Biden's son" and "get involved in the 2020 election (because) Vice President Biden is my chief political opponent." That's not true; Trump didn't say that.
These days, the media isn't content to merely tell the American people — in the words of legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite —"the way it is." Today, it feels it has to tell us why things are the way they are.
We don't just get the straight scoop on what happened. That would be too easy. We get the media spin on why it happened. But what about when the media gets the "why" wrong?
For example, the current narrative insists that Trump asked Zelensky for that infamous favor because he was trying to torpedo Biden, who was — at the time of the July 25 phone call — his most likely 2020 Democratic opponent.
Really? In late July, Biden — while leading in the polls — had been roughed up by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami. Polls showed both Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gaining ground at Biden's expense. The race was wide open then, and it's even more so today. In the latest polls, Warren is either tied with Biden or leading him.
Despite all that, we're being asked to believe that Trump was so afraid of Biden that he wanted dirt on the former vice president to act as — to borrow a phrase from former FBI agent Peter Strzok — "an insurance policy." Seriously? Not even Biden's Democratic opponents are afraid of him.
Of course, Trump was up to something on that call with Zelensky. Most of what Trump says, does, or thinks is about benefiting Trump. He sure wasn't concerned with the integrity of the criminal justice system in Ukraine. So what was his angle?
Let's remember that, on the same day as the call, former special counsel Robert Mueller was testifying before Congress about the Russia investigation. It's clear from Trump's tweets, speeches, and comments to the media over the course of the Mueller investigation that he thinks the real scandal — which is never talked about, let alone investigated —- is the Obama administration's alleged interference in the 2016 election through the FBI and Justice Department.
It's a safe bet that Biden wasn't Trump's only target. Rather, it's possible the president was attempting to discredit the entire Obama administration. Officials in the State Department and the White House — perhaps including President Obama himself — had to have known that Biden had threatened to hold up $1 billion in U.S. funding to Ukraine if the prosecutor wasn't fired. Biden did so despite the fact that he had an obvious conflict of interest because the prosecutor had apparently looked into the Ukrainian natural gas company where Biden's son, Hunter, was a member of the board, reportedly earning as much as $50,000 per month — despite having no experience in the field.
At the time, the Obama White House defied common sense in claiming that Biden had no conflict of interest. That's insane. That place was full of Ivy League lawyers, who seemingly slept through many of their law school courses.
Meanwhile, in Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., may be auditioning for a job with the media after he leaves office. During a committee hearing on Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee chairman showed he is pretty good at making stuff up. Pretending to be reading the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call, Schiff made up his own dialogue in what he later called a "parody." Another word for parody is "farce" and that term fits Schiff awfully well.
What if this wasn't really about Biden at all? What if Trump merely wanted to muddy the legacy of the Obama administration? And now he just wants to rattle critics in the media and throw the Democratic Party into chaos?
Mission accomplished.Ruben Navarrette can be reached at email@example.com.