OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The latest piece from our dear friend Christian Toto:
“Anti-fragility” refers to things that thrive from external pressure, like a bodybuilder lifting heavier weights or a business diversifying its portfolio against risk.
It’s only natural to grow stronger when exposed to stress or outsized pressure.
We’re seeing just the opposite in today’s political climate, and the results are disastrous. The crisis in Afghanistan is merely the latest, most horrifying example.
It’s easy, and accurate, to put some of the blame for the Biden administration’s catastrophic withdrawal on media bias. Reporters covered up the Hunter Biden laptop scandal during the 2020 presidential campaign. They looked the other way as Hunter’s elderly Pa called “lid” after “lid” at the height of a heated presidential campaign.
Biden and his team, accustomed to cozy coverage and softball queries, entered the White House unprepared for the challenges awaiting him.
Now, look at the results.
American foreign policy might take years, if not decades, to fully recover. The Middle East may get even worse following the Taliban’s ascension.
How did it happen? Fact checkers stood down as Biden kicked off his campaign with the Charlottesville Lie, the notion that Trump called racists “very fine people.”
The future Vice President Kamala Harris, a woman whose unforced cackle would end most political careers, got similar treatment. The L.A. Times, perhaps out of shame or embarrassment, paused its Instagram account focused on fawning Harris imagery.
This isn’t the normal route for politicians of either party, especially at the presidential level. Reporters are supposed to grill politicians, probe their motives and view every speech with skepticism. They push back on our behalf, hoping to shed light on key policies and ensure leaders are tough enough to survive the nation’s toughest gig.
Instead, outlet after outlet marveled at Biden’s passion for ice cream during the first few months of his presidency while inflation and gas prices soared. The same reporters who savaged President Trump for putting “kids in cages” gave Biden a pass as those cages grew more crowded under his watch.
Is it any wonder a wobbly Biden leads the nation now? But Biden isn’t the only example of this anti-fragility principle in reverse.
Gov. Gavin Newsom may be out of work next month following a recall election sparked by his failed leadership. Los Angeles is a mess on too many fronts to count, and Newsom’s draconian lockdown policies are partly to blame.
Newsom caught plenty of heat by flouting his own COVID-19 regulations at The French Laundry restaurant late last year.
Newsom might have thought twice before dining maskless if he feared Colbert and co. would roast him for days if he got caught. (Note: Late night comics all but ignored the political gaffe)
Would any of this be possible if local and national media hadn’t given him deferential treatment? Might he have tried something new, and bold, to reverse course on these rolling disasters if he knew the press would badger him otherwise?
A similar theory can be applied to New York’s political scene. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is out after a devastating report from his own party revealed he sexually harassed 11 different women. That’s on top of his other scandals, including falsifying COVID-19 data and forcing infected patients into area nursing homes early in the pandemic.
The latter likely sentenced thousands of New Yorkers to death before their time.
How did he get away with so much for so long? Cuomo’s bullying was an open secret, apparently, as was his handsy style. Ask any conservative last year about Cuomo’s political future and he or she would blurt out, “what about the nursing home deaths?”
The real Andrew Cuomo was staring us in the face, but reporters shut their eyes so hard they could only see the progressive hero they craved.
La La Land did what it could to prop up a toxic leader. They granted Cuomo an Emmy for his pandemic press conferences, cooed over his “Cuomosexual” fan base and feted him on late night TV. Plus, a major book publisher invited him to write a tome on pandemic leadership – mid-pandemic, mind you – despite New York’s atrocious COVID-19 numbers.
You almost feel sorry for Cuomo at this point. It’s only human nature to succumb to your worst impulses under those conditions.
The anti-fragility theorem has played out in other ways, though.
Donald Trump arrived in Washington with a bevy of business skeletons in his closet. Remember Trump University?
The real estate mogul could have played fast and loose with his administration, and yet for all his bluster his term proved shockingly clean by political standards.
Fake scandals like RussiaGate don’t count.
Yes, the resignations and abrupt dismissals became commonplace for much of his White House tenure, yet there were no Hunter Biden-esque family scandals to be covered up.
On some level President Trump knew if he behaved badly it would be all over the news for days, if not weeks.
The same is proving true for Gov. Ron DeSantis. The rising Florida Republican is being vetted aggressively by the press despite being far less important than, say, the leader of the free world.
He’s survived two Fake News attacks on him so far, and many more are on the way.
That will make him stronger, politically speaking, better able to withstand attacks from all sides as the 2024 presidential campaign beckons. He’s like a bodybuilder dreaming of a Mr. Olympia title, and the press keeps stacking more weights on his barbell.
DeSantis will either counterpunch better, and faster, or get swamped by the media attacks. Both scenarios help the GOP and, by extension, the American people. An emboldened DeSantis will be a formidable adversary against President Biden or Harris in 2024 and, in theory, a more versatile leader.
A defeated DeSantis will make way for another, presumably stronger, candidate.
A President Biden who endured a year of press scrutiny, not hosannas, might have known better than to leave Afghanistan as he did. Or, at the very least, spent far more time grilling generals on all the possible scenarios an exit would entail.
A more likely scenario?
He would have been napping at home this week while a fellow Democrat, seasoned by a year of fair but furious coverage, oversaw that military withdrawal with far better results.
Christian Toto is the editor of HollywoodInToto.com and author of the upcoming book, “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul.”