In a short period of time, five staffers have departed The Wall Street Journal editorial page. The general cause of their departures, willing and otherwise, is known: the Journal editorial line has increasingly conformed with the pro-Trump dictates of the rest of the Murdoch media empire. (Most recently, Journal editorials, which once presented Ken Starr as the last hope to preserve the rule of law, have fomented various right-wing conspiracy theories about Robert Mueller and called for his firing.)
Sam Tanenhaus, deep into his excellent story on the dwindling band of anti-Trump conservative intellectuals, reports more specifically on the circumstances surrounding their departure. As Trump’s chances of winning the nomination grew, the paper buried an editorial highlighting his underworld connections:
Those were heavy losses in pages whose content is managed by fewer than thirty people in total. And the reason, according to several defectors, was the Journal’s skidding reversal once Rupert Murdoch realized Trump could win. Several sources pointed to the editorials by one writer, James Freeman. “All-in for Ted Cruz” during the primaries, Freeman wrote a strong attack on Trump’s Mob dealings, and had a second ready to go. But as Trump got closer to clinching the nomination, Paul Gigot kept delaying publication, saying “it needed work.” Once Trump became the likely Republican nominee, Freeman executed a neat volte-face. “The facts suggest that Mrs. Clinton is more likely to abuse liberties than Mr. Trump,” he wrote. “America managed to survive Mr. Clinton’s two terms, so it can stand the far less vulgar Mr. Trump.”
(Trump’s Mafia connections are the sort of scandal that would have killed an ordinary candidacy but barely even register on the outsize scale of Trump scandals.)
To be sure, the Journal has continued to voice occasional criticisms of the president. But the chidings have been gentle, and reserved for the sources of frustration shared by Trump’s own staff and legislative allies: He tweets too much, he expresses his racism a little too bluntly. On the subject of the president’s authoritarianism and contempt for governing norms, the Journal now runs interference with the same gusto as Fox News.
The Journal editorial page is famously close to Paul Ryan, and generally reflects the priorities and interests of the Republican Party’s ruling money wing. Its complete submission to Trump is perfectly emblematic of the choice the party has made.