12/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Press and New Presidents: The Media's Double Standard

The conventional wisdom is quite clear: The press always turns skeptical and becomes combative when new presidents come to town. Except, of course, when the press does not.

In truth, the model being touted today by media insiders didn't apply to the previous two administrations. That model didn't apply to Bill Clinton in 1993 because the press wasn't simply skeptical about his administration, the press savaged it. And the model didn't apply to George W. Bush in 2001, because instead of turning combative toward him, the press rolled over for the Republican.

In terms of how the press has treated the last two new presidents, there's the Democratic model (i.e. overly hostile), and the Republican model (overly docile).

The assumption today is that it was a cacophony of missteps made by the new Clinton-led Democratic team that generated the bad press in 1993. That reporters and pundits simply responded to the bungled attempt at transition. What's been erased from that equation, though, is the acknowledgment that with or without the miscues, the press had already adopted an entirely new, contentious, and often disrespectful way of treating an incoming president.

What's also glossed over is the fact that eight years later, the press then radically adjusted its standards -- again -- for the new Republican president.

Read the full Media Matters column here.