Mainstream journalists are used to collaborating with politicians to tell the truth a little bit at a time. Lies are accepted when they fit the master narrative, but they need to hover within an acceptable range of plausibility. At the very least, they require the pretense of evidence, however specious it might be.
But again, Trump is alleged to be unique in his disregard for the truth and freedom of the press. The media have an imperative duty, Alterman insists, to call Trump a liar, and it infuriates him to hear an editor say that you “run the risk that you look like…you’re not being objective” by calling any politician a liar -- on the news broadcast, presumably, rather than in an opinion piece. What the editor meant, I hope, is that you would not look objective if you focused on one politician's lies while ignoring those of other politicians. I don't think Alterman wants us to ignore Democratic lies, but he clearly doesn't see them -- whichever statements he considers lies -- in the same category as Republican or Trumpian lies. Alterman plays by "If you're not against him, you're for him" rules, the only ones that allow him to see Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC as "unpaid advisers-cum-supplicants to Trump." But if lies themselves are the problem then all lies should be exposed and denounced equally, and then what time would you have for the rest of the news? I suspect, however, that even for Eric Alterman some lies count more than others, and in his case the standard for weighing the wickedness of lies is certainly as ideological and partisan as anyone else's. I'd be all for a daily survey of proven lies by politicians without regard for party, and a quantitative test of Alterman's assumption that Democrats lie less than Republicans. But if it's the news media's job to show someone like Trump unfit for office, as I assume Alterman wants, it's also their responsibility to show whether the opposition is fit for office rather than declare them entitled by default, as I assume Alterman also wants. If it's the media's job to educate the American people, that might also mean a lot more than Alterman really wants.