The opening scene of the Big Reveal of Robert Mueller’s special counsel report went pretty much according to type: Conservatives “pounced,” the left “pushed back,” and the media turned to each other for comfort and reassurance that everything was going to be alright.
Amidst the misty-eyed cable news anchors and the hastily arranged panels of pundits carrying out a series of televised group therapy sessions, a theme began to take shape—a soothing, healing crystal in the form of an incantation of hope and deliverance: This can’t be the end. There’s got to be more. This isn’t the end. There’s going to be more. Say it with me: This can’t be the end. There’s got to be…
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow got the ball rolling with her traditional stream-of-consciousness opening, rhetorically cursing the gods of sitting-president indictment norms and promising (pleading for?) more, much more, to come from the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Rep. Adam Schiff, and Rep. Gerald Nadler. CNN threw together a panel of its Russia collusion all-stars, all of whom, like Maddow, played principal roles in bringing the Russia collusion “slam dunk” into our living rooms and embedding the notion of a treasonous president into the national psyche.
They made no mention of the provenance of those great expectations as they were being dashed, ironically, in the same studios from whence they arose, but chose instead to focus on the future. Their message? “It was never really that important to prove that the leader of our country was a compromised asset of the Kremlin. That was just something we liked to talk about while we waited for the serious charges to be brought, like inflating his assets for insurance purposes and paying off a porn star.”
In a rare fit of journalistic pique, Anderson Cooper attempted to ask one of his guests if all of this talk about the Nadler and Schiff investigations didn’t support the notion that the left was simply moving the goal posts from “Just wait until the Mueller report comes out” to “Just wait until the Nadler and Schiff reports come out.” He didn’t get a straight answer.
Nor will we. There will be no public mea culpa from the media for two years of feverishly biased hyping of unfounded allegations that the president of the United States is engaged in treason and actively operating as an agent of the Russian Federation. Nor will we hear any indications of regret from the current and former Democratic politicians and intelligence community officials who initiated, distributed, and sustained those allegations through leaks, on-air commentary, or both.
What we will hear is more of what we heard Friday night. We will hear that Donald Trump brought this upon himself by acting so blasted suspiciously. How could we possibly have ignored those angry tweets and attempts to “undermine the investigation”? What else were we supposed to think?
They’ll fail to acknowledge that an innocent man knows on day one that no evidence will be uncovered. If that innocent man is the president of the United States, the charge is treason, and the investigation is about to enter its third year, one would expect that innocent man to have a fairly dynamic opinion as to the legitimacy of the investigation. Add that common behavioral expectation to Trump’s turbo-charged behavioral pattern, and you’ve got yourself two years of angry tweets.
We will hear a lot about the accessibility of the information in the Mueller report. Will we all be able to read enough of it to be comfortable with the prosecutorial decisions made, and the underlying investigatory details that informed those decisions? Everyone asking that question knows the answer is “Yes,” yet they’ll keep asking because they need a grievance to supplant, and deflect attention from, the failure of the treason narrative.
The idea is to demand a level of access and transparency that is impossible to attain — since here will always be limitations on the release of classified sources and methods, or legitimately privileged information — then create a hypothetical scenario wherein the redaction or withholding of such material is an injustice worthy of protest and suspicion. Presto: you’ve guaranteed a grievance you can unleash like a squirrel running across a highway when you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to respond to the factual reality of the Mueller conclusions.
We will hear of the vast array of additional investigations involving the president, information that will be presented to us as if these investigations were all predicated on substantive evidence of probable cause of a crime. Considering their role as emotional crutches for the same Democratic politicians and media who fell so deeply for the treason narrative, it’s a good bet that these investigations will proceed without the level of critical scrutiny one would expect a journalist to focus on something like, say, the Steele dossier. Mueller may have been the one they loved, but Nadler, Schiff, and the SDNY will become the ones they’re with.
What we won’t hear is an apology, or an introspective review of the mistakes and professional lapses that brought us all to this point. There will be a reckoning, but that reckoning won’t be televised.
Instead, the reckoning will take place in the hearts and minds of the millions of Americans outside the Acela corridor who’ve been watching this slow-motion train wreck of a self-absorbed, hopelessly biased legacy media beclowning themselves in pursuit of the admiration and legitimacy of their peers, and of the Democratic politicians with whom they share secrets, lies, and tactics in furtherance of their mutual ideological objectives.
The reckoning will come in the form of an enlightened audience and electorate, whose questions and doubts about the motives and agenda of the media have been fused by this experience over the last two years into a fundamental and abiding distrust of their political reporting, their use of anonymous sources, and their empty promises of unbiased reporting.
That audience saw through the attempts of Reps. Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Ted Lieu to represent innuendo as evidence, all the while silently urging the journalists hosting them to simply ask them a pertinent follow-up question. They saw through the hyperbolic ranting of Sen. Richard Blumenthal, for whom no rumor was beyond elevation to direct evidence of treason and the imminent decline of democracy as we know it. They noticed that the journalists doing the interviews didn’t seem to have it in them to challenge the slanderous, unsubstantiated allegations of their regular guests. And they knew why.
It is no secret that the most accurate reporting on the Trump-Russia saga has come from either conservative-leaning publications or from non-traditional, non-legacy media. These news and opinion outlets have picked up where the traditional media has left off, and consumers, who simply want to be able to trust what they read, have found them to be a reliable option for their news. The traditional media would do well to pay attention to these people.
As much as I’d like to close with a quick word of advice for the media, for the Democratic politicians who pushed the treason narrative, and for the Comeys, Brennans, and Clappers, et al. who engineered this debacle, I honestly have no advice to give. It’s over. There is no recovery from this.
The reckoning may not be televised, but it will be this: You will no longer be believed.