There is a pall hanging over the left side of the internet today. The disappointment is palpable. How is this possible, they’re asking? We were so certain that the president of the United States was a traitor — that Hillary Clinton didn’t lose the 2016 election because she was the worst candidate in modern history, but because Trump and the Russians worked together to steal it.
It’s like election night, November 2016, all over again.
Once again, leftist delusions have been shattered, this time by a putative ally — special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller turned over every rock, looked in every nook and cranny of the Trump campaign and concluded that no member of that organization — including candidate Trump — worked with the Russians to influence the 2016 race for president.
Thus, the 675 days spent investigating dubious scenario is over. What does Mueller have to show for it? He got various Trump aides on lying to the FBI and sleazeball Paul Manafort on some other crimes unrelated to collusion. But, like any good little bureaucrat, he carefully documented all the work he did: 2800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, more than 230 orders for communication records, 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and 500 witnesses interviews.
All told, Mueller spent around $13 million. In truth, Congress probably spends close to that amount for Kleenex to blow its nose, so in the grand scheme of a $4 trillion budget, it’s a piddling amount.
More to the point was the reason the money was spent in the first place.
Partisans in the Justice Department and FBI were concerned that all these Russians running around Washington during the campaign must be up to something. And some of the people working on the Trump campaign had long-standing ties to Russia, or, in the case of Paul Manafort, Russian-sympathizing Ukrainians. Put two and two together, add in a dash of Trump hatred, a dollop of Democratic partisanship, a pinch of wishful thinking, stir it up, bake well and voila! Collusion was born.
But that’s only half the story. Anti-Trump officials may have talked themselves into believing that collusion was possible, but it was anti-Trump hysteria in the Democratic-Media Complex that ultimately drove this story, kept it front and center for nearly two years, and in the end, made it what it has become: The most epic failure of American journalism in history.
As recently as three weeks ago, even after it became apparent that Mueller was not going to give the left what they wanted — evidence to impeach Trump — New York Magazine ran this headline: “Russia Corrupted Trump. Mueller’s Just Filling In Details”
Headlines over the previous two years reveal a startling lack of control and objectivity — so much so that the exaggeration, the wild speculation, the sweet, sweet anticipation of Trump’s downfall became as much a part of the story as any information being leaked.
How did the institution of American journalism fail so utterly to get it right? That used to be a tremendous source of pride for journalists. They felt a great weight of responsibility to the public to carefully ascertain the facts of a story and report those facts in a comprehensive and comprehensible manner. Analysis was supposed to be as objective as possible with speculation absent or kept to an absolute minimum.
What we’ve seen in the collusion story is what happens when freedom is casually and unconscionably abused. Freedom of the press is guaranteed and for 230 years, the press has — mostly — used that freedom responsibly. Sure, the pressures of deadlines and the desire to be “first” with a story led to some famous failures. “Dewey Defeats Truman” was supposed to be a cautionary tale for reporters and editors. Instead, along with many proud traditions associated with the craft and art of journalism, the lessons have been forgotten or discarded as outmoded.
Collectively, the media saw Trump as a threat. Despite the fact that no reporters have been arrested for what they’ve written about him, no newspapers have been closed, no TV stations have gone dark, no internet sites taken down, nothing remotely resembling a serious and immediate threat to freedom of the press has emerged from the White House, the media convinced themselves that Trump was going to destroy democracy and rule as an autocrat.
Perhaps other threats to the industry had something to do with it. Newspapers are dying — not because they are partisan but because the way people consume information has passed newspapers by. TV news is bleeding viewers — not because they are anti-conservative but because there are so many other choices available for people to become informed. The world is changing and what we know as “the media” isn’t changing fast enough to keep up. They have become the blacksmiths, the wheelwrights, the carriage makers, the buggy whip manufacturers of the 21st century. And they apparently don’t have a clue how to save themselves from destruction.
The collusion story will become a milestone in the history of American journalism. Will there be a period of self-examination, a hard and honest introspective look at where the press went wrong and how it can get better? Or will the media simply move on to the next scandal and start the sickening, maddening, process all over again?