The past week has been an interesting time in US politics. Attorney General William Barr was given what I assume to be the final report from Robert Mueller’s investigation of the 2016 election. Barr wrote and released a four-page summary of the report, indicating that Mueller did not establish that members of the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. The memo also indicates that the question of obstruction of justice was considered and investigated, but explicitly decided against making a prosecutorial judgement. In the absence of that, the Attorney General made the decision that there was no obstruction of justice. The Trump team ran with this as a win, and has now started a full-throated attack on the media.
Trump’s twitter is all about the media failure. Here are some examples.
Of course, this is all part of his thing. It’s hard to not see it as a business move. He’s using the Office of the President to turn people against media outlets that are critical of him, and trying to support outlets that like him. I think that’s a problem, but it’s even more of a problem that it seems to be working. The idea that the media got it wrong here is so baseless to me. First of all, there was no unified opinion of “the media.” There is no unified “media” out there. There are many news outlets, and most blend news and editorial to varying degrees. Sure, members of the media predicted that the Mueller report would have damning information about Trump and the Trump campaign. That is a prediction, no different from times that members of the media predict the weather, or the stock market, or who will win an election. Anybody who is in the business of predicting anything knows that being right all the time is practically impossible. The only people who are right all the time in their predictions are people who don’t make predictions. But still, it seems awfully premature to judge the accuracy of those who predicted that the Mueller report would be bad for Trump. Sure, the memo about the report was good for Trump, but we still don’t know much about the contents of the Mueller report. So what, exactly, did people in the media get wrong?
In the end, blaming the media for this feels silly, and almost too easy. It’s like the grumpy guy who responds to a lie told by Trump with, “they all lie!” It’s lazy thinking.
So I’m left feeling like all the analysis of the Mueller report is awfully premature, given that we haven’t seen the report yet, and that saying the media got it wrong is a lot like saying that the media got it wrong when reporting the OJ case. Sure, many in the media predicted a guilty verdict, so their prediction was wrong, but what factual errors were made there? What factual errors were made here? I’ve asked that a few times, of people on Team Trump…nothing but crickets.