With the Mueller report completed, Matt Taibbi declares total victory over reality with speed that would probably have the most rabid FOX News partisans scratching their heads and asking if he's actually on Trump's payroll.
Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media.
As has long been rumored, the former FBI chief’s independent probe will result in multiple indictments and convictions, but no “presidency-wrecking” conspiracy charges, or anything that would meet the layman’s definition of “collusion” with Russia.
With the caveat that even this news might somehow turn out to be botched, the key detail in the many stories about the end of the Mueller investigation was best expressed by the New York Times:
A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments.
The Times tried to soften the emotional blow for the millions of Americans trained in these years to place hopes for the overturn of the Trump presidency in Mueller. Nobody even pretended it was supposed to be a fact-finding mission, not an act of faith.
The Special Prosecutor literally became a religious figure during the last few years, with votive candles sold in his image and Saturday Night Live cast members singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” to him, a tune featuring the rhymey line, “Mueller please come through, because the only option is a coup.”
The Times story today tried to at least preserve Santa Mueller’s reputation, noting Trump’s Attorney General William Barr’s reaction was an “endorsement” of the fineness of Mueller’s work:
In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a “witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep Mr. Mueller from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step.
Mueller, in other words, never stepped out of the bounds of his job description. For those anxious to keep the dream alive, the Times published its usual graphic of Trump-Russia “contacts,” inviting readers to keep making connections.
But even the Times, in a separate piece by Peter Baker, noted the Mueller news had dire consequences for the press:
It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole…
This is a damning page one admission by the Times. Despite the connect-the-dots graphic in its other story, and despite the astonishing, emotion-laden editorial the paper also just ran suggesting “We don’t need to read the Mueller report” because we know Trump is guilty, Baker at least began the work of preparing Times readers for a hard question. He asked, “Have journalists connected too many dots that do not really add up?”
The paper was signaling it understood there would now be questions about whether or not news outlets like themselves made a galactic error by betting so heavily on a new, politicized approach, trying to be true to “history’s judgment” on top of the hard-enough job of just being true. Worse, in a brutal irony everyone should have seen coming, the press has now handed Trump the mother of campaign issues heading into 2020.
Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population, a group that perhaps thanks to this story is now larger than his original base. As Baker notes, a full 50.3% of respondents in a poll conducted this month said they agree with Trump the Mueller probe is a “witch hunt.”
Stories have been coming out for some time now hinting Mueller’s final report might leave audiences “disappointed,” as if a President not being a foreign spy could somehow be bad news.
Openly using such language has, all along, been an indictment. Imagine how tone-deaf you’d have to be to not realize it makes you look bad, when news does not match audience expectations you raised. To be unaware of this is mind-boggling, the journalistic equivalent of walking outside without pants.
Taibbi's right as far as the reputation of the media being shredded. But he's dead wrong as to Trump's criminality not mattering, because if he's right on that too, then we're utterly done as a nation and there's no point to anything anymore.
Most of all, I'm tired of pundits like Taibbi telling us what's in the Mueller report without actually knowing what's in it. I'm done with him, much like Greenwald.
There's no difference between the two.