Reporters and columnists took a petulant tone in Wednesday’s New York Times in the aftermath of the Mueller report and the Trump Administration’s triumphant reaction. One can visualize gritted teeth and pursed lips of the paper’s journalists reporting on Trump administration insiders, celebrating vindication, in “Celebratory Dinners Do Little to Sate a Hunger for Revenge.”
A rather dour Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman wrote (click “expand”):
No collusion. Let’s party.
After two years spent in a defensive crouch, the president’s aides have emerged from their emotional bunkers in celebration of what they say is a total vindication of President Trump.
That view may be based on the best possible interpretation of the letter written by Attorney General William P. Barr summarizing the conclusions of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. But any caveats in the letter or the possibility of surprises when more of the report is released has not put a damper on the celebratory dinners at downtown Washington restaurants, the number of teamwork-focused photos posted on social media or the hugs in the White House driveway between television interviews.
“We’re colluding,” Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president, told reporters as she embraced Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, in the driveway after returning from a Fox News appearance on Monday.
Along with wisecracks, there was a decidedly less playful theme emerging that once the party is over, the president’s perceived enemies should pay.
“Perceived” enemies? They continued:
Some of the targets have been happy to hit back.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat and vocal critic of the administration who heads the House Intelligence Committee, is among those facing pressure from the White House to resign. Asked by a reporter Monday evening whether he feared that Republicans would keep up the pummeling in a public hearing on Russia hosted by his committee on Thursday, Mr. Schiff laughed.
“I’ve gotten used to the attacks from Trump and his allies in Congress,” he said. “There’s nothing particularly new or novel about that.”
After two years of the media being burned by Schiff’s confident statements of “collusion,” one would expect a little criticism of the Democrat -- or maybe not.
The reporters found another wholly objective Democrat to warn Trump off gloating:
Joe Lockhart, a Democratic strategist who was President Bill Clinton’s press secretary when he was impeached, said in an interview that the White House was playing a dangerous game by declaring full victory and going on the attack before the full results of Mr. Mueller’s report -- including full details on the actions Mr. Trump took during the course of the investigation -- became public.
Likening this White House’s victory celebration to President George W. Bush’s premature “Mission Accomplished” declaration during the Iraq war, Mr. Lockhart said the administration has “left it wide open for every new development to be a big story.” He added: “I just think they struck the exact wrong tone. Right now it can only go one way, which is bad for them.”
Or so The Times is hoping.
Peter Baker’s front-page “news analysis,” “Inquiry Erases A Line Drawn by Watergate – An Opening to Broader Powers for Presidents” fretted over Trump violating “unwritten...norms,” which doesn’t sound actionable, and in any case is not exactly the “collusion” that The Times and other outlets have long hinted at if not promised:
Mr. Mueller’s decision to not take a position on whether Mr. Trump’s many norm-shattering interventions in the law enforcement system constituted obstruction of justice means that future occupants of the White House will feel entitled to take similar actions. More than perhaps any other outcome of the Mueller investigation, this may become its most enduring legacy....To Mr. Trump’s critics, however, the development represents a dangerous degradation of the rule of law, handing a president almost complete leeway to thwart any effort by federal law enforcement authorities to scrutinize his actions almost as if he were a king.
In the same edition, tech writer turned columnist Farhad Manjoo said the whole “collusion” trail led the left upon a time-wasting side quest, while ignoring the real target: Trump’s racism and sexism:
....Collusion was a seductive and convenient delusion. For many Americans, the simple truth that Mr. Trump really had won was too terrible to bear. The ease with which a racist, misogynist, serial con man had slipped past every gatekeeper in American life suggested something deeply sick at the core of our society.
But fear not, there is hope for the Democrats. Wednesday’s lead story, “Move to Nullify Health Care Act Roils Democrats,” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Robert Pear had this cheery text box summary: “A chance to shift the conversation from the Mueller report.” Here's more:
The Trump administration’s decision to ask a federal appeals court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act has given House Democrats a new opening to pursue what they see as a winning political strategy: moving past talk of impeachment to put kitchen-table issues like health care front and center. The notice to the court, filed late Monday by the Justice Department, could not have come at a more opportune time for Democrats....The Justice Department’s move caught both parties by surprise, and put Republicans in a very awkward position.
And Mueller’s report doesn’t put Democrats in one?