There’s an aspect of human instinct that leads us to resist admission of error. Whether this is a feature or a flaw is a debate for another time and place, but we don’t have to weigh the merits of the behavior to recognize that it exists. It’s rooted in cognitive dissonance, which is a mental discomfort “triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person. When confronted with facts that contradict beliefs, ideals, and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.”

“Find a way.”

Anyone who’s won an argument has likely witnessed this behavior from the loser: an effort to find or concoct some shreds of support for his position in order to “save face.” This happens even in cases where the argument was ended with new evidence, with information that wasn’t available when he formed his opinion or drew his conclusion. The illogic of feeling embarrassed about being wrong when one didn’t have the full set of facts in the first place is irrelevant. Humans are not Vulcans, and don’t elevate dispassionate logic over feelings.

Such efforts are more likely when one’s conviction about an assertion was strongest, and especially more likely when one’s conviction has been proclaimed loudly, repeatedly, and widely.

Thus, it’s inevitable that all the people who boldly and confidently predicted that Trump would be led out of the White House in handcuffs are not going to appear on their preferred forums or mediums and offer a chain of mea culpas, no matter that they invested and proclaimed their trust of Mueller and his process. Instead, there will be careful parsing, contortions, assertions of bias or partisan politics, finger-pointing, a and cavalcade of “but the evidence is there!!!” proclamations, all meant to deflect what was, to them, an unthinkable outcome.

I get and expect this from your average Internet adventurer, who has no obligation to anything. Such behavior from people who are paid to render news and informed opinions, on the other hand, is a final nail in the coffin of that quaint premise known as journalistic integrity. Even if we allow that most of our talking heads are rendering opinions, rather than news, continued pursuit of the “Trump-Russia collusion” narrative is a narcissistic petulance that serves only to further destroy the public’s last bits of confidence in the Fourth Estate.

No matter, that loss of confidence. The big news sites have already made it clear that they are writing for their audiences of the willing and nakedly partisan, rather than for the public at large. A perusal of CNN this morning includes several “it’s not over” angles, a litany of hits aimed at Trump and his staff, and the seeds of distrust (e.g. Chris Cillizza making sure we know that Mueller is a “lifelong Republican”). That Mueller was being hailed as a noble and committed public servant persevering against a constant barrage of right-wing siege throughout this process is of no matter. His failure to deliver the death blow to the Trump presidency is a reason to throw shade. Mueller is akin to a superstar free agent athlete brought onto a team to win the championship to great acclaim and fan adulation, then failing to deliver in the clutch, and witnessing all his fans turn on him.

Thing is – this investigation was not a sporting event, where Mueller was tasked with achieving a victory for Trump’s detractors. It was a pursuit of facts and truths, not of a predetermined conclusion (no matter how certain the NYT/CNN/MSNBC axis was of that conclusion). The pursuit – the process – took nearly 2 years, and I dare anyone to suggest with a straight face that it wasn’t in-depth and exhaustive. All those who put their faith in Mueller should accept the conclusion and get on with their lives – and probably think about how to restore their reputations if they were among the “positive he’s guilty” crowd).

The Left’s long-running “all-in” confidence regarding the Mueller outcome now leaves them in a pickle. Their rabid base doesn’t care that Mueller found no evidence of collusion. Indeed, collusion was just one of many angles by which to approach the real goal: to remove Trump from office, simply because they refuse to accept that he won. Lest we forget, there was talk of a 25th Amendment removal, demands for electors to go against the electoral outcome, impeachment via the emoluments clause, and several others. The Mueller investigation became the biggest of them, even though the original allegations of collusion were a house of cards built on the fabricated Steele dossier, simply because the pundits invested so much energy and personal capital in it.

Now? Nothing negative that the Press reports about Trump will be believed by a big chunk of the electorate. We were told that Mueller would produce the goods. The goods he produced turned out to be good for Trump, not for his head-seekers, and those head-seekers, having burned all their bridges, are stuck. If they do the right thing and admit they were wrong, they lose those who’ve traveled with them down the false road. If they persist in traveling that road, they further destroy their profession, and set themselves up to be ignored by all who aren’t already on-board come the 2020 election.

We’re also not going to hear the big picture stuff.

Russia tried – and failed – to corrupt our President. That’s a Good Thing, and bewailing the fact that the President turned out not to be a traitor reflects a twisted set of priorities. The cloud of the investigating having been lifted strengthens Trump’s hand on the world stage. Rather than stalling and hedging in the hope that he be made to go away, nations like China and North Korea now have to deal with an American president who’s pretty certain to be around through 2020, and stands a decent chance of being re-elected.

Then there’s the quest for broader truth. Mostly, this saga has been about “truths” with respect to Trump, but left uninvestigated are matters regarding how the Steele dossier came to be, questions about the Clinton campaign’s ties to Russia, whether FISA warrants were drawn based on falsehoods and misdirection, and partisan behavior within the FBI and other government agencies. Anyone who wants the truth should be clamoring for all this to be scrutinized.

Unfortunately, people want “their” truth, in this case whatever was needed to unseat Trump.

They didn’t get it. Squirm if you must, but do so in private, then move on. There are real policy debates that should be happening, and there are real matters of governance that should draw our attention. You don’t have to be a Trump fan to be glad of the outcome of this inquiry, and you can indeed move on to debating issues, rather than hanging onto the false dream of throwing him out.

Finally, if you’re among those declaring to “wait for the full report…” Just. Stop. We all know that, if the report corroborates the summary memo (it’s absurd to think that Barr would try to bury findings of guilt), you’ll just say “the redactions make me distrust it,” and if the redactions aren’t enough to warrant that suspicion, you’ll latch onto one of the countless side-project investigations that partisans in Congress and in various other places will try to career-build with.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

1+

Like this post?