Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media
Russia scandals have bloodied the Trump administration. But it carries dangers for those reporting it
Let me skip to the conclusion:
Hypothesize for a moment that the "scandal" here is real, but in a limited sense: Trump's surrogates have not colluded with Russians, but have had “contacts,” and recognize their political liability, and lie about them. Investigators then leak the true details of these contacts, leaving the wild speculations to the media and the Internet. Trump is enough of a pig and a menace that it's easy to imagine doing this and not feeling terribly sorry that your leaks have been over-interpreted.
If that's the case, there are big dangers for the press. If we engage in Times-style gilding of every lily the leakers throw our way, and in doing so build up a fever of expectations for a bombshell reveal, but there turns out to be no conspiracy – Trump will be pre-inoculated against all criticism for the foreseeable future.
The press has to cover this subject. But it can't do it with glibness and excitement, laughing along to SNL routines, before it knows for sure what it's dealing with. Reporters should be scared to their marrow by this story. This is a high-wire act and it is a very long way down. We might want to leave the jokes and the nicknames be, until we get to the other side – wherever that is.
Loss of credibility for the Opposition Party is certainly one possible problem. Andrew McCarthy notes another - we are poised somewhere along a continuum which runs from "OMG, Trump stole the election, thank Heaven Obama launched an investigation" to "There was never anything there, how can we tolerate the deployment of the full investigatory weight of the US Government in an attempt to find dirt on an Obama rival?".
Where we end up may well make history. OK, a lot of that has been made recently, but still - even more history.