The Corner

Politics & Policy

On Mueller, Brace Yourself for Some Conventional Wisdom Whiplash

The New York Times building in New York City (Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

This morning, Axios’ Mike Allen wrote in his morning newsletter that “the networks are calling” today’s hearings with special counsel Robert Mueller “the most anticipated hearings in a decade.” (Really? Bigger than Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh?)

The morning newsletter of Politico began: “There’s no way to adequately encapsulate the gravity of today’s pair of hearings with Robert Mueller. They’re absolutely huge politically, substantively and optically. In a presidency filled with “moments,” this is one that could surpass them all.” They went on to add, “or not,” and recognized that today’s hearings would probably not change many minds.

By comparison, the New York Times’ Peter Baker and Sheryl Gay Stolber took a more cautious tone, writing, “many in Washington assume it will be more fizzle than sizzle.”

Score one for “many in Washington” so far.

Politico’s midday update: “THE HOUSE JUDICIARY HEARING with ROBERT MUELLER missed the mark for pro-impeachment Democrats — and people in the Capitol recognize that… Those who wanted to begin impeachment proceedings needed bombshells from the former special counsel. Mueller gave them nothing besides affirmation about what was in his report, and a series of sidesteps when he did not want to answer questions.”

One of the problems for reporters covering the lead-up to an event like this is that almost everyone involved has an incentive to hype it up. The Democrats certainly want as big a television audience as possible. Even the GOP committee members don’t want to say beforehand, “this is going to be really boring” and want people tuning in for their questioning of Mueller. And the networks want people to watch, so of course they’re going to be buzzing about how consequential and important they are. There are few people in the process with an incentive to say, “we are going to rehash arguments that have been made since the report was first release, and you’re going to have to sit through a lot of committee members preening for the cameras.”

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