Whenever some news that is harmful to Democrats becomes a story, someone in the media will publish it under a version of this headline: “Republicans Seize on…”
For instance, outspoken members of the Democratic party have been pushing Trump’s impeachment for a year. Last month the NY Times published a story headlined, “Republicans Seize on Impeachment for Edge in 2018 Midterms.” There is some news here but the headline could easily have been “Democratic push for impeachment could backfire this fall” but the bad news for Dems gets refocused into a “Republicans Seize…” story instead.
After the Parkland shooting, Politico Magazine wrote a whole story about Republicans seizing on the fact that Democratic Sheriff Scott Israel seemed to be making a fool of himself in public. The article doesn’t deny Israel is a disaster, (“Israel really does seem to deserve some blame, and really has displayed ineptitude and arrogance in public”) it just refocuses on those darn Republicans who were seizing on the fact that the Sheriff sounds like an idiot. How dare they!
Friday the Washington Post set a new milestone in the “Republicans seize” genre: A “Republicans about to seize” story about an IG report that hasn’t even been published yet.
The headline doesn’t literally say “Republicans seize” but that’s the gist: “As Justice Dept. inspector general moves from Clinton email to Russia and Trump, he risks becoming a political weapon.” How does IG Horowitz risk becoming a weapon? Apparently by releasing a fair and accurate report critical of the FBI:
In the coming weeks, Horowitz is expected to release a nearly 500-page report criticizing the Justice Department and FBI for their handling of the Clinton email investigation, people familiar with the matter said…
Those who know Horowitz say his findings will be as nonpartisan as they are thorough. But his work is almost certain to be weaponized by President Trump against federal law enforcement, and some question whether it will quell the tension gripping Washington…
One of Trump’s lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said this week that the forthcoming Clinton email report could be a boon for the president — justifying his firing of Comey, and undercutting that as a piece of Mueller’s probe into whether the president obstructed justice. Giuliani said Horowitz is “not a guy who is known to play politics,” and his report “could lay out an overwhelming case.”
The article says multiple times that Horowitz is renowned as a straight-shooter. So he’s not the problem. And because he’s a straight-shooter his report will be fair and accurate. So what’s the problem here exactly? The unspoken problem is that Democrats and their narratives are likely to take a hit from this report.
In recent weeks, Horowitz has invited key players in the Clinton email investigation to review a draft of his report, making them sign nondisclosure agreements before doing so, people familiar with the matter say. The report is exhaustive, they say, and while its conclusions might be debated, the work’s intensity will be hard to critique.
Needless to say, if this report was expected to undercut all of the right’s claims about the FBI, that would be the story. The Post would not have written a story headlined: “With fair and accurate report, IG risks becoming a political weapon in the hands of Democrats.” When you reverse the parties, the whole idea sounds farcical.
Here’s how this story should have been headlined, “FBI, Clinton expected to take a hit from forthcoming IG report.” The story that followed would point out that the IG has found 500 pages worth of material criticizing the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation and that some of this may point to partisanship at the FBI or disrupt narratives which are beloved in the Clinton camp. The story would not be that this report might help Republicans (by being true).
This “Republicans seize” trope is what you get when 90% of the reporters in the national media are Democrats. As long as that systemic problem remains, we’ll keep seeing bad news for Democrats repackaged as attacks by Republicans.