The most fun online you’ll have all day. You may remember Ball as one of the liberal panelists on “The Cycle,” MSNBC’s defunct daytime knockoff of “The Five.” She’s offering this critique from the left, in other words, which is what gives it its potency. It’s not a “Look at those crazy Mueller-obsessed libs!” rant, of which you’ve already seen many in righty media. It’s a “What the hell were we thinking?” thing — not just in the obsessive quantity of the coverage, she notes, but in the bizarre lengths to which Mueller’s most fervent fans sometimes went to promote him as an avenging angel. He wasn’t just going to take down the Trump presidency, supposedly, he was going to expose the essential lie of Trump’s entire adult life.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When your nightly political monologue keeps veering towards the topic of “smelters,” you’ve gone too far. Turn back.

But let me play devil’s advocate on one point. Is it true that the media’s Russiagate obsession has damaged the left? There was a major opportunity cost to it, as Ball rightly notes. Every minute spent drooling over Mueller was a minute not spent promoting Medicare for All or digging in on some more substantive Trump scandal, like the revenue his businesses are earning from foreign governments eager to ingratiate themselves to the White House. But there was also a benefit to the coverage, no?

The poll linked by McLaughlin was taken right around the time Bill Barr published his summary of Mueller’s findings, which resulted in neither Trump nor anyone in his campaign being charged with conspiracy. And even so, fully two-thirds of Democrats said they believed it was definitely or probably true that Russia had tampered with vote tallies in 2016 to get Trump elected. MSNBC and other anti-Trump media outlets belched smoke on Russiagate for two solid years; inevitably, many Americans eager to believe that Trump’s presidency is illegitimate look around at all the smoke and concluded there’s a fire, whether or not Bob Mueller happened to locate the source. That’s helpful to the left.

In fact, House Democrats are still at it notwithstanding Mueller’s underwhelming testimony on Wednesday. The Nadler smokestack will keep producing until election day if need be:

So was there really no benefit to Dems? Was there no benefit to the GOP from their multiple investigations of Benghazi? None of those ended with any Obama officials in legal jeopardy, but Republicans routed Democrats in the 2014 midterms, then cemented total control of government two years later. There may be no direct straight-line cause and effect between the Benghazi probes and those results but certainly righty interest in the investigations was good for partisan morale and added to the evidence that the Obama administration was dangerously incompetent abroad — and that might have turned out a few extra voters for Trump in 2016. Lefties are banking on the same thing from Russiagate, I assume. Regardless of whether Mueller had the goods, Dem voters have been reminded daily and nightly for the past two years that Russia’s interference three years ago was a momentous injustice which must be corrected. If that’s what comes of MSNBC’s embarrassing Mueller obsession next fall, the network can live with it.