I have now seen various versions of this question on multiple blogs, websites, and in comments around the web—this is the version from “The Last Refuge,” a conservative site:
“How did Robert Mueller and Andrew Weissmann spend 2 years investigating Trump-Russia; with a team of 19 lawyers, $40 million in resources, 40 FBI agents, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants and 500 witnesses; and not find out that Hillary Clinton created the hoax they were investigating?”
It was confirmation bias. It’s really as simple as that. Even though the lawyers and agents involved in the investigation could not find the smoking gun evidence they were sure was there somewhere showing that Donald Trump and his odious minions conspired with America’s enemies to steal the 2016 election from its rightful winner, Hillary Clinton, they were absolutely certain that’s what happened, and still probably believe that’s what happened. They believed it fervently before the investigation ever began, and it poisoned the objectivity and the legitimacy of their work throughout.
Every aspect of Trump’s Presidency was poisoned by confirmation bias—from the news media, from academics, from the Washington D.C. culture, from the popular culture—stretching back before he was nominated. He was a bad guy, that’s all, and everything he did or said was filtered through that jaundiced perception. It is impossible for anyone to succeed in any job, and definitely not the hardest job in the civilized world, burdened with that handicap.
People–smart people, learned people, well-intentioned people— would not accept that the man wasn’t seeking the Presidency as part of some kind of sinister plan to enrich himself and his family, nor that he brought any useful skills to the job, nor that he could have possibly won (and the fact that it was “only” an Electoral College victory was seen as proof of that, though it was not).
Make no mistake: Trump himself lay the groundwork for much of that bias. The fact that he has always been loose with language and facts caused him to be labeled a habitual liar, so everything he said that wasn’t precisely accurate became another lie. The fact that he talked like a thug helped fuel the assumption that he was a thug; that he was a salesman by nature created the image that he was only a con man.
Of course, a lot of the bias was based on class prejudice: the nation’s elite governing and intellectual classes were certain that he wasn’t “worthy,” like, you know they were.
So he was mocked, and ridiculed, and insulted, and disrespected for his entire term. He was impeached with no evidence that he had done anything all Presidents do and have done for centuries, on the presumption, without proof, that his motives were different. When his policies worked, it was because he was lucky, or because it was someone else’s accomplishment somehow. Given these unfair and unprecedented handicaps, Donald Trump’s accomplishments were remarkable.
I am proud of the fact that despite my own horror that someone like Donald Trump became President of the United States, the position here from the beginning was that he deserved a chance, the beneifit of a clean slate, and the basic patriotic support the office of the President was designed and evolved to have. He did not get it, and the Mueller fiasco was a major reason. I have written repeatedly that the treatment of Trump by the “Axis of Unethical Conduct,” the resistance/Democratic Party/ mainstream media collective, was, has been and is the most consequential ethics breach of our time. This position, in which I have never wavered just as my personal assessment that people like Trump shouldn’t lead nations has never wavered. It has cost Ethics Alarms readers and support, and me jobs and friends.
But I was right. Bias makes you stupid, and if there is a better example of confirmation bias doing massive harm, I can’t think of it.
Today’s front page of the New York Times featured this:
The statement that Trump and others have “lied” about his defeat not being “fair” has been repeated in multiple articles and news reports since the 2020 election. But it was not fair. The election may not have been “fraudulent”—Trump’s imprecision of language again—but by no possible analysis was his defeat “fair.” Confirmation bias, which is always unfair, sabotaged his Presidency, and he feels that more strongly than anyone. He has every right to feel that the election that replaced him Joe Biden, who is even less well-suited to be President at this stage in his life than Trump had been, was unfair and indeed rigged by a four year effort to undermine him.