Setting the narrative is job one. Barr did it beautifully.

Setting the narrative is job one

by digby

This week is starting to remind me of the 2000 presidential election. This is what I was thinking. /1

— julianzelizer (@julianzelizer) March 26, 2019

This insight from Julian Zelizer
is really sharp:

Julian Zelizer, co-author of Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974, said the rollout of Mueller’s report — and attorney general William Barr’s brief summary of the findings — gave him a queasy feeling.

“This week is starting to remind me of the 2000 presidential election,” Zelizer tweeted. “This is what I was thinking.”

The historian said Republicans had declared victory before the results came in — just as they had during the Florida recount — and exploited structural weaknesses in the news media to establish a narrative.

“Republicans count on the national media to quickly repeat their conclusion,” Zelizer said. “Pack journalism gets to work.”

That allowed Republicans to insist Bush had won, even after legal challenges to restrictive Florida voting laws and paid GOP protesters pressured officials in Miami-Dade County to halt their recount.

“When serious concerns emerge about the results, Republicans stand by the initial declaration of victory,” Zelizer said.

Thus, Republicans complained that Democrats were trying to “steal” Bush’s election win by challenging the GOP’s arguments on which votes should be counted — and then they waited.

“Meanwhile, charge that Democrats are being ‘sore losers’ by asking legitimate questions about what is going on,” Zelizer said. “The GOP then tries to force an ending to the controversy by running out the clock”

Republicans in 2000 claimed a clear mandate, despite narrowly winning the election under highly questionable and unprecedented conditions, and Zelizer sees the same narrative playing out as Trump claims exoneration and Republicans try to block the public from seeing Mueller’s evidence against him.

“After the Supreme Court stops the Florida recount in December 2000, Republicans act like there is a clear mandate and national consensus about the results,” Zelizer said. “Never look back.”

“Does this all bring back some memories?” he added.

Yes it does.

I think the Democrats thought they had gotten in front of it with their call for the whole report and getting the whole House to vote for that. And in the end that will probably have been a smart move, particularly if the whole thing ends up in the courts under executive privilege. (Not that that would be determinative, but it sends a signal.)

But Barr wrote a very clever political document that gave the press the simple takeaway they wanted and allowed Trump to spin Barr's conclusions as exoneration.

They won that round no doubt about it.

Special counsel Robert Mueller found that no one in the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in 2016 -- but Democrats are not ready to accept that finding

— CNN (@CNN) March 25, 2019