Last Sunday at around 4 o’clock, millions of liberals across America were beside themselves—inconsolable!—upon learning that the president of the United States isn’t an agent of a foreign power. Having invested nearly two years of their lives and all of their emotional bandwidth into the assumption that Donald Trump and his gang conspired with the Russian government to rig the 2016 presidential election—and that the Mueller investigation would eventually prove it beyond doubt—it was positively devastating to be informed by Robert Mueller himself—albeit through his boss, Attorney General William Barr—that this just isn’t so.
As a lifelong fan of Alfred Hitchcock, I couldn’t help thinking of Rear Window. Specifically, the scene in which James Stewart and Grace Kelly—having spent days doggedly surmising that the salesman across the courtyard has murdered his wife and chopped her body into bite-size pieces—are provided with seemingly airtight evidence from an investigator that the neighbor has done no such thing. That, in fact, Stewart and Kelly have let their imaginations get the better of them, and that it’s all a silly, if brutal, misunderstanding.
Cut to Stewart’s and Kelly’s crestfallen visages, each overcome with disappointment and just the slightest bit pissed off about the whole bloody affair.
It’s a priceless moment, written and acted to perfection, and encapsulated, a few beats later, by the future princess of Monaco herself:
“If anybody walked in here, I don’t think they’d believe what they see. You and me with long faces, plunged into despair, because we find out that a man didn’t kill his wife. We’re two of the most frightening ghouls I’ve ever known.”
The joke, of course, is that Stewart and Kelly had wrapped themselves so tightly in their paranoid theories about what sinister things the neighbors have been up to—and had so convinced themselves that their worst suspicions must be true—they came to view any penetrating of their conspiratorial bubble as a personal insult and humiliation. Their amateur sleuthing had morphed into a religious cult, and any outside information that challenged it amounted to blasphemy.
Hence the black comedy buried in Kelly’s quip: In their idle, wild-eyed fervor, she and Stewart had come to believe that their neighbor being a murderer was preferable to their being proved foolish and irresponsible. In that moment, being right was more important than the salesman’s wife being alive and in one piece.
Such is the dilemma now facing the American left, which must choose between two possible realities: One in which new, unwelcome information takes precedence over comforting, unfounded speculation, or one in which the president is a traitor to his country and the MSNBC primetime lineup is a fount of divine truth.
Prior to last Sunday, liberals like me had been perfectly content to live in the latter universe, much as conservatives spent the balance of 2009-2016 in a Fox News echo chamber of rage wherein President Obama was a secret Muslim, Hillary Clinton was a secret murderer and Benghazi was the biggest scandal in the history of the human race.
But what about now? With the news—however preliminary—that our darkest imaginings about Trump are, well, imaginary, are we not duty-bound to accept this most inconvenient of truths and move on to 2020?
I’ll say this much: Throughout the 2016 election, I rarely went more than 24 hours without checking in on the Huffington Post, the addictive left-wing blogging platform that framed every utterance from Trump’s mouth as a Category 5 emergency and gave Hillary Clinton a 99 percent chance of victory in the days leading up to the big vote.
I haven’t been back to the Huffington Post once since November 9, 2016, and it’s for the exact reason you’d expect: At long last, and with a great deal of reflection, I decided I no longer enjoyed the taste of Kool-Aid.
Don’t get me wrong: Today I am still very much a liberal and still very much consider Donald Trump a cancer on the face of America, for reasons Robert Mueller had no need to investigate.
What I am not—or so I would like to think—is a mindless, obstinate rube who clings to demonstrable falsities simply because I want them to be true. While I still watch MSNBC on a regular basis, I generally limit my consumption to one hour of programming per day, and always with the understanding that comfort food is not the same as nutrition and restless chatter is not the same as insight.
I suggest my fellow anti-Trumpers do the same, and put Collusiongate in the rear window, where it belongs.