Donald Ayer’s article in The Atlantic is making a splash today. The author is a former U.S. deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush, and the piece is entitled: Bill Barr Must Resign. More than 1,100 former DOJ officials are also calling on Barr to resign.
Spoiler alert: Barr won’t resign and will almost certainly not be impeached, but Ayer’s piece is definitely worth one of your free monthly clicks, IMO. An excerpt:
Barr’s Federalist Society speech suggests that he is ready to say nearly anything in pursuit of his lifelong goal of a presidency with unchecked powers. As Napoleon is reputed to have said, the man who will say anything will do anything. That Barr has also repeatedly used his authority as attorney general to tailor the position of the United States, in court and in legal opinions, to empower such an unworthy incumbent as Donald Trump to do whatever he wants suggests that this is correct.
The benefit of the doubt that many were ready to extend to Barr a year ago—as among the best of a bad lot of nominees who had previously served in high office without disgrace—has now run out. He has told us in great detail who he is, what he believes, and where he would like to take us. For whatever twisted reasons, he believes that the president should be above the law, and he has as his foil in pursuit of that goal a president who, uniquely in our history, actually aspires to that status. And Barr has acted repeatedly on those beliefs in ways that are more damaging at every turn. Presently he is moving forward with active misuse of the criminal sanction, as one more tool of the president’s personal interests.
Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.
All true, but here’s my question: why did any experienced legal analyst or past DOJ official give Barr the benefit of the doubt in the first place since, as Ayer points out, Barr has been peddling kooky theories about the imperial presidency since God was in knee pants? Barr’s Wikipedia page tells the story: he grew up in the right place and went to the right schools.
We really do have a “coastal elitists” problem in America, but it’s not city dwellers looking down on gun-fondling NASCAR fans. It’s benign assumptions about deranged and/or incompetent people if they emerge from centers of power. It’s a serious problem!
Ayer calls Barr “un-American,” an adjective I dislike because it usually implies that civic virtues are uniquely American and erases societal depravities that are all too American. But given that Barr is attempting to undo the American Revolution and restore a species of monarchy, the descriptor may be literally true in his case.
That is, in fact, precisely the time to use the description, IMHO. Similarly for the GOP: not only do they sow hatred to reap good electoral results; they also generally, and particularly, put party over country. The Constitution is ordained and established by the people of the United States; to swear you love it, while covering up for the crimes of a lawless President, is to prove you’re a liar beyond any doubt.
Everybody has advice…
Democrats, don’t let Trump off the hook
Dems Beware: Don’t Be Like Mitt in 2012
Democrats, Don’t Wish for Your Own Rogue
This article is a must-read.
The Supreme Court at some point will have to get involved. Will Roberts feel bad about his vote like he did about gerrymandering or will he do the right thing.
I’m beginning to feel like I have to go back to elementary school since everything I was taught is apparently wrong, from usury laws to executive power.
Also, he worked for the Bush family. So, maybe his little oddities were discounted.
Barr is only interested the the unitary theory of the executive branch as it applies to Republican presidents both elected and installed by a majority of the Court in an uncitable decision. Just sayin.’
I don’t see any need to ponder the philosophical validity of Barr’s imperial presidency — it’s for Repubs only.
@laura: Are you saying that if the Supreme Ct. has to decide, the ruling will be carefully worded so not have democratic officials abuse it. Sound correct.
Adam L Silverman
The phrase you’re looking for and Ayer should’ve used is anti-American, not in-American.
@Adam L Silverman: Two different phrases with two different meanings but both are applicable here, IMO.
@Betty Cracker: Why not ugly American?
The article reads like a brief for Barr’s impeachment. Let’s see the Democrats run with it.
@Adam L Silverman:
I think I like anti-Founding Fathers.
@Cheryl Rofer: The worst part is, this is precisely the sort of conduct we were discussing here when Barr was first nominated. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone here that he actually follows through with his stated goals now that he has a GOP administration pushing for despotism and a GOP-led Senate willing to look the other way.
Now even though this is Ayers, former AG under Bush senior, saying it I have no doubt he is already facing accusations of RINO and being a secret liberal. The GOP will gladly eat their own no matter who they are if it serves the current party line.
As for what to call him? I’m fine with un-American and anti-American. Hell, I’d be fine with anti-Founding Fathers if it weren’t so wordy. My preference? For people to admit that his preferred form of greeting isn’t a flag salute or “good day”, but quiet whisper of “Heil Hydra”. It really does make the most sense.
Ironic that no one is more of a RINO than Donald Trump.
Barr is a member of Opus Dei. I do not think that Jefferson, Madison or Hamilton would consider Opus Dei to be patriotic organization. An y jackals know the the nuts and bolts of Opus Dei?
@dopey-o: Don’t like to brag, but I’m an expert on Opus Dei by virtue of having seen The Da Vinci Code, so…
@dopey-o: You mean the high money but highly secretive Catholic organization with historic ties to European fascist movements from the 20th century and that’s hell-bent on turning American into their version of a dominionist paradise? Also, the one that was a big inspiration for a sensationalist and crappy movie series in the oo’s? Never heard of it.
One thing I don’t understand. (Maybe someone here can enlighten me). What is in it for Barr? Personally? Professionally? I just don’t get it.
@laura: Yeah, I keep wondering why this point gets ignored.
That’s similar to how I learned Kung Fu.
@Adam L. Silvernman
We may need to mint an entirely new coinage: disAmerican.
@Scout211: I think a certain species of god-botherer has been trained to accept that authority comes from a single source, and thus has difficulty grasping the basic concept of democracy.
Kind of amazing that Barr turned out to be exactly who he has long very openly been. Who could have imagined that?
You weren’t taught wrong, the wrong people were taught that might (and position) make right. People like Barr don’t think you earn things, like power, you take them. They learned this from history because history is filled with people who took instead of earning power. Our system is about spreading that power out so that no one really has it or can just take it but Barr and his friends at the Federalist Society feel that they deserve that power. And they have taken it by the simple act of following the man-child who was put into power because some are losing their power of hate, and can’t have that. The lesson that Barr and his ilk haven’t and never will learn is that there are more of us and that all people who have taken that kind of power always eventually lose and lose big.
@Jamie: If you ever want to get really worried about these people being near the levers of power, read “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet. Let’s just say that conspiracy theorists aren’t always without a basis of truth.
@wvng: I know, right? Honestly, people acting all shocked by his conduct irritate me almost as much as the fact that we were right, but dismissed, when we predicted it during his nomination.
@Betty Cracker: I watched a 9-minute TED talk about it so…
James E Powell
If you want to learn even more, see Breach.
It’s also the reason you’re now a panda!
@NotMax: disAmerican datAmerican.
Can we just go understandable old school and call them fascist trash?
@PenAndKey: Uh, yikes. I’m worried enough, thanks! :)
The question of why the legal eagles didn’t know what Barr was all about pops into my head at least once daily or more. How could they not know how dicey he was?
I think they’re spooked by the fact that the MSM has treated the presidential impeachment as “botched” or a “failure,” even though it was anything but — they proved their case, as several Repugs admitted. But they’re probably afraid another impeachment is going to hurt the Democrats in the election.
Adam L Silverman
@PenAndKey: Ayer used to be Barr’s supervisor at the Department of Justice.
What is Cornel West doing in that list?
@Betty Cracker: Heh me too!
@debbie: (They’re all proper names that are commonly misspelled here.)
@zhena gogolia: Huh?
What set of questions were kids asking the Storybots for those answers?
This is not all that surprising, I suppose. What is noteworthy, in the worst possible way, is that Trump actively seeks these people out (and they seek him).
This is what “running America like a business,” Trump style looks like.
Cue the wailing and gnashing of Brooks and the other pearl clutchers. How dare we say such things in public?
Where was this guy when W and Alberto Gonzalez were paving the way for torture to become the law of the land? hmmm?
FWIW, I’m glad he’s calling for impeachment, but he needs to call out his fellow Republican’s by name or it will end the same way the last Senate impeachment trial ended. BY NAME. GET OUT ON THE STREET AND START MARCHING YOURSELF. You know, like millions of women did the day after the inauguration. We’ve been at it for almost 3 years. This is NOT Pelosi’s or the Dem’s problem to fix. Cast out the mote from your own eye dammit.
I think Barr really believes that secular liberalism is a mortal threat to social stability. Insofar as he and people like him (Dennis Praeger for example) have such a narrow view of social stability they may be right. So for Barr, Trump is a means to an end- packing the courts with radical conservatives. Once a Democrat takes over the presidency Barr will be singing a different tune about executive power. And in a couple years if you ask him or a Republican senators about Trump, they’ll tell you, “well, I hardly even knew the guy.”
So we have 1100 FORMER DOJers calling for Barr’s resignation. Reminds me of the FORMER Mexican presidents who called for legalizing pot.
these are people whose names are chronically misspelled on BJ. I just added Donald Ayer (not Ayers) to the list
ETA: Should have included AMY KLOBUCHAR
I always thought it was some kind of wacky holiday. Groundhog Day and Opus Day.
I also hear that opus is tasty. Or is that opossum?
Jen Rubin on Barr, Cotton, Cruz.
BC in Illinois
From @Publius, on Twitter:
@bemused: Two words:
Boys Club. See Kavanaugh, Brett.
This is also a good piece by George Conway in WaPo. It’s very reminiscent of the Putin playbook.
They’re establishmentarians. They see Trump’s big problem as being an icky outsider who doesn’t know How Things Are Done In Washington. What he really needed was to surround himself with members in good standing of The Establishment who would steer him away from his worst impulses. Barr, as a member of the Bush Sr Administration, was a member in good standing of The Establishment and thus was just what the Trump Administration needed to start behaving more normally.
@Roger Moore: Bingo. It would be one thing if it were just Republicans who believed that absurd fantasy, but more than a few legal analysts / politicians who are NOT Republicans fell for it.
If any Republican believed that, they gave up on that early.
Trump is a walking sack of worst impulses. He has consistently shrugged off any attempts to be reined in. And now, the GOP furiously denies that they have any problem with this.
And his base don’t care. They just want to be told that Trump will give them everything they ever wanted.
And most strange of all, you now have some Democrats wailing for their own Big Daddy, in the form of Mike Bloomberg.
You’re comparing apples and oranges. Some Democrats want anyone who can stomp Trump. I don’t know too many Democrats who think that Bloomberg “will give them everything they ever wanted” beyond defeating Trump. That would be enough.
There is an enormous amount of wishful thinking surrounding Trump. People who are not hard core Republicans simply do not want to believe he is as bad as he is. Even more, they don’t want to believe that he is just a symptom of an underlying disease in Republicanism in general. The kind of people who were burying their heads in the sand about who Trump is and how he’s related to the rest of the Republican Party are the kinds of people who have constantly talked up the ability of anyone around him to rein him in. They desperately want and need to believe that there are grownups in the room who are going to save them.
ETA: Obviously, this isn’t meant to say there aren’t plenty of people out there who understand how bad Trump is, just that there’s a big group that continues to bury its head in the sand.
Adam L Silverman
@zhena gogolia: Just because people keep spelling your nym as Xena Ganglia doesn’t mean you need to be so pesky about proper spelling.
Adam L Silverman
@BC in Illinois: Apparently the common thread is we misspell their names here at Balloon Juice.
You’re not wrong, but there’s a bigger priority for them.
@Adam L Silverman:
Subaru Diane agrees.
I’m not so sure about that. An actually intelligent, non-pretend billionaire who is all for oligarchy but is better at masking his intentions may be worse in the long run than Donald Trump.
I’ll fight as hard as I can to make sure it doesn’t come to this. If it’s Bloomberg versus Trump in the end, I’ll say a prayer for the US. We’ll need it.
Seconded and well-put. I for one, would like to hear a Democratic nominee talk, e.g., about appointing SCOTUS justices and other federal judges who won’t just hold the line on progressive priorities, but don’t come exclusively from the Ivies.
@Adam L Silverman: I saw a thread the other day where someone used “reign” incorrectly (instead of “rein”) and no one corrected that person! When I got to the end of the thread, I almost fell outta my chair with astonishment! (No, I’m not going to say which thread it was, pedantubbies — comb each and every one with a fine-toothed comb, ya compulsive busybodies! Hahahaha!)
Adam L Silverman
@Betty Cracker: Things are starting to slip around here. I warned Cole and Watergirl that the rebuild would lead to bad things happening. But no one ever listens to me…//
@Betty Cracker: that one might have been autocorrect, if for whatever reason they talk about royalty more than horses.
RE: And his base don’t care. They just want to be told that Trump will
give them everything they ever wantedpwn the libz.
I keep seeing some people write this, about “pwning the libz, ” and it makes no sense to me. People are hurt by Trump’s policies. And democracy itself is eroded.
And some Trump supporters are actually on record as saying that they expect Trump to hurt the people they want hurt.
These people believe stupid shit. The evangelicals are convinced that recognizing and respecting women’s choice, or transgender people hurts the nation. Fuck, these people believe that America has gone down the toilet since school prayer was found to be unconstitutional. And they hate immigrants and non-white people and want them excluded or put “in their place.”
They want anyone who opposes their vision purged. And the see Trump as giving them what they want.
This “pwn” stuff sounds like there are people who lead very comfortable lives, and will continue to lead very comfortable lives whether Trump or someone else is president, for whom politics is just a game. The only thing these people worry about are losing points on some imaginary game board. At best, they have sympathy for people getting fucked over, but at the end of the day, they could just shut their eyes to this misery and move on.
Of course, the thing is, about real honest-to-goodness authoritarians, is that ultimately they come for anyone who opposes them, and often also come for people they don’t like. And then a lot of the people who think it is all just a game, and that they are immune, find that they can lose all they have as well as the official targets of the regime.
Should have included AMY KLOBUCHAR
And Kamala Harris
I believe that the late, unlamented Antonin Scalia wore a cilice at least some of the time.
Almost two years ago, I was for pedantry by a jackal, and ever since I have tried to restrain myself.
But solecisms bother me.
It’s like they don’t even understand that Boo-nee is the one who will give us everything we want.
@Brachiator: The key part of “owning the libs” is that each and every step is supposed to be simple, and not hurt many people, and, *usually* be hidden.
For example: work requirements for “able bodied” people on Medicaid isn’t likely to hurt many Trump voters too directly; the harm is statistical, the policy cruel, and it takes more than a soundbite to explain. That’s *perfect* for “owning the libs” because they will fight for the disadvantaged.
Note that this also sets the news cycle – GOP proposes “Medicaid reforms” (not described as cuts because that would be *partisan*), and Democrats have to explain what’s wrong in “boring” terms.
You know, boring like the impeachment trial, where “facts” and “reasoning” and “chains of evidence” were expected to be *exciting* – not compelling evidence, but good TV!
Fighting against work requirements *sounds* like “the elitists re saying they gotta spend *your* money on *lazy* people who *can, but won’t, work!* And LISTEN to their BORING justification, blah blah blah, loss of coverage, eligibility, you know what they *REALLY* want!”
I bet a great many Republicans don’t have a *conscious* desire to own the libs, but the news cycle is set up in a way to create a desire to support those policies anyway.
A reprinted article from the early ’90s. Horrifying to read:
OK, I looked and found it, took a minute. :-) I recall letting it slide at the time. A google search with the right quoted search term and window finds it too.
BTW google is slacking a bit on reindexing comment threads; I think google can be asked to reindex a site and probably should be once a day or week.
Barr believes abominable things but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Barr believes in the unlimited Chief Exec only when that president is a Republican. When it’s a Democrat it is Barr’s deeply felt opinion that the West Wing janitor has more authority.
@germy: Yes! A quote from the article “ I don’t see what is so ‘refreshingly candid’ (per Chairman Biden) about wearing a three piece suit over a brown shirt “. Boy, am I going to use (appropriate variant) of that! It’s hard to cope with the fact that Congress was saying the same things at Barr’s previous confirmation as this one. WHEN HE TOLD US WHO HE IS !!!
Paul M Gottlieb
Let’s cut the bullshit. Barr has no overarching theory of presidential power that includes any president who is a Democrat. If the Democrat’s capture the White House in 2020, Barr, Kavanaugh, Alito, et al will become fanatically devoted to the theory of Congressional Supremacy. Unless the Democrats control congress, in which case Judicial Supremacy will become God’s eternal law
J R in WV
@Paul M Gottlieb:
Barr is a member of Opus Dei — a pathological Catholic group that believes that we should all bow down to the Pope, and not Francis either — Pope Benedict in all his fascist glory. He wants a theological rule over the whole world, we are just a rich branch of what he wants to rule on behalf of the Pope.
Truly disturbed religious nut jobs, even compared to our home grown Theoligical Nut Jobs like Fallwall and Graham and the Colorado Springs Nut Jobs.