Only a few months from a presidential election, at a time when the nation is on edge, a prudent U.S. attorney general would take care to stay above the fray, reassuring all Americans that he or she would bring rigorous impartiality to the conduct of the election and the fair counting of votes.
Instead, we have William P. Barr.
Over the weekend, the attorney general gave a wide-ranging interview to right-wing provocateur Mark Levin in which he attacked Democrats, Black Lives Matter and the media in tones of emotional, almost bizarre partisanship.
Barr described Democrats as power-mad agents of a “revolutionary party that believes in tearing down the system.” “They’re not interested in compromise. They’re not interested in dialectic exchange of views. They’re interested in total victory,” he said. In his telling, President Donald Trump’s olive branches have been slapped away, as “they’ve shredded the norms of our system to do what they can to drive him from office or to debilitate his administration.” He explained that “the left wants power because that is essentially their state of grace and their secular religion.”
How do so many Americans fail to see what Barr sees? The attorney general attacked the “partisan press” for warping the debate. In fact, practically everyone who disagrees with him appears to be slanted in Barr’s eyes: Courts increasingly ignore the rule of law, he argued, but new “Trump judges” will change that.
And what of his boss? “I’ve never seen such energy. He’s always working. He cares about people,” Barr assured us.
Accusing one’s opponents of misdeeds of which your side is more guilty is a classic Trump tactic.
The president’s recent commutation of his longtime friend Roger Stone’s sentence makes a mockery of Barr’s self-righteous sermons on the rule of law. The president’s recent suggestion to move the presidential election reflects an obsession with winning at all costs, the Constitution be damned.
Trump was impeached not because the left is in the grips of a power mania but because the president attempted to extort political favors from a foreign leader. But Barr apparently notices no challenges to constitutional norms from the president.
During the interview, Barr speculated on why Democratic members of Congress would not, in his telling, condemn the burning down of federal courthouses.
“Some of them are essentially revolutionary in their outlook. They believe in tearing down the system,” he explained. “But many of them are just cowards.” These are not the words of someone aspiring to be an attorney general for the nation as a whole.