Only one of two Attorney Generals to serve multiple times, William Barr looks back on his long legal and government service career in One Damn Thing After Another.
The title of the book should be, William Barr: A Privileged, Trump Apologist. I have read a number of Trump-era looks; some good, some bad. Barr’s book is disappointing. Rather, the man is disappointing.
In the months following his resignation, Barr provided a few comments distancing himself from Trump, January 6th, and “the big steal” nonsense. Perhaps those comments were face-saving efforts. After plowing through the 565 pages of Barr’s book, it seems to me that Barr was just being crafty and looking several steps into the future.
Interesting, within the first thirty pages, as he recounts his undergraduate years at Columbia University, Barr is already deep in his conservative politics. I realize Barr is looking back, through a political lens polished from more than 50 years of Republican work, but he clearly labels and casts judgment on those from the late 1960s. Are these his views from then, or through the lens of time? No matter, really. Barr is hugely judgmental. My takeaway: If you don’t think like him, you are not only wrong, you are a radical and you are not guided by logic and reason. Barr is a smart guy, that’s what perplexes me. I have no doubt that he has peripheral vision, but he seems to operate with only a narrow field of tolerance. His ideology is highly restricted, like a conservative laser vision.
In 1968, Barr seemed to see anti-war protestors in the same light as those protesting the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of law enforcement. In his eyes, legitimate protests were quickly highjacked by the Marxist Far Left intent on overthrowing by violence. At that point, any civil dissent, according to Barr, are lumped in with any violent actions. I guess this would include suburban housewives, senior citizens or those standing legally and peacefully on sidewalks.
Interestingly, Barr seems to believe that Trump was unfairly painted as a racist by the media and Far Left, and few took Trump seriously when he was repulsed by the George Floyd and Eric Garner deaths. Barr must have forgotten the flow of racial remarks and actions attributed to Trump as President and before.
Barr began his career at the CIA. Apparently, his time earning a degree at Columbia, where protests over Vietnam and other issues, soured Barr on dissent with began his views on progressive thought a foreshadowing of doom.
“The people I met at Langley were professionals who took their duties
seriously, unlike some of the affuent white radicals at Columbia, they were grateful to be there,” Barr writes. “They welcomed inquiry and debate.”
Barr looking back is pretty full of himself. He recounts a Congressional hearing with the CIA direct George H.W. Bush, who asked for the law student’s advice on answering a question. “I thought to myself, Here I am, twenty-six and advising the director of the CIA on his testimony before Congress. The only thing more surprising to me was that he took the advice.” Indeed.
Barr’s definition of the Attorney General is to advise the President and Executive Branch on legal matters. I apparently missed the part about upholding the Constitution being the chief law enforcement official in the federal government. The Attorney General advises the institution of the President; although while the President appoints the Attorney General, the Attorney General is not the President’s attorney, and is sworn to uphold the Constitution, laws and professional ethics. The Attorney General also leads the Justice Department which includes the FBI and several other law enforcement agencies, with more than 113,000 employees. The Attorney General, in my view, provides counsel to the President, but works for the United States.
Barr covers impeachment, the Mueller investigation and the Ukraine telephone call. Barr rarely finds fault with Trump, and when he does, it is a gentle slap on the wrist. For example, Trump’s “perfect phone call” trying to hold up Ukraine President Zelensky for dirt on Biden, Barr chalks it up to normal diplomacy.
Barr picks several issues, devoting a chapter to each, where he can unfurl his views in more detail: Big technology companies, assault on civil liberties, voter fraud, religious freedom, and so on.
I found this interesting:
“Come to think of it, the press presents every Republican White House as disorganized and fractured and every Democratic one as a well-oiled machine. But in light of all I’ve seen and experienced there since, the Reagan White House was the model of organization.”
That comment is representative of Barr’s entire book. Barr is not a pragmatist, he is forever a loyalist. Reader beware.