Don't Cry for Bill Barr, America
Plus: Biden at his worst. And his best.
Bill Barr is many things. But “tragic figure” is not one them.
And, although standing up to TFG’s delusional election lies took a modicum of sanity, it requires a substantial lowering of the bar to call it heroic.
Still, we are reminded again of how we have (so far) dodged a bullet.
Jonathan Karl writes: “Barr has been widely seen as a Trump lackey who politicized the Justice Department. But when the big moment came after the election, he defied the president who expected him to do his bidding.”
Barr wasn’t willing to go along with the Big Lie and was willing to say so publicly.
“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr told me. “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.” …
“We realized from the beginning it was just bullshit,” Barr told me, noting that even if the machines somehow changed the count, it would show up when they were recounted by hand. “It’s a counting machine, and they save everything that was counted. So you just reconcile the two. There had been no discrepancy reported anywhere, and I’m still not aware of any discrepancy.”
That was good and necessary, but not sufficient to launder Barr’s reputation.
Recognizing that the Jenna Ellis/Rudy Giuliani/My Pillow Guy conspiracy theories were a shit show in a clown car was the bare minimum level of responsibility we should expect from an attorney general.
And then there is all the rest.
As Elie Honig notes, “Barr tells tales of denying the big lie *after* the election, but he omits that he aggressively promoted that lie in the crucial months *before* the election.”
You might remember this:
As David Frum notes:
There is, however, a lesson here. For Barr, as with Mike Pence, there was a line that even the most devoted toadies were not willing to cross.
On one level, that’s hopeful, on another, it is hard not to be cynical about the amount of denial, delusion, and self loathing that went into their performative sycophancy.
They knew what they were getting; they knew what they were doing; they knew who Trump was. And yet they worked to empower him until they couldn’t anymore.
Barr’s break with Trump also throws into high relief the continuing refusal of so many in the GOP to push back against the Big Lie — especially those who initially showed a willingness to break with Trump, but who are now scurrying back into his favor. (We see you, Nikki.)
It’s also worth reflecting on this: Despite the credibility that Barr had built up as a Trump loyalist, his open and forceful rejection of the lies about the election seems to have little or no impact on opinion in the MAGAverse.
Trump is the alpha and omega in that cult, and loyalty has to be absolute.
So, Barr’s refusal to buy the delusion means that he has been cast into outer darkness:
"Bill Barr was a disappointment in every sense of the word," Trump said in a statement issued late Sunday. "Besides which, Barr, who was Attorney General (lawyer) shouldn't be speaking about the President."
"Instead of doing his job, he did the opposite and told people within the Justice Department not to investigate the election," Trump continued. "Just like he did with the Mueller report and the cover up of Crooked Hillary and RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA, they don’t want to investigate the real facts. Bill Barr’s weakness helped facilitate the cover up of the Crime of the Century, the Rigged 2020 Presidential Election!"
Shed no tears for Barr. As Trump himself might say, “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”
Biden’s wild infrastructure ride.
The White House spent the weekend in furious damage control. "Scrambling was about 11 out of 10 and, actually, gaslighting was initially at least 11 or 12 out of 10," Axios’s Jonathan Swan said.
"It is, we should acknowledge, astonishing to basically present this deal as nirvana, the greatest deal that’s ever been struck, essential for the American people," he said. "And then in this sort of very short period of time say, ‘But I’m not going to sign it unless it simultaneously arrives on my desk with this other separate bill for social spending.’"
By now, you know the story. Biden announced the Big Deal last Thursday. And then nearly blew the whole thing up. Via the NYT:
But in a stray comment during a news conference an hour later, the president blurted out that he would not approve the compromise bill without the partisan one.
“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” he said, answering a question about the timing of his legislative agenda. “I’m not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest.”
It may not seem like much, but it was enough to upend Mr. Biden’s proud bipartisan moment.
That set off the scramble that led to the back-track:
The drama does not appear to have sunk the deal, but Mr. Biden admitted that his comments on Thursday left “the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to.”
That was “certainly not my intent,” he added.
Well, oof. Let’s be blunt here: This was a blunder that could have derailed a presidency.
By the end of the weekend, after Biden worked the phones, soothed doubts, and recanted his veto threat, the deal looked like it might be back on track.
As bad as Biden’s initial gaffe was, his recovery is also notable: Not every president could have put this back together. The secret sauce of his presidency is the trust and credibility that he’s built up with his former colleagues.
So, while we saw Biden at his worst, we also got a glimpse of him at his potential best. (A reminder: So. Much. Can. Still. Go Wrong.)
Are we going to have to keep doing this? (Apparently.)
The Democrat House judiciary committee chairman Jerold Nadler opened questioning on Wednesday by asking Mr. Mueller whether Donald Trump had been accurate to claim he was "exonerated" by the special counsel report, to which Mr Muller replied with an emphatic "No".
There’s also this: AP FACT CHECK: Trump falsely claims Mueller exonerated him
And, of course the test of the actual Mueller Report, which repeated THREE TIMES that it does not exonerate him..
The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
1. How the Arizona Cyber Ninjas Audit Happened—In One Easy Step!
Make sure you read Amanda Carpenter in today’s Bulwark.
Whatever they write in the report doesn’t really matter.
This audit has been a success in continuing to cast doubt on the election. It showed how a few motivated actors can throw the political system into chaos for months after an election is concluded. And, bonus, it has provided loads of #content for the MAGA media and its various anti-anti-Trump sympathizers. More movies are probably on the way for your viewing pleasure.
Until someone, whether at the Department of Justice or elsewhere, definitely demonstrates otherwise, Karen Fann has shown there’s a new way for elected officials upset with the outcome of an election to delegitimize its results.
2. GOP Tries to Drag the Military into the Culture War
Shay Khatiri writes in this morning’s Bulwark:
The GOP’s effort to drag the military into its culture-war politics endangers national security. The military needs the continuing support of the American people to receive the funding necessary to meet the level of threat our adversaries pose. The military needs American volunteers, especially at a time when the force is struggling with recruitment. And the military needs to remain free from partisan fights so, when struggling during a war, politicians will attempt to diagnose the real problems keeping America from winning rather than complaining about how critical race theory is why success is not arriving.
If the Pentagon’s civilian leadership is introducing inappropriate diversity policies, or if our officer corps is being indoctrinated in inappropriate ideological views about race and racism, the correct way to investigate and address those problems is via sober, serious congressional oversight. For right-wing TV hosts, grandstanding politicians, and an ex-president to bash the military to score cheap political points degrades our political discourse and risks harming an institution we esteem and need. And by extension, it harms America’s security.
3. Christian America’s Must-See TV Show
Chris DeVille in the Atlantic:
Have you heard about the hit Jesus TV show? The one that launched with a more than $10 million crowdfunding drive? And that streams for free from its own app, where the view counter has surpassed 194 million as of this writing? And that is honestly much better than I expected?
By the standards of independent media, The Chosen is a success. On Easter Sunday, 750,000 people tuned in to live-stream the Season 2 premiere; for comparison, the first episode of HBO’s Mare of Easttown attracted 1 million viewers that same month. Yet The Chosen—which presents the life of Jesus Christ and his disciples as a multi-season drama with imaginative character backstories and interpersonal conflicts—has been a largely underground phenomenon. Until its appearance on NBC’s Peacock earlier this year, The Chosen wasn’t on a major cable network or TV streaming service. Most mainstream publications have not reviewed it, though there have been scattered reports about its crowdfunding drive (the largest ever for a media project). You could pay close attention to the television industry and not know The Chosen exists. That’s because the show’s success so far has arrived not in spite of its insularity, but because of it.