Two Loony Bill Barr Speeches Show It Didn't Start With Trump

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images

From Esquire

If this really is Attorney General William Barr’s final go-round as a servant to radical conservative power, and we can only pray god that it is, he’s certainly going out with a bang. In the past two weeks, he’s given two speeches that are so stunningly detached from political reality, and so basically and fundamentally un-American, that they were probably best given from atop a milk crate in Washington Square, and not from respectable rostrums provided by powerful and influential institutions. In short, Barr has become something of a raving maniac.

The first speech came at Notre Dame, a small Catholic university located in the city over which presides Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the current Democratic presidential phenom who would like to build a “bridge” to the Evangelical right. (I’d prefer a moat, filled with sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads, but that’s just me.) Anyway, Barr shook down the echoes in South Bend with a stirring call for outright theocracy.

The central question was whether over the long haul, we the people can handle freedom. The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions...I think we all recognize that over the past 50 years, religion has been under increasing attack. On the one hand, we have seen the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system and a comprehensive effort to drive it from the public square. On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism.

Whoo, doggies!

Among the militant secularists are many so-called progressives. But where is the progress? We were told we are living in a post-Christian era. But what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system? What is it that can fill the spiritual void in the hearts of the individual person? And what is the system of values that can sustain human social life?...One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion pursued with religious fervor. It is taking out all the trappings of religion, including inquisitions and excommunication. Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake: social, educational and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.

This is, of course, coming from the Attorney General of the United States, and a guy who’s spent decades as a Republican power-player and has not, as far as I know, ever been ostracized from anything. Do these people ever stop whining?

"So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion. The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites. The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the state to set itself up as an ersatz husband for the single mother and an ersatz father for the children. The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with this wreckage — and while we think we’re solving problems, we are underwriting them.”

This is, of course, coming from a guy who is dedicating the last great project of his life to the protection of a criminally renegade presidency*, and the most obvious outright heathen ever to sit in the Oval Office. That said, however, it is important to remember that this kind of rhetoric has been central to American conservatism for over 40 years. It didn’t start with Trump (#IDSWT).

As Catholics, we are committed to the Judeo-Christian values that have made this country great, and we know that the first thing we have to do to promote this renewal is to ensure that we are putting our principles into practice in our own personal lives. We cannot have a moral Renaissance unless we succeed in passing to the next generation our faith and values in full vigor. … If ever there was a need for a resurgence of Catholic education, and more generally religiously affiliated schools, it is today.

Did you clear this text with your porn-star-bribing boss, Bill?

Photo credit: - Getty Images

Then, having embarrassed himself on a spiritual level, Barr went before the Federalist Society and embarrassed himself on a secular political level. Go, Bill! Fetch!

The fact of the matter is that in waging a scorched-earth, no-holds-barred war of resistance against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law. ...They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of the collateral consequences and the systemic implications. ... and yet we here them irresponsibly tabling proposals to do away with the electoral college or to pack the courts. Who's shredding Constitutional norms?

Again, two specific points: one, this is being done in defense of the most lawless president* in American history and, two, and much more important, these are theories of government that Barr developed while working for Republican presidents since 1989. They are the theories by which he helped cover up the Iran-Contra scandal. They are the theories that underpinned what Dick Cheney did in making this country a country that tortured, and what he did to lie this country into a catastrophic war. (Barr even cited the Cheney and the “unitary executive” theory in his speech, ridiculing the notion that the unitary executive posed any threat to the balance of power.) In both speeches we see not Trumpism, but modern conservative Republicanism in its clearest and most extreme form.

It didn’t start with this president*. And my money’s on the proposition that, sadly, it won’t end with him, either.

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