The Barr is Closed
And so, Attorney General William Barr backtracked a bit from his outrageous and wildly-vilified statement about spying by U.S. intelligence services on the Trump campaign, now trying to say that, no, he wasn't saying that anything illegal was done, just that things should be looked into.
I don't buy his clarification. That's because this is the second time in weeks that he's done this, and it's not only insidious, but also he's a smart man and knows what he's doing.
The first time was when he wrote his summary of the Mueller Report and largely let Trump off the hook, saying that he was exonerated of his deeds, only later after the outrage backtracking by "clarifying" that he wasn't making a summary of the Mueller Report, it was just a letter with his own observations about the report.
And in both instances, not only were the "clarifications" minimal -- though important -- but the damage was already done. In the first case, Trump immediately went on his "Victory Tour" claiming total vindication and setting that as the standard for his base to use. In the second, Trump immediately claimed that his earlier charges of a "witch hunt" were vindicated and that he was glad to see the Attorney General talk about an investigation -- once again allowing his base to again raise the mantel of conspiracies.
And so, the subsequent Barr "clarifications" were close to lost in the morass. Which I'm sure was the intent. Those those "clarifications" were minor, if he had made both those statements in the first place, even the slight difference would have removed any opportunity for Trump to send out marching orders to his base.
I'm not saying that everything Barr did was specifically planned, that he knew there would be outrage and he could count on that to help obfuscate the issue. But I do think that he absolutely knew his initial comments were exactly what Trump wanted to hear and could use, and Barr probably hoped his position of authority would be accepted. But when the widespread reaction from people he himself respected was so livid at how irresponsible and dangerous his comments were, in both instances, he felt obligated to dial them back a bit. But comfortable nonetheless that he'd accomplished what he set out to do.
Which is why I don't buy his "clarifications" Because they are secondary to the acts he intentionally committed, because they are merely part of protecting his own tarnished reputation, not intended to have any political impact. The political impact was already accomplished.
Happily, the reaction to both statements in the legal community and even much of the political arena (even to a slight degree on both sides) was so profound that it did tarnish Barr's reputation, and any words from his pie hole at this point will be met with utter reticence and the kind of scorn reserved for an irresponsible political hack.
And to any who say they are surprised now by Barr, who they thought at least honored the rule of law, I say you were only fooling yourself, because this was a man who helped bury damning evidence of crimes by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in the Iran-Contra Scandal. He did it before, and then he wrote a 19-page job application decrying the Special Counsel's investigation. Why on earth was anyone surprised?? Other than blind wishful thinking and unprovoked sunny optimism.
"But he'd been Attorney General before...", people try to suggest, dearly hoping that will give them cover. Yes, he had been Attorney General before -- and look what he did when he was!!! He -- did -- the -- same -- thing -- that -- he's -- doing -- now. ANNNNDDD, on top of that, he then wrote a 19-page treatise telling us he'd do it again.
Color me shocked...
And so...no, I really don't buy his "clarifications." Any of them. And when it happens in the future, all of them.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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