The UnWise Men Who Need Correction

In trying to digest the events of the past week — with the Supreme Court in particular — I somehow found myself thinking about Bill Barr. Barr, one might have thought, had learned a lesson about giving one man too much power. After the Trump Administration was over, Barr was widely quoted as saying that Trump was a terrible human being who shouldn’t be allowed near the Oval Office. But now he’s endorsed Trump again.

This was at CNN:

“I think that Biden is unfit for office,” Barr said on “The Source” in a wide-ranging interview. “I think Trump would do less damage than Biden, and I think all this stuff about a threat to democracy – I think the real threat to democracy is the progressive movement and the Biden administration.”

Collins pressed Barr – who has been highly critical of his former boss – “Just to be clear, you’re voting for someone who you believe tried to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, that can’t even achieve his own policies, that lied about the election even after his attorney general told him that the election wasn’t stolen … you’re going to vote for someone who is facing 88 criminal counts?”

Barr began, “Look, the 88 criminal counts, a lot of those are-“

“Even if ten of them are accurate?” Collins interjected.

“The answer to the question is yes,” Barr countered. “I’m supporting the Republican ticket,” he said.

Pressed further on whether he would vote for Trump specifically, Barr said, “Between Biden and Trump, I will vote for Trump because I believe he will do less damage over the four years.”

Barr went on to describe the difference between both parties in stark terms, insisting that the “the threat to freedom and democracy has always been on the left.”

“I think the real threat to democracy is the progressive movement and the Biden administration,” he said.

Let us speak plainly: This is irrational. First, Joe Biden himself for years stayed within the lines of what was acceptably not radical in Washington, however arbitratily those lines were drawn. As POTUS he has leaned more toward his party’s New Deal heritage than he did as senator, but he hasn’t proposed anything unparalleled in American history that I’ve noticed. And even the feared and much ridiculed Squad of the House hasn’t proposed anythng I can think of that puts a gun to the head of American democracy. Not even close.

One can’t say the same for Trump, can one?

I found a story from 2000 that says Barr called the states’ coronavirus restrictions the greatest civil liberties violation in the nation’s history since slavery. This tells me Barr has no concept of what oppression is. To this day I don’t get the hysteria over mask wearing. I can understand people being peeved by store, church, and office closings, but the greatest civil liberties violations since slavery? There was a bleeping deadly pandemic, people. And everyone was subject to the rules. They weren’t just applied to white male pickup truck owners named Bubba. As I kept writing in 2000, in U.S. history there have been similar restrictions applied at local levels many times during epidemics, even if there aren’t many people old enough to remember them.

The conservatives on the current Supreme Court have often expressed concern about executive overreach. Such overreach in their minds includes environmental regulations and student loan forgiveness. But trying to overturn an election is, apparently, just what you do on any given Wednesday. And it’s interesting to me that the right-wing justices wouldn’t listen to the details. This was true in both the abortion and the immunity hearings this week.

Kate Riga wrote at TPM this week that during the Idaho abortion law hearing, the court’s conservatives relentlessly tried to steer the discussion away from real-world examples as the three liberal women on the court kept bringing them up.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor flipped through her notes and told the story of a woman in Florida. 

The woman had experienced a gush of liquid in her second trimester and went to the emergency room.

“The doctors believe that a medical intervention to terminate her pregnancy is needed to reduce the real medical possibility of experiencing sepsis and uncontrolled hemorrhage from the broken sac,” Sotomayor said. “This is the story of a real woman — she was discharged in Florida.” 

Not under imminent threat of death, the woman went home, Sotomayor said. The next day, she started bleeding and passed out. She was brought back to the emergency room where she’d been turned away. 

“There she received an abortion because she was about to die,” she said. 

Sotomayor and Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar peppered the arguments with similar, real anecdotes, leaving the conservatives to squirm and sigh with palpable and growing anger

The conservatives were angry. Where was that anger coming from, and to whom was it directed? Idaho medical personnel kept testifying that these days they often helicoptered women out of state for treatment to save their lives, because of the ambiguity of the Idaho law. That would make me angry too, but clearly the anger of the conservatives was coming from somewhere else.

The Court’s conservative wing tried with increasing and atextual persistence to convince listeners that Idaho’s strict ban still allows emergency room doctors to provide abortions to women in varying states of medical distress, and not just when doctors are sure the patient is facing death. They crafted a kind of anti-abortion fantasyland where not only do exceptions work, but that the narrowest ones will amenably stretch to cover all the sympathetic cases. 

They pushed this vision, even while hospital systems in Idaho attest that they are airlifting pregnant women in crisis across state lines, or waiting for them to painfully “deteriorate” before treatment, cowed by the fact that prosecutors could come after them with punishments including mandatory prison time for violating the state ban. 

Clearly, the conservatives have made up their minds that laws such as the Idaho abortion ban must be fair and just, and if those laws are not working it somehow must be the fault of those pesky women and their messy pregnancies. And don’t bother us with the details. You are disrespecting our superior wisdom with the details.

Likewise, in the immunity hearing the conservative justices refused to consider the narrow question in front of them and instead went off on lah-dee-dah discussions of ridiculous hypotheticals. So, sure, in some contexts having a political opponent assasinated or staging a coup to keep yourself in power past your expiration date could be part of a president’s official duties. Seems perfectly reasonable. 

Indeed, Sam Alito actually proposed that a broad immunity might make it more likely that a president at the end of his term would peacefully step aside and not try to stage a coup.

So the same conservative justices who call themselves “originalists” and “textualists” seem poised to create new law unrelated to the Constitution based on their ideas of what’s good for the country. Right.

And what makes it all even more astonishing is that all of this consideration is being given to Donald Trump. It would be one thing if the person being benefited by the court’s concern were some kind of political mastermind, or at least someone with inspiring leadership skills. But it isn’t. It’s Trump. He is nothing but bile and ignorance. He’s a cartoon. This is the guy that all those powerful and allegedly smart men — and it’s mostly men — are trashing their institutions and reputations and principles to defend.

And they seem determined to do this because the alternative is to turn the nation over to … progressives? The real danger to the country? History tells us that the real danger to the U.S. is nearly always from the Right, not the Left, sorry. See Rachel Maddow, Prequel. The plantation owners who gave us the Confederacy were hardly progressive. Nor was the Ku Klux Klan. Any disruptions from left wingers pales in comparision to the real world historical examples.

Does it really come down to privileged White men who can’t stand to have their authority questioned? Even by reality? Because that’s what it looks like.

21 thoughts on “The UnWise Men Who Need Correction

  1. “Does it really come down to privileged White men who can’t stand to have their authority questioned?”

    If it quacks like a duck . . .

  2. ..And they seem determined to do this because the alternative is to turn the nation over to … progressives? The real danger to the country? History tells us that the real danger to the U.S. is nearly always from the Right, not the Left

    Some people are so partisan, they could never agree with this^. And they'll vote for Trump, even knowing what he is. They're deeply conditioned, and beyond the reach of anybody but a skilled deprogrammer.

    Sotomayor and Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar peppered the arguments with similar, real anecdotes, leaving the conservatives to squirm and sigh with palpable and growing anger.

    That's what's fascinating to me: when you ask/push conservatives to show empathy to someone not in their circle. They get even more extreme than this polite display^ in the Supreme Court's chamber.

    This is especially true when the conservative in question is a self-professed Christian. Marjorie Taylor Greene in particular has a ready throw-it-back-in-your-face response when you press her on her social justice hypocrisy. She dishes it out so fast that she can get away with it, but someone skilled with this could absolutely pin her and her phony neck cross to the wall. These people refuse to open their hearts, is the bottom line, and the wacky rationalizations they come up with reveal their immense and deeply conditioned resistance.

  3. "Does it really come down to privileged White men who can’t stand to have their authority questioned?"

    That's exactly what it is. They are people who cannot tolerate having their "position" challenged or questioned because they feel they have "earned" a position of authority by doing whatever it took to get into the position.  And they believe that the position itself gives them the "authority" that they think they have. Once in the position, whatever they think, that has authority.  Lazy.  You don't have to work to prove the value of what you think.

    This is related to the very old social constructs under which one of the most embarrassing things for a man was to have other men perceive that his wife was "wearing the pants" in the family. It was dominant in society through the middle of the 20th century, and still has a huge tail.  Wish we could shed this baloney faster than it's going. 

  4. Biden being faithful to the New Deal is likely why Barr would never consider him fit for office.  Barr is probably from that cadre of conservatives who believed the New Deal was the death of American Freedom©.

    I once worked for a man who was high up in, maybe even chair of, the Texas Republican party.  I pulled out my keys as he and I were going to my office (in a business he owned in Colorado), when some change fell out of my pocket, one of which was a dime.  He picked up the dime and handed it back to me saying "this is the only American money with a picture of an American destroyer on it".  I looked at it with some confusion until he pointed to the image of FDR and said "an American destroyer".

    He was dead serious, a huge fan and supporter of Reagan, a nasty racist and misogynist and someone who, like trump, inherited the family business and could barely keep it afloat.  Also incredibly thin-skinned and controlling.  I hated working for the guy but fortunately only saw him rarely.  But I was glad when I left that job.

    The rot in today's Republican Party, as illustrated by Barr, has been festering for many years.   This was back in the early 80s.  Getting completely rid of the New Deal has been an unspoken but motivating issue for them for many decades.

  5. I keep thinking back on something tRump casually expelled from his facial anus some years ago when complaining about immigrants coming from as he put it "shithole" countries, he wondered why we don't get immigrants from places like Norway.  The answer, which if anybody ever bothered to factually present to the incurious moron was probably just brushed aside or ignored since it didn't fit the preferred narrative, is directly related to their mindset that lefty-liberal progressive policies and legislation are the biggest threat to America.  Back in the late 1800's when Norway had an abundance of desperately poor people, many did come here, they were a major segment of US immigration then I believe.  Today Norway is recognized as one of the world's most progressive and prosperous democracies.  They still have a king head of state but government is run by the prime minister and elected parliament, a constitutional monarchy I think it would be called.  Universal healthcare, free education all the way through college, social security, protected rights for women, minorities, and LGBTQ, abortion on demand within first 12 weeks of gestation – subject to review and approval after that period, governmental controlling interest in major industries, relatively strict gun laws – all those things that shock and horrify the American Right, and so much of which would have been a natural evolution of the New Deal.  Norway is considered to have a low crime rate and consistently ranks high in the "Happiest Countries" scale.  The over-riding concern of Bill Barr and his ilk is to protect us all from such a hellscape, I wonder – do they have a plan to liberate Norway?  I bet Putin does.

  6. Bill Barr's position(s) [as stated in the OP] aren't "irrational", they are dishonest and evil.  He doesn't care about "Democracy" or "Justice"; he cares about what he's paid to care about: the profits of GOP donors.  And the biggest threat to that is indeed Progressive – or New Deal – Democrats.

    This isn't about "privilege" or "whiteness", it's about MONEY.  (though of course, money *does* buy privilege).

  7. That Bill Barr says he will vote the Republican ticket, proves to you he is not arguing in good faith.

    No Republican can argue in good faith right now, because no Republican will admit that Biden is doing a fine job, with no harm to any truly "conservative" cause. That is what Newt Gingrich changed in the 90s. (I used to ask how someone could take a nickname like "Newt". Then I learned his first name was "Newton." Better a lizard than a cookie.)

    I mean, hell, it takes bad faith to argue against the MAL documents indictment, and say it was partisan, because we know Trump had documents he had no right to have, and the FBI themselves showed us, and found documents they shouldn't even know existed, because the documents were *that* secret, and Trump didn't supply them after being subpoenaed for them. I mean, fluff Trump all you want, but, it wasn't lawful for him to have them, nor to fail to search for them, nor to continue to hold them after the courts ordered him to produce them, requiring an FBI raid to retrieve them.

    But we're not talking about that, because you can't both-sides it. Or, rather, you *can*, but not in the "proper" way… which should be a big, flashing, red warning sign that there's something wrong with the "proper" way.


  8. "Freedom and democracy" doesn't mean to them what it means to us.  They want the freedom to exercise their privilege in whatever ways suits them, and not be accountable, legally or socially.  "Democracy" is only to be exercised by those who think (and look) like them, who will vote for "the right things." The America they would like to go back to, would be "destroyed" if "progressive" policies continued under Biden.  If Trump wins, they will work with the right wing politicians on the SC to destroy the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act.  They will destroy though “privatization” social security, Medicare, and every “entitlement” to give that money to the billionaires they truly represent, to play with. With an eye towards that future, the SC is already laying the groundwork for the presidency to be exclusively occupied by GOP autocrats, with the power of immunity to keep themselves in office even after their terms are up.  Give them more time to cement their power and stave off the coming to power of the new, browner majority.  

    They know that if left to its own devices, true freedom and democracy will lead to this country being run by a majority that doesn't look or think like them.  Their wake up call, if you will, was Obama; in his presidency they saw the future and it scared the shit out of them.  

  9. Suppose Trump was not running for POTUS again. Would I still support the criminal charges against Trump? Or to put it baldly, would I, as a Democrat, use the legal system as a cudgel to take out a political opponent. I phrase this as "I" because I can't speak for others. (Y'all jump in if you want.) 

    My answer: This has nothing to do with taking Trump out of contention in 2024. If the voters knew the truth, they would do that.

    Capt. Picard:
    Your honor, a courtroom is a crucible. In it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product – the truth, for all time.

    Trump should be prosecuted for crimes he committed to undermine the 2016 election.    He should be prosecuted for crimes to overthrow the results of the 2020 election. Even if he was not running, and there was no prospect of Trump ever participating in US elections ever again. Not because I detest Trump (and I admit I do.) but because the US committed a grievous error by not prosecuting Nixon.

    Abusing the power of the presidency to persecute individuals (Nixon's enemies list was not just a list of people out of favor – it was a hit list distributed to the FBI and the IRS.) Because Nixon was not tried, the question of criminal accountability for the president has been open. Trump has, unfortunately, provided the justice system with cause to reverse the error of letting Nixon just resign and slink away. By sending Trump to jail, we will close that question for all time in the US of whether a retired president is answerable for crimes against the country.

    • Agree. The only political aspect of this is the fact that
      a) the defendant is a current and former politician (his choice, his actions)
      b) the defendant is trying to use the political realm to save his sorry *ss
      But in the proceedings in the courtroom, it will only be about the law, the evidence and the facts.  Politics will not have a bearing on the outcome. At least that's how it will work unless there's a stealth juror bent on hanging the jury.  

  10. It was Obama.

    Equality is fine until the  white boys have to share room in the club with those others: browns blacks women muslims hindus….(who wants to compete?)

    The root is whites don't want "others" to have money nice things or power.

    That is why Barr will take the rotten fruit over any else

    That is why idaho will kill pregnant women rather than save their lives. Have to demonstrate their control and domination.

    Facts don't matter(in court or out). Control and domination does.

    USA has never had a real left. Just periods when peoples' needs came first for a while before RW took back over.

    • Yep, we had the gall to elect a black man with a foreign-sounding name, twice, and they will never get over it.  "USA has never had a real left" – I could not agree more.

  11. I've read interviews of Bill Barr. He's a Christian nationalist, old school conservative Catholic who believes 1) only Christians should rule, 2) progressivism is not Christian, it's evil, and therefore anything his team does, legal or not, is fine. He's Leonard Leo.

    That's why he thinks progressivism is the great evil, so vote for Trump, even though he's completely aware of what Trump is.

    • Yeah, so reading your comment, I just thought of this:

      It's pretty obvious to non-cultists that "Christian Nationalism" has very little to do with the Christian religion, and in fact runs rather counter to the teachings of Jesus. So if they achieve their vision of taking control of the government, then, over time, how will they determine who is "Christian" and can be part of the club? If it's not based on actual Christian values, then what is it based on?  The only thing I can come up with is the thing I presented a few days ago… Ian Bassin's analysis that the MAGA movement is actually centered on an aversion of a societal organizing principal that has rules that are applied equally to all. They want a system that is lawless in effect, although it could have laws that can be used selectively to oppress those not in the club. I'm sure they would accept henchmen from any religion, and any economic persuasion, as long as they carry out orders. It's nothing more than dog-eat-dog, fascist chaos.

  12. Justice Breyer has written a book recently.  Pragmatism is the judicial philosophy he promotes.  If I got one question for the next SCOTUS nominee, it would be, have you read the book and what is your opinion on having a pragmatic judicial philosophy.

  13. "THEREFORE, Defendant is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment," he wrote.


    Not "may"….. "WILL".


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