Sunday, November 17, 2019

William Barr for the Administration

This past Friday evening Attorney General William Barr called out the radical left in a stirring speech to the Federalist Society. Republicans responded gleefully at seeing someone lay out the case against Democratic obstruction with clarity and precision. Democrats responded with calls for Barr’s impeachment. Being brain dead imbeciles they do not know how to do anything else.

For today, I will quote, without very much commentary, important segments from Barr’s speech. In it he reviewed the principles that governed those who wrote the Constitution and critiqued the way they are currently being subverted by the American left.

For instance:

Immediately after President Trump won election, opponents inaugurated what they called “The Resistance,” and they rallied around an explicit strategy of using every tool and maneuver available to sabotage the functioning of his Administration. Now, “resistance” is the language used to describe insurgency against rule imposed by an occupying military power. It obviously connotes that the government is not legitimate. This is a very dangerous – indeed incendiary – notion to import into the politics of a democratic republic. What it means is that, instead of viewing themselves as the “loyal opposition,” as opposing parties have done in the past, they essentially see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government.

As I have often pointed out on this blog, the French Resistance was a disloyal opposition. Too often the Democratic left has taken this point far too literally.

Barr continues that the Senate has been hard at work preventing the president from putting together a functioning government… and has then been criticizing him for not doing so:

A prime example of this is the Senate’s unprecedented abuse of the advice-and-consent process. The Senate is free to exercise that power to reject unqualified nominees, but that power was never intended to allow the Senate to systematically oppose and draw out the approval process for every appointee so as to prevent the President from building a functional government.

Yet that is precisely what the Senate minority has done from his very first days in office. As of September of this year, the Senate had been forced to invoke cloture on 236 Trump nominees — each of those representing its own massive consumption of legislative time meant only to delay an inevitable confirmation. How many times was cloture invoked on nominees during President Obama’s first term? 17 times. The Second President Bush’s first term? Four times. It is reasonable to wonder whether a future President will actually be able to form a functioning administration if his or her party does not hold the Senate.

While the Congress is obstructing and resisting, it cannot do its work of legislation:

Congress has in recent years also largely abdicated its core function of legislating on the most pressing issues facing the national government. They either decline to legislate on major questions or, if they do, punt the most difficult and critical issues by making broad delegations to a modern administrative state that they increasingly seek to insulate from Presidential control. This phenomenon first arose in the wake of the Great Depression, as Congress created a number of so-called “independent agencies” and housed them, at least nominally, in the Executive Branch. More recently, the Dodd-Frank Act’s creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Branch, a single-headed independent agency that functions like a junior varsity President for economic regulation, is just one of many examples.

Of course, Congress’s effective withdrawal from the business of legislating leaves it with a lot of time for other pursuits. And the pursuit of choice, particularly for the opposition party, has been to drown the Executive Branch with “oversight” demands for testimony and documents. I do not deny that Congress has some implied authority to conduct oversight as an incident to its Legislative Power. But the sheer volume of what we see today – the pursuit of scores of parallel “investigations” through an avalanche of subpoenas – is plainly designed to incapacitate the Executive Branch, and indeed is touted as such.

Constant harassment designed to cripple the executive branch.

The costs of this constant harassment are real. For example, we all understand that confidential communications and a private, internal deliberative process are essential for all of our branches of government to properly function. Congress and the Judiciary know this well, as both have taken great pains to shield their own internal communications from public inspection. There is no FOIA for Congress or the Courts. Yet Congress has happily created a regime that allows the public to seek whatever documents it wants from the Executive Branch at the same time that individual congressional committees spend their days trying to publicize the Executive’s internal decisional process. That process cannot function properly if it is public, nor is it productive to have our government devoting enormous resources to squabbling about what becomes public and when, rather than doing the work of the people.

Barr continues to make another salient point. Our radical left, pretending to be progressives, has made politics their religion. They want to remake the world and its people to conform to their ideals.

In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion. Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications. They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.

Conservatives respect tradition. They want above all to get things done:

Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise. We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing. This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard. The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances?

Barr continues to note, sagely, that we should not use the model of judicial decision-making when conducting our lives. Life is not a criminal court. It is not an adversarial process where the goal is to destroy the adversary. If not destroy, at least to incarcerate:

In recent years, we have lost sight of the fact that many critical decisions in life are not amenable to the model of judicial decision-making. They cannot be reduced to tidy evidentiary standards and specific quantums of proof in an adversarial process. They require what we used to call prudential judgment. They are decisions that frequently have to be made promptly, on incomplete and uncertain information and necessarily involve weighing a wide range of competing risks and making predictions about the future. Such decisions frequently call into play the “precautionary principle.” This is the principle that when a decision maker is accountable for discharging a certain obligation – such as protecting the public’s safety – it is better, when assessing imperfect information, to be wrong and safe, than wrong and sorry.

This counts as the first time a member of the Trump administration has responded substantively to the tactics and strategy engaged by the Democratic Party against the duly elected president. It was late in coming, but we welcome it as an important contribution to a political scene that the Democratic Party has turned into a circus.


UbuMaccabee said...

This is the second outstanding speech by Barr. Norte Dame was the first. The elite media and university orcs hate him for it. He will be target #1 because he is everything they fear most: a true constitutionalist with legal power and the knowledge of how to fight the deep state perfidy. This augers well for the two investigations that are about to slam into Washington. I am beginning to suspect that Barr means to fight the swamp. He must understand they intend to fight him right to the end; Barr must be destroyed. I hope this means “black-flag Barr” will fly from the DOJ soon.

It’s us or them time. No survivors. Put them in prison or we make preparations for a crash landing.

We are already in a civil war, we just haven’t started shooting yet.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Barr has courage. As refreshing as it is rare.