Barr’s preview

Over the weekend I posted the entire text and video of Attorney General Barr’s 19th Annual Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture at the Federalist Society’s 2019 National Lawyers Convention in Washington here. Barr gave the speech this past Friday. He obviously has had access to the pending report of Department of Justice Inspector General Horowitz on FISA abuse involving spying on the Trump campaign and related misconduct. He also has access to the progress of the wider review of the Russia hoax conducted under his direction by United States Attorney John Durham (now a criminal investigation). It is hard not to read the following passage from section II.A. of Barr’s speech as a preview of things to come, from which the Democrats’ impeachment theater is designed to distract us:

As I have said, the Framers fully expected intense pulling and hauling between the Congress and the President. Unfortunately, just in the past few years, we have seen these conflicts take on an entirely new character.

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.

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One of the ironies of today is that those who oppose this President constantly accuse this Administration of “shredding” constitutional norms and waging a war on the rule of law. When I ask my friends on the other side, “what exactly are you referring to?,” I get vacuous stares, followed by sputtering about the Travel Ban or some such thing. While the President has certainly thrown out the traditional Beltway playbook, he was upfront about that beforehand, and the people voted for him. What I am talking about today are fundamental constitutional precepts. The fact is that this Administration’s policy initiatives and proposed rules, including the Travel Ban, have transgressed neither constitutional, nor traditional, norms, and have been amply supported by the law and patiently litigated through the Court system to vindication.

Indeed, measures undertaken by this Administration seem a bit tame when compared to some of the unprecedented steps taken by the Obama Administration’s aggressive exercises of Executive power – such as, under its DACA program, refusing to enforce broad swathes of immigration law.

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 the undermining of the rule of law. This highlights a basic disadvantage that conservatives have always had in contesting the political issues of the day. It was adverted to by the old, curmudgeonly Federalist, Fisher Ames, in an essay during the early years of the Republic.

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….

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