“Democracy” Is Over—American Politics is War
The political establishment in the U.S. has tried to destroy the lives of Donald Trump and his supporters since he first ran for president, and they still think that anyone is going to listen to them
William Barr, the former attorney general under Donald Trump, has a column at The Free Press defending the indictment of Trump, claiming that the former president brought it on himself.
On leaving office, Trump illegally removed from the White House hundreds of some of the most sensitive national defense documents that the country possesses. These include information on the defense capabilities of the U.S. and foreign countries; our country’s nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the U.S. and our allies; and plans for potential retaliation against foreign attack. His handling of these documents in bathrooms and ballrooms at Mar-a-Lago was lawless and exposed the country to intolerable risk.
One thing to remember is that Bill Barr has been a D.C. insider for decades; he worked at CIA during his early career and then moved over to the Department of Justice during George H.W. Bush’s regime rising up to become Bush’s attorney general. My point in mentioning this is that nothing that he claims can be believed without independent verification. That he would purposely mislead the public is without dispute; we know that he’s done it before. So when Barr says that the documents were “some of the most sensitive national defense documents that the country possesses,” you have to take that with a mountain of salt. We are not able to review these classified documents ourselves, so we are not in a position to contradict Barr’s conclusion, but that also means that we should not accept anyone’s summary of what they are. Especially when we know that those people have attempted to deceive the public in the past.
That said, the veracity of Barr’s claims about the documents that Trump took with him is not the point I’m interested in arguing. I’m more interested in what Barr calls “The ‘Double Standard’ Argument” which some conservative partisans are making to defend Donald Trump having taken these documents in the first place. Barr writes:
Sensible Republicans don’t even try to defend Trump’s behavior. Instead, they point to the flagrant “double standard,” arguing that it’s unfair to charge Trump when Hillary Clinton got away scot-free during the Obama administration for comparable behavior.
This is a fair summary of how plenty of people feel, and not just conservatives. I would not describe myself as being conservative, but I have a big problem with the selective application of the law on partisan grounds. Barr himself claims to agree.
I believe there is a double standard. And I have spoken out repeatedly about it when I was attorney general and since.
I think the DOJ sometimes pursues alleged wrongdoing by Republicans with far more gusto than it does when the allegations implicate Democrats. I also agree the differential treatment of Hillary Clinton is a good example of this. During the Obama administration, the DOJ conducted a grossly inadequate investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server and the intentional destruction of that server before the department had a sufficient chance to review it. This deficient investigation, coupled with sweeping grants of immunity to the key people involved, made it impossible later to impose appropriate accountability on those responsible.
But while the double standard is real, responding to Trump’s indictment by repetitively invoking this grievance is essentially a dodge. It sidesteps the real questions raised by Trump’s behavior.
The question is this: should Trump have been given a pass by the DOJ just because Hillary may have been? Some of my Republican friends think the answer is yes. I am unconvinced. It is not clear to me that giving Trump a pass would be the best way of restoring the rule of law and putting the double standard behind us.
The important part of this passage here is: “restoring the rule of law and putting the double standard behind us.”
This is not a case where the government has stretched the law or manufactured an offense, and is carrying out a hit job on someone who has really done nothing wrong. Rather, the argument advanced by Trump’s defenders is that, even though Trump’s conduct was indefensible and likely a serious crime, Hillary did the same thing. And it’s unfair that Hillary got away with it.
But if Trump engaged in the kind of brazen criminal conduct alleged, then applying the law in his case is not unfair to him. The injustice lies in not having applied it seven years ago to Hillary. You don’t rectify that omission by giving future violators a free pass. You rectify it by applying the right standard to the case at hand, and insisting it is applied to comparable cases going forward.
Barr’s concern then is that we have to apply the law consistently starting now and moving into the future, which is a fair enough position to take, but is that what’s going to happen in reality? I obviously can’t predict the future, but no, it’s not.
The reality of the situation is that Donald Trump is being indicted not because of the laws that he probably broke, but because people in power have deemed him a political threat. The laws will never apply to a Hillary Clinton or a Joe Biden, who are both willing to help increase the power of entrenched interests while they’re in office, but for someone like Donald Trump, who might expose those interests or simply do something that they don’t like, the law will be enforced with a zero-tolerance policy.
People like William Barr think that they can convince people by making bad-faith arguments about “restoring the rule of law,” but the United States has moved beyond concepts like the rule of law, the peaceful transfer of power, and democracy in politics. Politics in the United States has become nothing less than a civil war. No, there aren’t literal battlefields or casualties, yet, but each side views the other as an enemy to be destroyed. So nobody is going to listen to Barr’s talk about getting back to the rule of law, because nobody believes that he’s sincere to begin with. Trump’s supporters aren’t going to simply turn against him because some establishment hack says that Trump broke a law that the establishment never bothered to follow themselves.
The establishment declared war on Donald Trump and his supporters when they severely overreacted to his presidency with the Russia-collusion hoax, by deliberately lying about Hunter Biden’s corruption in Ukraine to help Joe Biden defeat Trump in the 2020 election, and by pretending like the pointless January 6th riot was a 9/11-level terrorist attack on the United States of America. They turned Donald Trump into the monster that they most fear, and now he’s the leader of a faction that knows that they’re at war and believes that Trump is the only one willing to fight back. Good luck convincing the people whose lives you’ve tried to destroy by branding them “literal Nazis” or domestic terrorists that you’re suddenly interested in the rule of law when it comes at their expense.