CSotD: Crossing the Barr

The giant shadow cast by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Michael de Adder puts it, hangs over political commentary at the moment and seems likely to be a major factor in the upcoming elections, both at the Presidential and Senate levels, to which I would add that, while the House doesn’t have a role in selecting judges, its members are likely to be hit by a spate of party line voting.

Yesterday, I recommended Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with Jane Mayer for insights on Mitch McConnell. Now Mayer has written a piece in the New Yorker on the issue of filling Ginsburg’s seat and it’s worth reading, too.

Elsewhere, there are a number of scenarios being either promoted or predicted:

One is that Trump announces his choice before the election, making the choice an election issue, with the vote to follow in the lame duck session. Biden could counter by announcing his choice, but it would be irrelevant if Trump/McConnell get their judge in before the new Senate is seated January 3.

Another is that Trump gets his judge appointed, but loses the election and the GOP loses the Senate. Biden then adds two more judges to the bench, restoring the balance pre-Trump.

McConnell has justified his rush to fill Ginsburg’s seat by saying the people have put the Republicans in the drivers seat, but that doesn’t explain why he has to do it before the election, since his cited love of the American people for Trumpism would guarantee a sweeping victory.

There is also talk of imposing either a specific term of office or a mandatory retirement age on the Justices, but the Constitution specifies “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour,” so that would require an amendment, hardly an easy move even in less contentious times.

It would be hard enough for a victorious Biden to add those two justices, even with both houses in Democratic hands, given that only one party is pledged to lockstep loyalty rather than individual conscience, and it ain’t his.

Meanwhile, the only move open at this point is to persuade four GOP Senators to insist on waiting until either Trump is re-elected or Biden is inaugurated.

And I’m mistrustful enough to suggest getting maybe eight or a dozen to promise, since there seem to be a few backsliders on that side of the aisle.

The  good news is that Trump reportedly wants to nominate a woman.

The bad news is that they want to do it the way the Republicans replaced Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas.

While we figure that all out, there are still other issues on the table.


Bill Bramhall cites what I think is the most pressing, which is Bill Barr’s transformation of the Attorney General from America’s attorney to the President’s advocate.

The Attorney General, as a political appointee, has traditionally been generally in line with the President on most issues, but still acted as an advisor and a sea anchor, keeping the executive from actions that would create legal problems, while representing the people in various enforcements.

Which is why, despite Trump’s fury, Jeff Sessions recused himself from Mueller’s probe, having established a role therein, and why Nixon’s AG, John Mitchell, resigned the post in order to head up the Committee to Re-Elect.


But, as Bill Day suggests, Barr has no scruples about acting on the President’s behalf.

And this digression: Though the reference makes a good cartoon, Barr specifically said that slavery was not in the same category as mandatory quarantines. To claim he equated them requires significant partisan gymnastics.

However, he’s done enough damage to the rule of law that, while it’s not necessary to misquote him, it is absolutely necessary to challenge him.

He may be correct that his junior attorneys should follow his lead, though it’s poor management to force loyalty instead of inspiring it.

But his insistence on turning the FBI into his own Stasi is beyond acceptable bounds.


And it’s twice as dangerous when, as Jack Ohman points out, he begins to behave like a barroom drunkard, insisting that political opponents are guilty of sedition

It’s precisely the kind of overreaching, prideful foolishness that the attorney general is supposed to caution against, not demonstrate.

An attorney general who encourages presidential excess is dangerous at any time, moreso when the chief executive is an unqualified mooncalf who thinks you can stop hurricanes with nuclear weapons, that he can simply purchase Greenland and is unaware that Puerto Rico is part of the United States (until its citizens pass on the free paper towels and move to the mainland).


But Nick Anderson spots a ray of hope in the defection of Trump employees who can no longer stomach what the administration has become, as well as others who have seen the Beast from the inside and consider it their duty to raise an alarm.

Still, we should remember that, even as the evidence was being uncovered by reporters, Nixon was re-elected and served half of his second term before being forced from office.

Now Trump is encouraging police to attack journalists, and encouraging his Deplorables to cheer the assaults. Speaking to a rally, he referenced MSNBC’s Ali Velshi being shot with a rubber bullet, saying “after we take all that crap for weeks and weeks, and you finally see men get up there and go right through them, wasn’t it really a beautiful sight? It’s called law and order.”

It’s called a lot of things, and they ought to scare the hell out of you.


Because if ICE can order hysterectomies on undocumented aliens, as a nurse at one of their facilities charges and Lalo Alcaraz decries, what’s next?

Should we begin to update those familar words?

First, they put children in cages, but I had no children at the border, so I said nothing.

Congress is looking into it, or talking about looking into it, and, in the mean time, there’s no need to worry about the nurse who reported the abuses, because she’s protected by the whistleblower law.

Which is overseen and enforced by the Department of Justice.



7 thoughts on “CSotD: Crossing the Barr

  1. “If you’ve ever wondered what you would do during Hitler’s rise to power, you’re doing it now.”

    How many times do we have to say it before it registers?

  2. Well, Brad, it registers with me; I saw this coming years ago. Right now it’s a battle of words. That may change, and very soon. The question is, what are we willing to do if it does? I don’t think Trump and his supporters are going to give up; they started this with a goal in mind, and I believe that at least some of them are ready to take it to the next level. How this Supreme Court situation plays out, and what effect it has on the election, will be an important milestone. I hope this whole thing will be resolved peacefully, but I’m not counting on it.

  3. If we’re going to reference memes, how about this one?

    Remember when Scalia died and people gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court building for a candlelight vigil and service?

    Neither do I.

  4. I know I’ll catch hell for this, but here goes. While everyone is mourning the passing of RBG, and outraged over the GOP’s hijacking another Supreme Court seat, we’re forgetting one thing: We were warned about this, and so was she. People begged RBG to retire during Obama’s first term, out of fear she would die during a Republican administration. Her health was not good even then, and this was predictable. So here we are, and the hubris of one old woman may be this country’s undoing. There is value in a graceful exit; at some point we must swallow our egos, and let the younger generation take over.

  5. @phil: I imagine that RBG was not about to leave the Court before Scalia. They had both a friendship and an intellectual rivalry on the Court. You think she was going to let him have the last word?

    But when Scalia died suddenly and McConnell announced his dastardly plan to deny Obama another Court appointment, RBG’s only remaining option depended on the polls predicting a Hilary victory being correct.

    We let her down. She tried to give us a second chance, and she almost made it. Somebody is going to write a tragic opera about her someday.

  6. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, but she passed at the worst possible time. The real tragedy is Trump getting the last word. The worst part of it all is that her absence from the bench may allow him to steal the Presidency twice. We now have to depend on GOP judicial appointees to save us from the nearly inevitable court challenge to the election results. God help us all.

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