Former Trump attorney general Bill Barr appears to be working overtime to damage Trump ahead –- far ahead –- of the 2024 GOP nomination for President. Though he says (to his credit) that he could never vote for a so-called progressive Democrat because of the damage such a person might do to the country, he is very much against Trump being the Republican nominee.
Last week, his anti-Trump rhetoric got so vehement that on Monday, we played a game called “Who Said It --- Bill Barr or Peter Strzok.” It really is quite challenging these days to tell the difference between what Barr says about Trump and what disgraced-and-fired FBI agent and Russia Hoaxer Strzok says. These were quotes from interviews that both took place on Friday, which happens to have been the day Attorney General Merrick Garland announced his appointment of Jack Smith as the new special counsel to investigate Trump over the Mar-A-Lago documents and his role in the January 6 riot. (How did you do on our quiz?)
On Monday, Barr spouted even more quotes in case we wanted to do an updated version of our game, in an op-ed for the NEW YORK POST headlined “Trump threatens to burn down the GOP, it’s time to move on.” Tell me, did Trump really threaten to burn down the GOP? I didn’t hear that, or anything close to that, and I don’t think he wants to do that, but let’s set that sensationalistic headline aside for the moment and take a thoughtful look at Barr’s commentary.
Barr does allow that Trump has strengths: he’s “clear and direct” in staking out a position (and, yes, that’s so refreshing!); he confronts difficult issues head-on; and he diagnosed and gives voice to the frustration of so many voters fed up with “progressive” Democrats, the elites and the media. Trump, like us, was sick of watching them preside over the decline of America.
Supporting Trump was an act of defiance, he points out, and that is true. Supporters liked the fact that he was over the top. “His voters felt that the left was taking a wrecking ball to the country,” he writes, “and they wanted to strike back with their own.” Also true.
“[Trump] correctly identified the economic, technological and military threats to the United States posed by China’s aggressive policies,” Barr acknowledges. He brokered peace deals in the Mideast, accomplishing what many had thought impossible. He pulled us out of “ill-advised and detrimental agreements” with Russia and Iran. He finally fulfilled our promise to move our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.
Yet, with all that he’s given Trump credit for, Barr can’t settle for what he did on the issues. Trump was petty and “made everything about himself,” he says. “If Trump had run his re-election campaign on that platform,” he says, “and dialed his churlishness back just a little, he would have won. But he lost because he insisted on running a campaign centered on whipping up his “base,” with a steady diet of “red meat.” Barr thinks that Trump isn’t really interested in broadening his appeal, that he’s “content to focus on intensifying his personal hold over a faction within the party.”
“The threat is simple,” Barr says, and here’s where NYP editors got their headline: “Unless the rest of the party goes along with him, he will burn the whole house down by leading ‘his people’ out of the GOP.” “Trump’s willingness to destroy the party if he does not get his way is not based on principle,” Barr says, “but on his own supreme narcissism. His egotism makes him unable to think of a political party as anything but an extension of himself –- a cult of personality.”
Unfortunately, it seems to be personality that Barr himself is mostly looking at. He says that in 2016, he “did not see [Trump] as our party’s standard-bearer.” Trump was “grossly self-centered, lacked self-control, and almost always took his natural pugnacity too far.” He found himself “cringing at his frequently juvenile, bombastic and petulant style.” Ah, Trump’s tweets.
And he’s still uneasy with Trump’s “wrecking ball style.” Never mind that in the years since Trump was first inaugurated, and especially since he left office, we’ve seen more and more that needs a wrecking ball taken to it, notably the DOJ that Barr led for some time. (Barr says Trump “failed”; what did Barr do to purge the DOJ of the deep-state bureaucracy that plagues it?)
As we noted on Monday, Barr said he thinks the special counsel will likely have enough evidence to indict Trump on charges related to his possession of documents at Mar-A-Lago. Never mind that the President has THE final authority over what documents are classified or declassified, which means the raid should never have taken place. Barr, of all people, should know this, so imagine the case of Trump Derangement Syndrome he must have to be able to ignore something so basic. He also seems to have ignored the blatantly partisan choice of this particular prosecutor; so far he’s said nothing.
Perhaps Barr is projecting his own TDS onto the voters when he says Trump himself lost the 2020 election and risks losing it all for the GOP in 2024. That seems to be his main concern about re-nominating the former President. He accuses Trump of tailoring his campaigning to his base --- that's such a condescending term, “base” --- and supplying them with the “red meat” they need. Sorry, I don’t agree. I and millions of others who supported Trump were not looking for “red meat.” If he wants to know why we voted for Trump, he should just look back at what he wrote himself about Trump’s strengths.
Many factors influenced the 2020 election. Covid, perhaps more than anything, and the logistical changes to the election process for which covid was the mere pretext, greatly affected the outcome. The collusion between the deep state and the dishonest media that suppressed stories damaging to Joe Biden was another huge factor. We don’t need to re-hash all that right now. For Barr to blame Trump’s loss in 2020 on his personal style is incredibly simplistic.
I think most of us in the GOP are taking a wait-and-see approach to the 2024 election; after all, it’s still two years away. We need to look at every candidate, and Trump might or might not be our eventual nominee. On the issues, though, we have consensus that he was a superb President. And given all the dark forces that have tried to take him down, it’s amazing –- almost superhuman –- that he is still standing and going strong. Perhaps he’s even learned to tone down his bombast when he sees it getting in the way of a particular goal. But Barr is trying so hard right now to talk us out of supporting him, one has to wonder if there’s something else behind it.