The Barr For Fitness

The Senate Judiciary Committee has sent the nomination of William Barr to the full Senate for confirmation, which should come as no surprise to anyone. He’s a horrible choice for many reasons to those of us who favor the constitutional rights of the accused and challenge mass incarceration as the cure for whatever ails society. But that he possesses the qualifications to serve as Attorney General, even if he’s the worst possible choice, isn’t in serious dispute.

Or is it?

During Barr’s Senate confirmation hearings in January, Barr was asked whether he believed race and racism plays any role in the American criminal legal system. This should have been a softball question for the nominee. The evidence that racism has been a prevalent, pernicious and profound force within our system of justice is well known and well-documented.

And yet, the response from the presumptive attorney general — and former attorney general from 1991–1993 under then-President George H.W. Bush — was a swing and a miss. Rather than acknowledging the fact that black and Latinx people are disproportionately targeted and harmed by the criminal legal system, Barr answered as if the past three decades of increased surveillance, violent policing, bloated jails and prisons and ever-expanding criminal laws and mandatory sentencing schemes that have devastated communities and perpetuated social and economic instability never existed.

It’s not that these things aren’t, and haven’t, happened. It’s that there’s no distinction between cause and effect, correlation and causation. This may play to the willfully shallow, but it contributes nothing of value to either thought or solution. Then again, that’s not exactly a new problem among the identity politics crowd, for whom racial disparities are the most important thing, if not the only thing, wrong with the system.

But what does that have to do with fitness for the position? And why would anyone raise a question when Barr is such an awful choice for AG? Am I a closet Barr supporter? Hardly. But as with many of the judges appointed by Trump, it comes as no shock that his choice for AG is someone I find anathema. That’s how elections work, the guy who wins gets to pick someone he prefers rather than someone I prefer.

This may be the same case when, and if, the pendulum swings to the left. A highly qualified nominee, with whom conservatives vehemently disagree and find reprehensible, will be nominated. Some will challenge the nominee for the same reasons, that they don’t share their values, that they’re utterly, fundamentally, completely wrong about an article of faith. And they will, if things work the way they’re supposed to work, be unable to prevent the nominee’s confirmation.

Confirmation is not about whether the nominees share your values, feel your pain, hold your deepest feelings in highest esteem. It’s about qualifications, integrity and temperament. You might point out here that some nominees fail to meet these three qualifications, but that’s a different problem. That William Barr is not an adherent of identity politics may make him hated by social justice warriors, but doesn’t bear upon his qualifications for office.

Whether Barr’s response was due to a lack of understanding or interest, or a willful disregard for the truth, it should be disqualifying. In the 30 or so years since Barr’s last tenure as attorney general, the tentacles of the criminal justice system have damaged nearly every aspect of American society. Mass incarceration is vast and deeply racist, all while failing to achieve its purported goal of reducing crime or improving public safety. He should know better.

This belief, that racism is at the core of all that’s wrong with the criminal justice system, is certainly widespread, particularly among a certain cohort of simplistic identitarians, for whom anyone who fails to share their faith is morally corrupt. They’re allowed to believe, even if they refuse that courtesy to anyone who doesn’t. But what they are not entitled to do is conflate their hatred of heretics with qualifications.

It’s entirely reasonable, if not laudable, to find William Barr to be a terrible choice for Attorney General. I do. But it’s not because he’s unqualified. To conflate qualifications with values is not merely ignorant and dishonest, but dangerous. That’s how we end up with a president named Trump, whose lack of qualifications for the office was ignored in favor of his putative values.

And lest it go unnoticed, the assumption by SJWs that they’re the majority of Americans, and so will rule the nation with their ironclad identitarian dictates any day now may be unduly optimistic. I wish the Senate would refuse to confirm William Barr, not because he is unfit for office but because I think he’s a particularly terrible choice. But then, I’m neither president nor a senator.

13 thoughts on “The Barr For Fitness

  1. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    If Barr is not qualified, then I would like someone to explain how Eric Holder was qualified? Holder was confirmed 75 to 21.

    All the best.

    RGK

    Reply
      1. Richard Kopf

        At least Clark was woke before woke was a thing. Holder, on the other hand, awoke when there was no political downside and after he had vigorously enforced the now hated criminal laws when it served his and the One’s political interests. So, my what-about is better than your what-about.

        So there! All the best.

        RGK

        Reply
          1. Richard Kopf

            Bob Barr signed my commission, although by now his signature has faded. He apparently signed it in disappearing ink. I don’t blame him. He has plausible deniability.

            Anyway, Barr is alway welcome for a sleep over. We’ll pop corn and spin tales about Bush 41. Holder can find a spot in the Super Eight and look into the bathroom mirror to see whether there is any reflection.

            All the best.

            RGK

            Reply
            1. B. McLeod

              A semi-literate posting in the ABA Journal comments once accused him of being a Hulder, which might mean that the reflection in his bathroom mirror would reveal his true form. (I found this implausible given the absence of fit with reported characteristics and preferred habitats of the Huldrekall).

  2. RedditLaw

    Now that William Barr is the Devil, does this mean that Matthew Whitaker is the bee’s knees? After all, the longer the confirmation process drags out, the longer Mr. Whitaker will be in charge of the Department of Justice. I don’t get the impression that Mr. Barr’s critics are seeking to extend the tenure of Mr. Whitaker.

    It is getting difficult for me to take the criticism of Mr. Barr seriously, given that anyone willing to work with the orange-hued man gets sent through the wringer. I honestly have lost the ability to distinguish between those nominees who are deplorable in their own right and those who are deplorable due to the man who nominated them.

    Reply
      1. RedditLaw

        Sick burn. Tssss. . .

        Seriously, though. Whitaker or Barr, that’s the choice. People are acting like Pres. Trump nominated the guy from the Shamwow commercials to be the Attorney General. When everything is a hair’s on fire emergency, nothing is.

        Reply
        1. SHG Post author

          Whitaker was scummy. Barr isn’t scummy, but knows how to be an effective AG, and that makes him far more dangerous from my perspectiv.

          Reply

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