If you have an hour, I'd recommend watching US Attorney General William Barr's speech to the Federalist Society on Friday. I've included the full speech at the end of this post.
If you DON'T have an hour to watch the speech - keep reading.
First, as Mike LaChance at Legal Insurrection highlights, Barr takes direct aim at the dramatic and dangerous language of "The Resistance."
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.
This is the first time I've seen someone on the right so adroitly dissect the dangerous meaning of the Left's preferred nom de guerre.
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.
This is one of the arguments I've found the least persuasive from Never Trumpers and Leftists - the idea that President Trump is shredding legal norms. As one who spent eight years highlighting the legal norm-shredding of the Obama Administration, I have concluded that the real norms his critics are demanding he abide are ones of politeness and language - while they, themselves, are free to engage in the most scurrilous and disgusting manner as needed.
Barr then trains his sights on the Left, more generally:
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. They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.
Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise. We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing. This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard. The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances?
For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means. And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy far, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.
As I said, if you have an hour - it's worth your time to watch the speech. If you'd like to simply read the transcript, it's here.
Pete's Prep: Monday, Nov. 18, 2019
- Mountain Xpress: "As outlined in a presentation available before the meeting, Buncombe’s 26 county-owned buildings have an average age of nearly 50 years, with total maintenance costs running over $789,000 in each of the past two fiscal cycles. Ronnie Lunsford, the county’s facilities and construction coordinator, hopes to hire an outside firm to evaluate those buildings against Buncombe’s needs."
- Asheville Citizen-Times: "The city is suing for the right to fire a 20-year police veteran for his actions related to a notorious beating."
- Also, at the local paper: "[Asheville City Manager Debra] Campbell and fellow staff members came to talk development, not turmoil on Friday. Several dozen members of the development community also attended the lunchtime forum, held in the U.S. Cellular Center's Banquet Hall."
- WRAL TV: "The state Supreme Court declined Friday to review new legislative maps drawn as part of a recent redistricting lawsuit, giving North Carolina final maps for next year's General Assembly elections.