When President Trump’s nomination to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general first came to light, I was a little underwhelmed. Yes, I’ll embarrassingly admit I was forced to Google “William Barr,” something I felt like I shouldn’t have had to do with such a high-profile pick, but I’m glad I did, and after more research I’m glad President Trump picked him above all the other ‘sexier’ potential picks for the slot.
As a former George H.W. Bush AG who held the spot for a little over a year, Barr obviously has the experience. I was in high school but into following politics even then, and yet I had never heard of him, or maybe I just didn’t remember. Turns out, Barr was supposed to be a “caretaker” of sorts, someone to keep the seat warm until Bush rolled over whichever Democrat was unlucky enough to get in his way in 1992. But this “caretaker” performed above anyone’s wildest expectations, and by “anyone” I mean both conservatives who study history and admire what he did in the role as well as liberals who study history and dread what is likely to come. I like the sound of both of those.
Among those liberals, of late, are the good folks over at reliably liberal Vox. In an article titled, “Attorney general nominee William Barr will fit right in with Trump’s immigration agenda,” Dara Lind writes:
Barr pushed an aggressive “law and order” agenda on both immigration and street crime. His hawkishness surprised a lot of observers at the time, but it fits right in with the Trump administration — and, specifically, with a Justice Department that (thanks to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions) has been the nerve center for incubating new ideas in immigration crackdowns.
The news stories of the time back up Lind’s analysis.
“In seven months as U.S. attorney general, William P. Barr has converted the Justice Department into an agenda-setting agency from a reactive institution, focusing on cutting-edge issues high on many Americans' minds,” wrote the LA Times in 1992. “These include violent crime, gangs, health-care fraud, tighter immigration controls and competition-stifling foreign cartels.”
I mean seriously, what are we waiting for? Confirm this man, TODAY!
But that’s not all. There’s plenty more lamentations from Vox to have conservatives ripping to jump on the Barr train.
Want a wall? Barr feels your pain.
“Barr rolled out a multimillion-dollar plan to beef up security in the San Diego/Tijuana area where crossings were then concentrated,” Lind wrote. “One component of that plan: building a steel fence with the assistance of the Department of Defense.”
A historical tidbit that hasn’t gone unnoticed in conservative circles:
“Let's hope the new AG tells Trump about the Constitution!” Ann Coulter tweeted Friday. “As Bush's AG, Barr built a steel fence on the border USING THE DEPT OF DEFENSE.”
Want to go after criminal aliens already here, particularly the ones in gangs? Well, you’re sure to have an ally in soon-to-be Attorney General Barr.
Stating that Barr “shared Trump’s concern with immigrants in the US committing violent crime,” Lind records that the then-attorney general “hired more than 100 Immigration and Naturalization Service investigators to go after ‘criminal aliens involved in street gangs.’
Tired of ridiculous asylum applicants? I’m pretty sure Barr agrees.
“[A]fter leaving office in 1993, he complained to David Gergen (then of US News) that his attempts to overhaul the [INS] had been stymied, and endorsed things like placing agents at foreign airports to check travel documents (since implemented) and ‘summary deportation proceedings to weed out patently phony claims for asylum.’”
Want to keep asylum seekers in Mexico (or wherever) instead of allowing them in to never show up for their court hearings? Barr says, “Hold my beer.”
“The keep-’em-out strategy Trump is pushing on asylum seekers rests on Barr’s precedent,” writes Vox. “The most urgent problem facing Barr, as far as Trump’s concerned, is the continued entry of families at the US-Mexico border — and the fact that if they seek asylum, the US can’t simply refuse to allow them to enter. The administration is working with the Mexican government on an agreement that would force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their applications were processed, but Trump has repeatedly expressed a willingness (even an eagerness) to shut down the border to them entirely. Those proposals rest on questionable legal ground at best. But the best precedent they have is a policy from Barr’s attorney general tenure.”
As his confirmation approaches, Barr is likely to drive Democrats nuts given that he’s passed Senate confirmation proceedings more than once, including for the SAME JOB to which he is being submitted. In other words, absent some fraternity girl-turned-Democratic operative suddenly “remembering” that time Barr fondled her at a 1968 dorm party, any opposition is likely to be based on politics alone.
And then there’s the Mueller investigation, of course, which a non-recused Barr would be responsible for. In the 1992 LA Times interview, Barr expressed dissatisfaction with the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, which first provided for the appointment of an “independent counsel” in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
“How good of a nominee is William Barr for AG?” tweeted The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel. “Based on the immediate demands by Democrats that he recuse himself from pretty much everything important---a pretty darn good one.”
When asked if his own appointment of “two special counsels” undermines his not being a “fan of appointing outside prosecutors,” Barr said: “No, in fact I think it highlights the weaknesses of the independent counsel statute as it presently is structured. I think the problem with the statute now is that there's no accountability. An individual is set up as a power unto themselves ... I think there have to be some constraints.”
“What the statute does is set someone outside that milieu, not necessarily controlled by policies, not controlled or influenced by the ethos of the department, and with no accountability,” Barr continued. “No supervisor or anyone to make sure there's no abuse of power going on. And unlimited resources. I think that any person concerned about civil liberties should be concerned about that kind of a structure.”
Hmm. Does all that sound familiar to anything taking place in the present day? Anything at all? If your answer was ‘yes,’ Barr might agree.