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The Bobb hearing: A consideration


I thought Bobb dodged and weaved during his hearing. He gave a little on the hardest of the hard-right conservatives, but he’s still ardently anti-abortion; and he hid his real views about Mueller behind curtains of “I haven’t studied the issue enough” vagueness.

We still don’t know if he’ll permit Trump to fire Mueller. We still don’t know if he’ll allow the American people to read the unexpurgated Mueller report—not edited, not redacted, but the whole enchilada. And he still hasn’t said whether he believes it’s impossible for Trump to obstruct justice. Left unsaid were the absolute assurances that Elliot Richardson gave the public when he was being considered as Nixon’s A.G. Where Richardson resigned after the Saturday Night Massacre, Barr might sit firm as Trump continues to ride roughshod over the law.

Barr is folksy. He’s an Attorney-General straight out of Central Casting. He doesn’t seem threatening. He says reasonable things: He changed his mind about drug sentencing over the last 30 years and now favors a kinder, gentler approach to sentencing—whatever that means. He’s still not willing to admit there’s racial disparity in indicting and sentencing, but at least he didn’t appear as hostile to minorities as he has in the past.

I didn’t hear any of the Senators question him about same-sex marriage and LGBTQ equality. I wish they had. Barr has a troubling record of making hostile statements about sexual minorities. In the 1990s, he made shockingly overt religious arguments calling on the government to impose “a transcendent moral order with objective standards of right and wrong that… flows from God’s eternal law.”

He called on the government to subsidize Catholic education (Barr is Catholic) to “restrain sexual immorality.” These phrases—“God’s eternal law, transcendent moral order, restrain sexual morality”—are, of course, the standard bullshit dog whistles for extreme homophobes. The arch-conservative Texas Senator, John Cornyn, asked Barr a weird question: Did he (Barr) believe his Roman Catholicism precluded him from holding high government office? Even Barr seemed jarred by such a strange inquiry, the answer to which could only be, “Of course not.” Cornyn explained that the reason he’d asked the question was because “some people” have suggested Catholics not be allowed to have jurisprudential power because their faithfulness to the Constitution may be compromised by their religious beliefs, and/or the official views of the Vatican.

Let me associate myself with those who question the ability of extreme Catholic officials in the justice system to be fair. I think it’s obvious that Catholic Supreme Court Justices, like the late Scalia, and the currently serving Thomas and Alito, allow their religious beliefs to influence their decisions in women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. I am not reassured that Barr will be a competent, fair Attorney General, because his rightwing views are backed up by Catholic beliefs that are distinctly undemocratic.

The Republicans who questioned Barr seemed bored to be there. They had a single objective: protect their president. Ask Barr softball questions so that he could present himself as warm and fuzzy. No one of them overtly attacked Mueller, although several could barely hide their hostility towards him and his investigation. Altogether, Republicans were just as we expected them to be: less interested in the rule of law, more interested in shielding a president they privately know to be amoral and unfit, but of whom they are afraid.

I was surprised that, in her first round, Kamala Harris avoided questions about Trump, Russia and Mueller. Her questions about drug enforcement and private prisons were spot on (and I didn’t think Barr did a very good job in answering her). Perhaps Kamala made a deal with other Democrats, like Blumenthal, Durbin and Feinstein, that they’d cover the Mueller waterfront, while she explored other territory.

Barr will be approved. He made enough conciliatory sounds to assure that. Now, he’s going to have to live up to his word. If he collaborates with Trump doing anything punitive to Mueller, there will be hell to pay. If Barr tries to smother the Mueller Report, in any way, shape or form, there will be hell to pay. He should have recused himself, in view of his past statements that were so hostile to Mueller, but he didn’t. Now, he’s under one of the biggest searchlights in America. We’ll be watching his every move.

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