Did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) just jump the shark? By stating unequivocally that Attorney General William P. Barr lied to Congress and adding, as if for emphasis, that it is a crime, Pelosi may have thought she was just getting in front of her herd of angry Democrats. But inadvertently, the speaker also revealed, in stark relief, a disturbing new trend in our politics: If you don’t tell Congress what it wants to hear, then you are by default lying and, hence, a criminal.
By this logic, truth is no longer an absolute. It is a relative norm. Barr is never fast and loose with the truth. His real sin, in the eyes of the shouting Democrats, may simply involve being too serious for a day in which men such as Michael Avenatti are able to look in the mirror and see a president.
Some didn’t like the attorney general’s four-page letter to Congress on March 24, which drew key conclusions about the Mueller report. Some didn’t like that the attorney general didn’t tell Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) about the March 27 letter he had received from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, in which Mueller expressed frustration about the coverage of Barr’s March 24 letter. And some, such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), were irked that Barr called the use of investigators using false identities and deceit to probe a Trump campaign employee overseas “spying.”
Having patiently endured a show trial in the Senate, who could blame Barr for passing on the chance to repeat the experience in the notoriously more raucous House of Representatives? Just as the leak of Mueller’s March 27 letter set the stage for the Senate spectacle, Pelosi’s accusation that the nation’s top Justice Department officer has himself committed a crime sets the stage for whatever production the Democrat-controlled House is now frantically concocting. And it could be anything. We are talking about a group of elected officials who must have thought it was a real home run to use a plastic chicken for a photo op in hopes of making some point about the attorney general of the United States.
It’s not clear that Democratic leadership knows what its endgame really is. Across the board, polling shows public support for impeachment dwindling, even among Democrats. Quinnipiac on Thursday showed that two-thirds of Americans overall oppose impeachment, with only 56 percent of Democrats favoring it — a drop of nearly ten points among Democrats in recent months. But some, such as Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) — who seems to have replaced Anthony Weiner as Pelosi’s new attack dog — want to impeach not only President Trump, but Barr as well.
Cooler heads in the Democratic camp read these numbers and foresee the disaster to which the march to impeachment would likely lead. But if the speaker’s pronouncement is any indication, the rational thinkers are being shouted out by those who are driven by fear. The Wall Street Journal’s ever clear-eyed Kimberly Strassel agrees, noting on Thursday that Barr does spark fear among the Democrats. As if that was not enough, the Democrats see other numbers like Friday’s report of 263,000 new jobs created in April, bringing unemployment down to 3.6 percent — a level not seen since 1969. The fear, then, may be not only of Barr but also in having no issue on which to run next year.
As Hiram Johnson, a progressive senator from California, noted more than a hundred years ago, the first casualty in war is truth. Feeling robbed by Mueller of the grounds with which to wage war against President Trump, the Democrats have been reduced to calling Barr a liar and to characterizing him as a chicken. What does falling apart look like? Fear and desperation have usually led us down the bumpiest roads in our history. Maybe it is time for everyone to buckle their seat belts.