By questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations How would a Biden Justice Department be different? MORE’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday reduced the tenuous deployment of irreconcilable arguments by Democrats to a new level of farcicality. Once again, Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBy questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal Chris Wallace: Barr hearing 'an embarrassment' for Democrats: 'Just wanted to excoriate him' Apple posts blowout third quarter MORE (D-N.Y.) — as he did previously in calling on Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE to explain his spurious Russia collusion investigation, or calling the ludicrous Watergate myth-maker John Dean as an impeachment witness — unintentionally blundered in favor of the national interest, by revealing the absurdity of Democrats’ allegations against the attorney general’s integrity.

Never raising his voice or responding peremptorily to provoking questions and rudeness, Barr patiently demolished the Democratic myths that the “demonstrations” roiling numerous American cities are “peaceful protests” under assault by President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE’s recourse to “storm troopers” and “secret police” who provoke the demonstrators.

It is hard to imagine that viewers of the House hearing were not offended by the technique of many of the Democratic legislators. They leveled extreme accusations of unprofessionalism and political bias against Barr in the guise of questions and then, before he was 10 words into a civil response, would declare “I reclaim my time," thus cutting him off and continuing with a further allegation. This technique — somewhat reminiscent, to venerable observers of American congressional committees, of the antics of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s — eventually was countered by Republican congressmen inviting Barr to complete his answer to previous Democratic questions. 

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Even more tedious was the attempt by a number of committee Democrats to present a wildly partisan allegation and then demand a yes-or-no answer. Thus, Democrats frequently disregarded all rules of evidence for testimony before committees of serious legislative bodies; it may be common for accusations to be presented as questions, but not to prevent answers from being given.

A couple of Democratic congressmen claimed the president violated his official oath through alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, including the fact that his attitude to wearing face masks (to reduce the possibility of communicating the coronavirus) varied more or less in parallel with evolving scientific opinion. That such questions, having absolutely nothing to do with judiciary matters, would be raised is not indicative of Democrats’ confidence in their fable of “peaceful protesters” and the president’s exploitation of public fear of mobs.

The Democratic Party, directly and in cooperation with the national political media, continues to whip up panic over a possible rampaging resurgence of the coronavirus, in order to promote a prolonged economic depression, at the same time as it clings to its fairy tale about pacific urban demonstrations. Even so, Nadler’s claim that antifa is a fiction was given a good roasting before his committee; some Democrats downplayed their opposition to law enforcement and its reduction or replacement by social workers. Some Democratic congressmen meandered off into accusing Trump of such harebrained nostrums as urging the ingestion of detergent to fight the virus. (He never proposed that.) The whole scattergun farrago of contradictory and often unfounded charges — the census, mail-in ballots, prison reform — was pretty unconvincing, given that Democrats had been pawing the ground, waiting to get at Barr for months. It was a rather demeaning spectacle, although Barr acquitted himself well. 

Yet, the nasty ambiance of this campaign should cause thoughtful people to wonder why the dignity and integrity of America’s political process has so severely deteriorated. 

There is no doubt that the informality, brusqueness, even crudeness, of President Trump — and his frequent disrespect of the bipartisan political establishment in Washington — has contributed to a coarsening of public discourse and an increased recourse to irresponsible mudslinging and deliberately dishonest reporting, well beyond anything in living memory of U.S. presidential politics. More important in this process than the president’s foibles and penchant for vulgarization, however, is the fact that he sought office to sweep out everybody who was in charge of the federal government, in both parties. It was, he and his followers believed, an intellectually (and, in some respects, a financially corrupt) bipartisan stitch-up that was misgoverning the country and causing a material erosion to America’s global competitive position and to its national security. 

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At some times, when the political process appears to be unusually ragged and decayed, it is because of what was described in advanced countries throughout the last century as — in a phrase of French intellectual Julien Benda, in 1927 — “La Trahison des Clercs,” which is variously translated as “the treason of the intellectuals” or “the treason of the bureaucracy.” I think it is better understood as “betrayal by the political class.” 

The attorney general said on Tuesday that it was a shocking state of affairs when one of America’s two great political parties attacks the country’s entire law enforcement system and pretends that violent rioting is acceptable protest. The problem is broader than that, however, and the betrayal is greater. 

One of the two parties — whatever flummeries and hucksterism its leader may sometimes resort to — is attempting to govern and has been successful in reducing unemployment and illegal immigration, improving trade arrangements, reviving the concept of nuclear nonproliferation by irresponsible states, rolling back nonsensical financial and “green” regulations, and addressing both the frailties of the Western alliance and the challenge to America and its allies posed by China. And it is grappling plausibly with a great public health crisis. 

The other great party (and its look-alike collaborators among its ostensible opponents) rightly feels threatened by the incumbent administration and has countenanced and incited a collapse in the integrity and even pretended journalistic impartiality of the national political media. It has effectively condoned criminal mob violence while denying its existence and accusing the administration (which is attempting to curb that violence) of fascistic tendencies to oppression, even aspirations to dictatorship.

This is a gross betrayal — though it is not treason — and it began with the attempt to steal and then to undo the 2016 election result. The intellectual, academic and media communities are profoundly complicit in the temporary collapse of the Democratic Party as a respectable claimant to federal executive and legislative office. This, and not the idiosyncrasies of an unusual but rather successful president, is the source of today’s political crisis — not the COVID-19 pandemic, or the resulting economic dislocation. 

On Election Day, either the betrayal will be rejected and punished, or it will be condoned and will cease to be a betrayal. When the fog of cant and emotionalism that enshrouds the intense pre-electoral campaign is pierced, that is the issue: the rejection or legitimization of a great betrayal.

Conrad Black is an essayist, former newspaper publisher, and author of 10 books, including three on Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Follow him on Twitter @ConradMBlack.