National Commentary

Barr & the Soul Of the Nation

It is in times like these, when some of the most basic values are in play concerning matters of truth or falsehood, honesty or deceit, that placing events in Biblical or cosmic contexts seems most apropos. Our national political landscape seems dictated by some form of morality play where behind the apparent conduct of events, players’ destinies are being determined by factors of which they may not be aware, core factors of their personal character, the disposition of their souls.

It is perhaps only from the standpoint of personal character that this new phase in the drama of the Trump presidency and its death throes can be measured and its outcome predicted. The Attorney General William Barr was best seen through such a prism in his lengthy performance before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, radiating sickening hues of deceit that portend an unhappy outcome for his soul.

Barr defended his attempt to violently skew the content of the Mueller report and then to cover up Mueller’s serious objections to that in his appearance before the committee, and has followed up with a refusal to appear, as ordered, before the House Judiciary Committee today.

He managed his responses, ultimately, by distinguishing between a technical interpretation of the law, on the one side, and truth and morality on the other. His concern, he insisted, was solely for the former, a position that reflects the mentality of Trump himself, who knows and cares nothing for the realities of truth and morality.

This is the kind of moral rot that former FBI Director James Comey referred to in his New York Times commentary this week, whereby persons are corrupted by the influence of an amoral presidency, “lacking the inner strength to survive him” as he “eats your soul in small bites.”

This is the challenge confronting all who would take up the cause of truth and justice in these remarkable times. It is the challenge to stand resolutely for personal integrity and authenticity from deep inside each and every one of us. The moral fire associated with this needs to be stoked to take on the kind of disingenuous lying that Barr put on display before the committee.

Barr resorted to personal attacks on Mueller to diminish and discredit his report and his objections to Barr’s distortion and coverup of the report, calling Mueller’s letter of objection “snitty” and probably written by a subordinate.

We can step back now to see with greater clarity than ever, that this president is an amoral criminal with no internal moral compass who has run his entire adult life as an organized criminal enterprise. Profoundly morally compromised people like Barr and Sen. Lindsey Graham are best understood for how they are swept under his corrupt influence. They become his replicants.

A lot of Americans may be staring, stunned and wide-eyed, by this spectacle, as if watching an episode of Game of Thrones, finding it hard to believe this can be real. The nation as a whole has become conditioned by two years of a president who has reduced reality to streams of late night tweets and, as the Washington Post documented, over 10,000 lies and counting. We saw our destiny in the president’s very first day in office, when he compelled his press secretary to come before the press corps like a brainwashed Manchurian candidate and insist that attendance at the Inauguration was not what every single person could see for himself.

We, as a nation, need to appreciate the extent to which we’ve been conditioned by this extraordinary phenomenon that began polluting the political process during the primaries when Trump undertook name calling and bullying and got away with it, stoked by the cable news media whose ratings were always skewed by the tastes of radical fringe viewers.

Framing the choices before us as a battle for the soul of the nation is spot on. Trump is not wrong. He is evil, if not the author of evil, and if the Mueller report shows anything it is how that evil has operated in the open, with the main issue being people’s inability to see this for what it actually is.

Nicholas Benton may be emailed at