Friday, April 19, 2019

Tinkers To Evers To Chance, Thomas To Kavanaugh To Barr


In her excellent analysis for Slate, Lili Loofbourow recognizes

In Barr’s summary of events, Trump wasn’t just innocent but wronged—a persecuted party whose injudicious actions could be chalked up to distress at being falsely accused. Sound familiar? It’s not a bad public relations strategy: It worked for Brett Kavanaugh. His extraordinary tantrum during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was rationalized by defenders as the understandable excess of a tormented man. No lawyer could have come up with a better defense for the president, anyway. As Fox News’ Chris Wallace characterized Barr’s press conference, the attorney general was essentially “acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president … talking about his motives, his emotions.” And just like Kavanaugh, Barr took his stage knowing he was performing for an audience of one.

And so, the nation whose elections were targeted and attacked by a foreign adversary (whose leader Trump constantly praises) was instructed, by its own attorney general, to forget its troubles and sympathize with the man who openly asked Russia to hack his opponent’s emails. Barr, no fool, understands that he has a challenging client. “In assessing the president’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context,” he intoned. That context turned out to be that Trump was upset. “Federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr stated, presenting this as a hardship. Worse still, “there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability.” Our attorney general wishes us to understand that this, too, was unfair. That Michael Flynn, the man Trump had chosen to be America’s national security adviser, was an unregistered foreign agent who had acted on behalf of a foreign government was none of America’s concern. Neither was Trump’s subsequent defense of the man, long after his firing, nor his request for James Comey to let it go. It wasn’t the conduct that was unwarranted and inappropriate, but the scrutiny of that conduct. It is we—the news media and the American people—who ought to think long and hard about What We’ve Done.





Turning accusation against the accusers, William Barr adopted the highly effective Brett Kavanaugh playbook.  However, this was not a playbook written by the Supreme Court nominee or even his facilitator/chaperone, then-White House Counsel Don McGahn.  It merely was borrowed by Barr (and sure to be used again) after it was adapted last autumn for the Supreme Court nominee.  

McGahn probably realized it had been used successfully previously. Late last September in the wake of Kavanaugh's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Michael Rosenwald drew a parallel in Kavaugh's strategy and that of another Supreme Court appointee. He described the

fury from Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh as he angrily denied allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, calling his confirmation process a “national disgrace” during testimony before a Senate committee. He testified after his accuser Christine Blasey Ford described an alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh at a drunken Maryland house party in the early 1980s when they were in high school.

“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit, ever,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh defended his innocence again and again.

“Listen to the people I know. Listen to the people who have known me my whole life. Listen to the people I’ve grown up with and worked with and played with and coached with and dated and taught and gone to games with and had beers with. And listen to the witnesses who were allegedly at this event 30 years ago," he said.

The comparisons with the Thomas/Hill hearing was inevitable.

In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee reopened Thomas’s confirmation to hear Hill’s sexual harassment allegations and the nominee’s response. The lurid testimony that followed — about penis sizes, breasts, pubic hairs and pornography — captivated the nation, with open arguments in homes and workplaces over who was telling the truth.

Following Hill’s testimony, Thomas angrily addressed the committee, saying:

Senator, I would like to start by saying unequivocally, uncategorically that I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her. Second, and I think a more important point, I think that this today is a travesty. I think that it is disgusting. I think that this hearing should never occur in America. This is a case in which this sleaze, this dirt was searched for by staffers of members of this committee, was then leaked to the media, and this committee and this body validated it and displayed it in prime time over our entire Nation. How would any member on this committee or any person in this room or any person in this country would like sleaze said about him or her in this fashion or this dirt dredged up and this gossip and these lies displayed in this manner? How would any person like it?


And then he uttered the most repeated and analyzed portion of his defense:

This is a circus. It is a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity-blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kow-tow to an old order, this is what will happen to you, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.

Circus. Lynched. Destroyed.

Those words set the tone for how Thomas saved his nomination, a defense that was later deemed shrewd and “well designed” by communication and rhetoric experts.










Kavanaugh shrewdly replaced the angry black guy shtick with the angry white guy shtick.

William Barr's line of strategy itself stretched from himself to Brett Kavanaugh and all the way back to Clarence Thomas. Rosenfeld noted 

“I desperately needed a break,” Thomas wrote in his memoir.

With his wife, Virginia, Thomas drove to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. From there, they took a ferry to New Jersey.

“The summer tourist season was over and the beach was deserted and quiet,” Thomas wrote, “but I found no peace there.” He had a nagging feeling that “my opponents were still holding something in reserve.”

He was right.

The day after returning to their home in Alexandria, Va., two FBI agents knocked on the front door.

“They flashed their credentials and started asking questions before I could close the door behind them,” Thomas wrote.

The first question: “Do you know a woman named Anita Hill?”

Oops. That "nagging feeling" probably was the realization that his history of sexual harassment in the workplace would catch up to him. Similarly, according to Jeff Sessions, when Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, on May 17, 2017 President Trump told then-AG Sessions “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked."

The parallel appears even greater when Rosenfeld explains that Thomas not only played the victim, vowing not to "provide rope for my own lynching" but also attacked the process. The nominee whined

I have endured this ordeal for 103 days. Reporters sneaking into my garage to examine books I read. Reporters and interest groups swarming over divorce papers, looking for dirt. Unnamed people starting preposterous and damaging rumors. Calls all over the country specifically requesting dirt. This is not American. This is Kafka-esque. It has got to stop. It must stop for the benefit of future nominees, and our country. Enough is enough.

On Thursday Attorney General Barr attempted to paint Donald Trump as a victim, complaining

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.

Slate's David A Graham noticed

In short, the attorney general is saying that the president’s possibly obstructive efforts were not corrupt, because Trump sincerely believed he was the victim of a conspiracy. Because the president was “frustrated and angered,” Barr seems to think it was reasonable for him to, for example, pressure the FBI director to drop an investigation.

The President was "frustrated and angry," as was Clarence Thomas ("enough is enough") by those "reporters" and "interest groups" and "unnamed people."

William Barr took from the script written by Clarence Thomas and passed along to Brett Kavanaugh. Unfortunately, it looks as if Donald Trump may survive politically, as did Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. And now- for the cherry on top of the cake- the fellow who smoothed the way for "high-tech lynching" Thomas to get a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land is set to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America.



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