Thursday, May 2, 2019

Explaining Barr's Bad Behavior - Every Soul Trump Touches Dies

Fareed Zakaria predicts “the end of the Republican party.” Who is to blame?. In that 2016 post I likened Trump to the dementers, the soul-sucking beings in the Harry Potter series: “The name of the dementer sucking the soul out of the GOP is Trump.” That was just before the 2016 election when many (most?) thought that there was no way for Trump to win.

Two years later In ‘Everything Trump Touches Dies,’ Few Are Spared reported NPR in its review of Rick Wilson’s 2018 book by that name.

Wilson is one of a few for whom Never Trump meant it when they said “Never.” And, as one of a dwindling group of Never Trump conservatives, almost everyone has disappointed him.

Everything Trump Touches Dies is written to argue the myriad ways in which bowing to the president will poison even those with good intentions — like those who join the administration to serve the country, or those Republicans who go along with Trumpism because they like Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

How does this happen?

Former FBI Director James Comey writes about the way in which Trump will “poison” those with the most honest and admirable motives in the NY Times op-ed How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr. In brief: Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.

People have been asking me hard questions. What happened to the leaders in the Trump administration, especially the attorney general, Bill Barr, who I have said was due the benefit of the doubt?

How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” …

And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law? Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations”?

What happened to these people?

Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.

But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because …

“Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”

Following quotes are samples of Comey’s observations.

It starts with your sitting silent while he lies …

Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. …

From the private circle of assent, it moves to public displays of personal fealty at places like cabinet meetings. …

Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear — things you have always said must be protected and which you criticized past leaders for not supporting strongly enough. Yet you are silent. Because, after all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.

You feel this happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. … You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.

Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.

Graham lost his soul

And that brings me to the point of this post: John McCain’s BFF Senator Lindsey Graham has lost his soul to King Donald the Dementer. This graphic, from AZ Blue Meanie’s post, Donald Trump’s human shields in the Senate defend the indefensible, documents what Graham used to think. No longer.

Sen. Lindsey “Stonewall” Graham — who indicated in his closing remarks “when Robert Mueller testifies before this committee he can correct anything in [Barr’s] version of his statement” — post-hearing said he will not ask Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify about the Russia probe. Graham won’t call for Mueller to testify: ‘It’s over’. “I’m not going to do any more. Enough already. It’s over,” Graham told reporters, asked why he wasn’t calling Mueller to appear before his committee.

And here’s more. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowB log) reports that [Asked about evidence of obstruction, Graham says, ‘I don’t care’.]

Graham quite literally said he doesn’t care.

“I think it’s just all theater. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what he said to [former White House counsel] Don McGahn. It’s what he did…. I don’t care what they talked about. He didn’t do anything…. I don’t care what happened between him and Don McGahn.”

… Attempting to interfere with a criminal investigation is itself evidence of obstruction. McGahn’s willingness to ignore a president’s corrupt instructions does not let that president off the hook.

South Carolina’s senior senator, however, has left no doubt that he simply does not care, despite the principles he said he cared about when there was a Democrat in the White House. The Washington Post’s James Downie added, “Graham is far from the first hypocritical politician. But the South Carolina senator particularly prides himself on being no-nonsense and on his legal experience. That he has opted for such an obvious double standard is especially shameless.”

Trump has eaten Graham’s soul. Or to rephrase Rick Wilson, Every Soul Trump Touches Dies. And now we can add AG William Barr to the list of those with dead souls.

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