Former AG Bill Barr’s upcoming White House memoir might be the most cynical of them all.
For someone who once NBD’d criticisms of his reputation by noting that “everyone dies,” former Attorney General Bill Barr seems awfully concerned about his reputation these days.
As part of the carefully calibrated rollout for his soon-to-be-released, pointedly unasked-for memoir One Damn Thing After Another (already marked down to just $28!), Barr is now courageously standing up to declare in no uncertain terms that he was actually very concerned that the man whose worst, most authoritarian instincts he single-handedly enabled from his perch atop the Justice Department might not, it turns out, have been so great after all.
“Trump cared only about one thing: himself,” Barr wrote, in an excerpt of the book published this week by The Washington Post. “Country and principle took second place.”
Damn. Brutal. What courage it must have taken to write those words! What conviction! Truly inspiring from someone who, uh, let me just check my notes here ... ah, yes, from someone who turned the DOJ into his own personal fiefdom on behalf of the very man he now claims “has neither the temperament nor persuasive powers to provide the kind of positive leadership that is needed.”
Of course, Barr is hardly the first former Trump flunky (Trunky?) to pivot toward the lucrative world of “actually, I was a good guy all along” memoiring since leaving federal service. But more than any of the other Trump-era revisionists, Barr’s naked attempt to reframe himself as a good man stuck in impossible circumstances is as laughably bogus as it is insulting to his readers.
“People are worthwhile to Trump only as means to his ends — as utensils,” Barr wrote in another except previewed in the Post. “When they don’t help him get what he wants, they are useless. In my case, Trump’s disenchantment started — as it was bound to — when he saw I was not willing to bend the law to do his bidding.”
While it’s true that Barr and Trump did indeed have a falling out (with just days to go before Trump left office entirely), the idea that somehow Barr was duped or taken advantage of is absurd on its face. If anything, Barr was equally culpable of using Trump as a “utensil” for his own career-long enterprise of dramatically expanding the scope of presidential powers. Their relationship, if nothing else, was a symbiotic one, with each enabling the other to achieve their own ends. It’s only now, with Trump maneuvering to run for office again and Barr firmly on the outs of his former patron’s political operation, that Barr can make his play for that oh-so-sacred position every right-leaning politician and political operative hopes to achieve: that of “conservative maverick” willing to tell hard truths and buck trends in service of some loftier sense of patriotism. That Barr is no such thing (as if such a thing even really exists) is hardly the point — by choosing now to come out and warn that the prospect of a second Trump administration is “dismaying,” Barr is simply joining the already-overflowing ranks of opportunist Frankensteins hoping to sanitize their roles in having created a monster.
By titling his memoir One Damn Thing After Another, Barr was clearly trying to frame himself as a man grappling with the daily challenges of his role in the maelstrom of history. But in truth, the title only serves to remind readers that Barr himself is nothing special. His attempt to pivot from enabler to alarmist is just the latest chapter in a career spent worshiping at various altars of grotesque political power, until it’s time to simply pack up and move on to another damn thing.