If it’s a “hearing,” Attorney General Bill Barr asked with an irked tongue in cheek, “aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be heard?”
His frustration was more than justified. Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and the other Democrats who control the House demanded for months that Barr come to a “hearing” and “testify.” But of course, it wasn’t anything like an actual hearing, and they didn’t want him to testify — as in actually answer questions.
The session was a coveted election-year opportunity for Democrats to berate the attorney general of the United States in five-minute installments, accusing Barr of corruption, perjury, violating his oath, betraying the Constitution — at one point, even of killing thousands of COVID-19 victims (apparently, by being attorney general during a pandemic).
Especially at the beginning of the hearing, Barr easily parried the hostile questions — soliloquies with question-marks at the end. He picked apart their misstatements and disingenuous premises, and answered with aplomb.
Democrats thus dropped the threadbare pretense that this was a hearing. In the main, the rest of the afternoon was devoted to raging, mock-anguished perorations about how Trump is a dictator and how Barr is helping him destroy our democracy.
These were punctuated by the occasional petulant demand that Barr answer “yes or no” a question that was either loaded or incoherent.
When Barr would begin to answer, there would be foot-stomping, indignant, “I’m reclaiming my time” interruptions, claims that there was no question pending (usually after a question had just been posed), and then more Democratic filibustering about how the American people could clearly see that Barr was afraid to answer their questions … that they wouldn’t let him answer.
It was an embarrassing spectacle.
Some days, it just feels like we’re doomed. This is one of those days. And not simply because this should have been an important oversight hearing featuring an important witness — one whom a serious committee would have wanted both to hear out and to challenge. It is, after all, the nature of the Justice Department’s work that there are many tough judgment calls; no one gets them all right.
What happened on Capitol Hill Tuesday was a debacle to despair over because Democrats do not act this way because they are preternaturally rude. They act this way because their voters expect and demand that they act this way.