Nate Jackson / Sep. 18, 2020

Barr Explains Rule of Law

The Constitution puts authority in the hands of the people first and foremost.

Attorney General William Barr is on a mission to defend Rule of Law, which he calls “the lynchpin of American freedom.” Indeed, he’s proven to be a warrior for Liberty, which he demonstrated yet again in remarks at Hillsdale College’s DC campus in honor of Constitution Day.

Why Hillsdale? “Sadly, many colleges these days don’t even teach the Constitution, much less celebrate it,” Barr observed. “But at Hillsdale, you recognize that the principles of the Founding are as relevant today as ever — and vital to the success of our free society.”

He hit several topics, and below are some key observations:

“Federal prosecutors possess tremendous power,” Barr said. “Power that is necessary to enforce our laws and punish wrongdoing, but power that, like any power, carries inherent potential for abuse or misuse.”

Though he acknowledged it’s counterintuitive, he said, “The most basic check on prosecutorial power is politics.” Why? Because “government power completely divorced from politics is tyranny.”

The outworking of this shows up in the chain-of-command hierarchy of political appointees superseding the will of deep-state bureaucrats. Barr asserted, “Name one successful organization where the lowest level employees’ decisions are deemed sacrosanct. There aren’t any. Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it’s no way to run a federal agency. Good leaders at the Justice Department — as at any organization — need to trust and support their subordinates. But that does not mean blindly deferring to whatever those subordinates want to do.”

Moreover, the idea that career prosecutors are somehow devoid of political objectives should have been thoroughly debunked by events of the last four years. As Barr observed, “Individual prosecutors can sometimes become headhunters, consumed with taking down their target.” That goes for FBI directors and special counsels, too.

On the subject of the Marxist Black Lives Matter organization, he argued, “They’re not interested in black lives. They’re interested in props, a small number of blacks who are killed by police during conflicts with police — usually less than a dozen a year — who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.” If BLM cared about black lives, Barr concluded, they’d work to end the fact that “most deaths in the inner city of young black males below the age of 44” are because those men are “being shot by another black person.”

Addressing the coronavirus lockdowns, Barr said, “Putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.” The root of it, he says, is attitude. “Most of the governors do what bureaucrats always do, which is … defy common sense,” he said. “They treat free citizens as babies that can’t take responsibility for themselves and others.”

Barr’s overarching theme? Our Constitution establishes a government by and for the people. Unelected bureaucrats don’t trump elected officials or political appointees, and those, in turn, don’t trump the people themselves as the ultimate repository of power. If more officials — elected, appointed, or career — followed Barr’s example, and if more college professors taught this basic civics lesson, our nation would be far better off.

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