Category Archives: Party Politics

The Bipartisan Moral Rot of America’s Institutions

Well, what do you know? The first I have heard the WSJ at least open to the concept that some political shenanigans may have had an influence on the 2020 Presidential election. mrossol

WSJ  11/5/2021

In politics, in business, in the cultural discourse that plays out on a never-ending doom loop on our screens and in our heads, the year has been marked by the triumph of cynical expediency, the relentless pursuit of self-interest dressed up as public-spirited principle.

Political leaders, business chiefs and the media and entertainment figures they ventriloquize have grasped their opportunities in this tempestuous year to advance their own causes. A pandemic, urban violence, the machinery of electoral democracy—all carefully repurposed and packaged in a gauzy wrapping of useful lies to ensure above all else their gain.

 

Some of the nation’s biggest and most powerful companies exploited an unprecedented human crisis to grow bigger and more powerful, making sure to shed crocodile tears for the losers. Progressive politicians at the local and national levels cynically seized on repeated crises to promote their ideological objectives. Most of the nation’s celebrated newsrooms abandoned the last pretense of objectivity and revealed their selective use and manipulation of facts as little more than propaganda.

There are exceptions, but depressingly few to celebrate. The most notable last holdouts to this encroaching empire of dishonesty are the millions of decent and honorable Americans who have suffered unprecedented human and economic damage this year, even as their comfortably distanced, self-aggrandizing superiors lecture them on their ignorance and inadequacy. Lions led by donkeys.

Two episodes last week stand as fitting codas to this spectacle, timely examples of the moral corruption eating away at American institutions.

The first was the sudden discovery by the media, a month after the votes were safely cast, of the news that Hunter Biden has a serious problem stemming from his penchant to sell himself to foreigners with potential business before his father.

The New York Post broke the most explosive element of this story before the election. But back then it was deemed a “distraction” by one of our leading news organizations and a menace to democratic health by the technology companies that control the flow of much of our information. And it was more or less completely ignored or rubbished by most of the U.S. and world media.

We’ll never know what effect the story might have had on the election if it had been given the airing it deserved. The electoral margin in three states—Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona—that combined to give Joe Biden 37 electoral votes, and the presidency, was a little under 43,000 votes, a vanishingly small sliver of the two men’s 155.5 million total nationwide votes.

But it’s less its potential electoral impact that stinks and more the cynical way in which the Biden-supporting press shouldered the story aside, in the process defaming fellow journalists as traitors peddling Kremlin propaganda. Who would have thought that 2020 would be the year Joe McCarthy and John Birch finally got the recognition from the American media they deserved?

The other episode was the spectacle of a large part of the Republican party selling its soul for the tainted penny of an embittered president’s approval in a political stunt that was irresponsible, futile and deeply undermining of the principles for which the party is supposed to stand.

There’s a case to be made that the presidential election was conducted in a way that casts doubt on the official outcome. The changing of the electoral rules in midcampaign in many states, enabling an avalanche of postal voting—with its notably greater susceptibility to fraud and manipulation—had political consequences that may well have influenced the result.

But there’s a difference between challenging those results and completely abandoning constitutional propriety and political principle to do so.

That’s what the state of Texas, joined by more than a dozen other Republican-controlled states and more than half the House Republican caucus, did in signing on to a Supreme Court case that took the justices—three of them appointed by President Trump—about four minutes to dismiss.

Again, the object of our scorn should be not the argument itself, but the chosen means for pursuing it: the idea that conservatives should embrace a political mechanism to produce a remedy that explicitly demands the subjugation of states’ constitutionally protected rights.

What are they going to argue the next time some activist federal judge seeks to impose California-style environmental regulations on Texas?

At a stroke, these conservatives were ready to jettison two of the foundational principles of conservative jurisprudence, federalism and judicial restraint, for a short-term political advantage in furtherance of a highly controversial objective of overturning an election.

The truly depressing aspect to these cynical assaults on the nation’s honor is that they act like a ratchet. With every new breach in the political or cultural proprieties that hold a nation together, a new norm is established. The already low dishonesty of our institutions becomes a ceiling, not a floor.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-bipartisan-moral-rot-of-americas-institutions-11607969301?cx_testId=3&cx_testVariant=cx_4&cx_artPos=3&mod=WTRN#cxrecs_s

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Obama’s Gerrymander Fable

WSJ  10/13/2021,  By Karl Rove

I guess I should be honored that the National Democratic Redistricting Committee slapped my name and picture on its fundraising email, but am I really “the latest Republican attack on democracy?”

The committee’s appeal appeared after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were named co-chairmen of the National Republican Redistricting Trust and—horror!—I became an adviser to the group, which provides data and legal support to GOP efforts in the redistricting that occurs each decade.

The NRRT was formed in response to Democratic efforts organized in 2016 by former President Barack Obama and his attorney general Eric Holder. Mr. Holder is NDRC chairman, and Mr. Obama says the group is the main focus of his post-White House political activity. The NDRC works to elect more Democratic state legislators and then provide data and legal services as they draw maps. An affiliate, called All on the Line (AOTL), mobilizes volunteers for these endeavors.

Practicing habits they’ve built up over their political careers, Messrs. Obama and Holder cloak their activities in righteousness while angrily attacking similar efforts from Republicans. Mr. Holder says GOP redistricting maps represent “a threat to our democracy” and, along with recent election reforms, “put our entire system of government in jeopardy.” The “vicious cycle” of Republican “anti-democratic gerrymandering” will only produce victories by “candidates with unpopular and even dangerous views,” according to Mr. Holder.

This sort of rhetoric isn’t unusual from the NDRC or AOTL, which routinely rip into political rivals. In AOTL’s words, GOP governors in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Texas are “showing disdain for our democracy” in their state’s redistricting. The group also denounced the Supreme Court for making it “harder to have a truly representative democracy.” Taking a page from the Trump playbook, an AOTL fundraising pitch claims that in the 2000 White House race, Republicans “pushed to disenfranchise voters and steal an election.” Mr. Obama should be ashamed of lending his prestige to such a charge.

Moreover, Messrs. Obama and Holder’s claim that they’re concerned only with crafting fair maps is bunk. Their definition of a “fair” map is one that gives Democrats an unfair advantage.

Take Maryland. Democrats wiped out a GOP seat in redistricting in 2011, giving the state seven Democratic representatives and one Republican. As this year’s redistricting heats up, Democratic leaders look to gut the state’s single remaining Republican district by dividing it among adjoining Democratic districts. Messrs. Obama and Holder haven’t said a thing.

Then there’s Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D., Ill.), who entered office pledging to end gerrymandering by giving the job of redistricting to an independent commission. That never happened. Instead, Democratic legislators are preparing a new congressional map that likely will wipe out two Republican districts while shoring up Democrats who are at risk in 2022. And guess what? Nothing but crickets from Mr. Obama and his old attorney general.

There’s also New York. In 2014 voters approved a nonpartisan commission to draw congressional lines that only a legislative supermajority could reject. How’s the state faring as it crafts new maps while losing one of its 27 seats in reapportionment? First, the Democratic Legislature tried starving the commission, refusing to supply funds to operate.

Then Democratic commissioners refused to meet with Republicans to settle on a bipartisan map, while their party’s legislative leaders worked to weaken the supermajority vote requirement. Gov. Kathy Hochul also pledged to flip GOP congressional seats, which could take the delegation from today’s 19-8 Democratic majority to 23-3. Again, no denunciation of “threats to democracy” or cries of “fair maps or death!” from Messrs. Obama and Holder.

They’re quick to scream when Republicans’ share of a congressional delegation is larger than their share of the vote, but they never apply this standard to states where Democrats dominate redistricting. Take Oregon, where Democrats have 80% of the seats though Republicans received 40% of the vote. Or Massachusetts, where Democrats have 100% of contested seats and Republicans received 33% of the vote. Or California, where Democrats have 76% of seats contested by the GOP while Republicans received 38% of the vote. Or Illinois, where Democrats hold 67% of seats even though Republicans got 41% of the vote. Or . . . well, you get the picture.

Mr. Obama gave away his game in a recent email. “Every issue we care about—from income inequality and health care to climate policy—depends on the results of this redistricting process.” So this isn’t about fairness, democracy or ending gerrymandering. In redistricting, Democrats want to elect more of their partisans to advance their agenda. So do Republicans. The only difference is that Messrs. Obama and Holder are hypocrites about it, claiming a higher purpose. Like I said, old habits die hard.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is author of “The Triumph of William McKinley” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

https://www.wsj.com/articles/obama-gerrymander-fable-holder-redistricting-republican-seats-nrrt-drc-aotl-karl-rove-11634158472?mod=opinion_lead_pos10

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The January 6 Insurrection Hoax – Imprimis

The January 6 Insurrection Hoax

Roger Kimball
Editor and Publisher, The New Criterion


Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. He earned his B.A. from Bennington College and his M.A. and M.Phil. in philosophy from Yale University. He has written for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times Book Review, and is a columnist for The Spectator World, American Greatness, and The Epoch Times. He is editor or author of several books, including The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education, and Vox Populi: The Perils and Promises of Populism.


The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on September 20, 2021, during a Center for Constructive Alternatives conference on “Critical American Elections.”

Notwithstanding all the hysterical rhetoric surrounding the events of January 6, 2021, two critical things stand out. The first is that what happened was much more hoax than insurrection. In fact, in my judgment, it wasn’t an insurrection at all.

An “insurrection,” as the dictionary will tell you, is a violent uprising against a government or other established authority. Unlike the violent riots that swept the country in the summer of 2020—riots that caused some $2 billion in property damage and claimed more than 20 lives—the January 6 protest at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. lasted a few hours, caused minimal damage, and the only person directly killed was an unarmed female Trump supporter who was shot by a Capitol Police officer. It was, as Tucker Carlson said shortly after the event, a political protest that “got out of hand.”

At the rally preceding the events in question, Donald Trump had suggested that people march to the Capitol “peacefully and patriotically”—these were his exact words—in order to make their voices heard. He did not incite a riot; he stirred up a crowd. Was that, given the circumstances, imprudent? Probably. Was it an effort to overthrow the government? Hardly.

I know this is not the narrative that we have all been instructed to parrot. Indeed, to listen to the establishment media and our political masters, the January 6 protest was a dire threat to the very fabric of our nation: the worst assault on “our democracy” since 9/11, since Pearl Harbor, and even—according to Joe Biden last April—since the Civil War! 

Note that phrase “our democracy”: Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and various talking heads have repeated it ad nauseam. But you do not need an advanced degree in hermeneutics to understand that what they mean by “our democracy” is their oligarchy. Similarly, when Pelosi talks about “the people’s house,” she doesn’t mean a house that welcomes riff-raff like you and me.

I just alluded to Ashli Babbitt, the unarmed supporter of Donald Trump who was shot and killed on January 6. Her fate brings me to the second critical thing to understand about the January 6 insurrection hoax. Namely, that it was not a stand-alone event. 

On the contrary, what happened that afternoon, and what happened afterwards, is only intelligible when seen as a chapter in the long-running effort to discredit and, ultimately, to dispose of Donald Trump—as well as what Hillary Clinton might call the “deplorable” populist sentiment that brought Trump to power. 

In other words, to understand the January 6 insurrection hoax, you also have to understand that other long-running hoax, the Russia collusion hoax. The story of that hoax begins back in 2015, when the resources of the federal government were first mobilized to spy on the Trump campaign, to frame various people close to Trump, and eventually to launch a full-throated criminal investigation of the Trump administration. 

From before Trump took office, the Russia collusion hoax was used as a pretext to create a parallel administration shadowing the elected administration. Remember the Steele dossier, the fantastical document confected by the “well-regarded” former British spy Christopher Steele? We know now that it was the only relevant predicate for ordering FISA warrants to spy on Carter Page and other American citizens. 

But in truth, the Steele dossier was just opposition dirt covertly paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. From beginning to end, it was a tissue of lies and fabrications. Everyone involved knew all along it was garbage—rumors and fantasies fed to a gullible Steele by shady Russian sources. But it was nonetheless used to deploy, illegally, the awesome coercive power of the state against a presidential candidate of whom the ruling bureaucracy and its favored candidate disapproved. 

The public learned that the Democratic National Committee paid for the manufactured evidence only because of a court order. James Comey, the disgraced former director of the FBI, publicly denied knowing who paid for it, but emails from a year earlier prove that he knew all along. And what was the penalty for lying in Comey’s case? He got a huge book deal and toured the country denouncing Trump to the gleeful satisfaction of his anti-Trump audiences. 

What was true of Comey was also true of the entire intelligence apparat, from former CIA Director John Brennan to Congressman Adam Schiff and other Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee to senior members of the FBI. All these people said publicly that they had seen clear evidence of collusion with Russia. But they admitted under oath behind closed doors that they hadn’t.

General Michael Flynn, Trump’s original National Security Advisor, had his career ruined and was bankrupted as part of this political vendetta. Meanwhile James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, John Brennan, Peter Strzok, and all the rest of the crew at the FBI, the CIA, and other intelligence agencies suffered nothing. When it came to light that an FBI lawyer altered an email in order to help get a FISA warrant—in other words, that he doctored evidence to spy on a political opponent, which is a felony—he got probation.

The recent news that Special Counsel John Durham is indicting Michael Sussman, a lawyer who covertly worked for the Clinton campaign and lied to the FBI, is welcome news. But it seems like small beer given the rampant higher-level corruption that saturated the Russia collusion hoax.

At least 74 million citizens voted for Donald Trump in 2020, which is at least 11 million more than voted for him in 2016. Many of those voters are profoundly disillusioned and increasingly angry about this entire story—the years-long Robert Mueller “investigation,” the two impeachments of President Trump, the cloud of unknowing that surrounds the 2020 election, and the many questions that have emerged not only from the January 6 protest at the Capitol, but even more from the government’s response to that protest.

Which brings me back to Ashli Babbitt, the long-serving Air Force veteran who was shot and killed by a nervous Capitol Police officer. Babbitt was a useful prop when the media was in overdrive describing the January 6 events as an “armed insurrection” in which wild Trump supporters, supposedly at Trump’s instigation, attacked the Capitol with the intention of overturning the 2020 election.

According to that narrative, five people, including Babbitt, died in the skirmish. Moreover, it was said, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was bludgeoned to death by a raging Trump supporter wielding a fire extinguisher. That gem of a story about the fire extinguisher, reported in our former paper of record, The New York Times, was instantly picked up by other media outlets and spread like a Chinese virus. 

Of course, it is absolutely critical to the Democratic Party narrative that the January 6 incident be made to seem as violent and crazed as possible. Hence the comparisons to 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and the Civil War. Only thus can pro-Trump Americans be excluded from “our democracy” by being branded as “domestic extremists” if not, indeed, “domestic terrorists.”

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution accords American citizens the right to a speedy trial. But most of the political prisoners of January 6—many of whom have been kept in solitary confinement—are still waiting to be brought to trial. And although the media was full of predictions that they would be found guilty of criminal sedition, none has. 

Indeed, the prosecution’s cases seem to be falling apart. Most of the hundreds who have been arrested are being charged with trespassing. Another charge being leveled against them is “disrupting an official proceeding.” This is a felony charge designed not for ceremonial procedures like the January 6 certification of the vote, but rather for disrupting Congressional inquiries—for example, by shredding documents relevant to a Congressional investigation. It originated during the George W. Bush administration to deal with the Enron case.

The indisputable fact about January 6 is that although five people died at or near the Capitol on that day or soon thereafter, none of these deaths was brought about by the protesters. The shot fired by Capitol Police Officer Michael Byrd that hit Ashli Babbitt in the neck and killed her was the only shot fired at the Capitol that day. No guns were recovered from the Capitol on January 6. Zero.

The liberal commentator Glenn Greenwald further diminished the “armed insurrection” narrative in an important column last February titled “The False and Exaggerated Claims Still Being Spread About the Capitol Riot.” The title says it all. Kevin Greeson, Greenwald notes, was killed not by the protesters but died of a heart attack outside the Capitol. Benjamin Philips, the founder of a pro-Trump website called Trumparoo, died of a stroke that day. Rosanne Boyland, another Trump supporter, was reported by The New York Times to have been inadvertently “killed in a crush of fellow rioters during their attempt to fight through a police line.” But later video shows that, far from that, the police pushed protesters on top of Boyland and would not allow other protesters to pull her out.

Four of the five who died, then, were pro-Trump protesters. And the fifth? Well, that was Officer Sicknick—also a Trump supporter, as it turned out—who, contrary to the false report gone viral of The New York Times, went home, told his family he felt fine, but died a day later from, as The Washington Post eventually and grudgingly reported, “natural causes.” No fire extinguishers were involved in his demise.

***

The January 6 insurrection hoax prompts lots of questions.

Why, for example, did the government mobilize 26,000 federal troops from all across the country to surround “the people’s house” following January 6? Why were those troops subjected to FBI vetting, with some of them sent packing? 

Why is there some 14,000 hours of video footage of the event on January 6 that the government refuses to release? What are they afraid of letting the public see? More scenes of security guards actually opening doors and politely ushering in protesters? More pictures of FBI informants covertly salted among the crowd?

My own view is that turning Washington into an armed camp was mostly theater. There was no threat that the Washington police could not have handled. But it was also a show of force and an act of intimidation. The message was: “We’re in charge now, rubes, and don’t you forget it.”

In truth, there is little threat of domestic terror in this country. But there is plenty of domestic conservatism. And that conservatism is the real focus of the establishment’s ire.

It is important to note that while the government provides the muscle for this war on dissent, the elite culture at large is a willing accomplice. Consider, for example, the open letter, signed by more than 500 “publishing professionals” (authors, editors, designers, and so on), calling on the industry to reject books written by anyone who had anything to do with the Trump administration. 

These paragons pledged to do whatever they could to stop “enriching the monsters among us.” But here’s their problem: over 74 million people voted for Trump. That’s a lot of monsters. 

Many people have been quoting Benjamin Franklin’s famous response when asked what sort of government they had come up with at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. “A republic,” Franklin said, “if you can keep it.” Right now, it looks like we can’t. It looks as if the American constitutional republic has given way, as least temporarily, to an American oligarchy. 

As the years go by, historians, if the censors allow them access to the documents and give them leave to publish their findings, may well count the 2016 presidential election as the last fair and open democratic election in U.S. history. I know we are not supposed to say that. I know that the heads of Twitter and Facebook and other woke guardians of the status quo call this view “The Big Lie” and do all they can to suppress it. But every honest person knows that the 2020 election was tainted.

The forces responsible for the taint had tried before. Hitherto, their efforts had met with only limited success. But a perfect storm of forces conspired to make 2020 the first oligarchic installation of a president. It would not have happened, I think, absent the panic over the Chinese virus. But that panic, folded in a lover’s embrace by the Democratic establishment, was not only a splendid pretext to clamp down on civil liberties; it also provided an inarguable excuse to alter the rules for elections in several key states.

“Inarguable” is not quite the right word. There could have been plenty of arguments, and many lawsuits, against the way the executive branches in these states usurped the constitutionally guaranteed prerogative of state legislatures to set the election rules when they intervened to allow massive mail-in voting. But the Trump administration, though foreseeing and complaining about the executive interventions, did too little too late to make a difference. 

Among the many sobering realities that the 2020 election brought home is that in our current and particular form of oligarchy, the people do have a voice, but it is a voice that is everywhere pressured, cajoled, shaped, and bullied. The people also have a choice, but only among a roster of candidates approved by the elite consensus. 

The central fact to appreciate about Donald Trump is that he was elected president without the permission, and over the incredulous objections, of the bipartisan oligarchy that governs us. That was his unforgivable offense. Trump was the greatest threat in history to the credentialed class and the globalist administrative state upon which they feed. Representatives of that oligarchy tried for four years to destroy Trump. Remember that the first mention of impeachment came 19 minutes after his inauguration, an event that was met not only by a widespread Democratic boycott and hysterical claims by Nancy Pelosi and others that the election had been hijacked, but also by riots in Washington, D.C. that saw at least six policemen injured, numerous cars torched, and other property destroyed. 

You will search in vain for media or other ruling class denunciations of that violence, or for bulletins from corporate America advising their customers of their solidarity with the newly-installed Trump administration. As the commentator Howie Carr noted, some riots are more equal than others. Some get you the approval of people like Nancy Pelosi and at least the grudging acceptance of oligarchs of the other party. Others get the FBI sweeping the country for “domestic terrorists” and the lords of Big Tech canceling people who defend the protesters’ cause.

Someday—maybe someday soon—this witches’ sabbath, this festival of scapegoating, and what George Orwell called the “hideous ecstasy” of hate will be at an end. Perhaps someday people will be aghast, and some will be ashamed, of what they did to the President of the United States and people who supported him: the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, for instance, proposing to put Senator Ted Cruz on a “no fly” list, and Simon & Schuster canceling Senator Josh Hawley’s book contract. 

Donald Trump is the Emmanuel Goldstein (the designated principal enemy of the totalitarian state Oceania in Orwell’s 1984) of the movement. But minor public enemies are legion. Anyone harboring “Trumpist” inclinations is suspect, hence the widespread calls for “deprogramming” Trump’s supporters, who are routinely said to be “marching toward sedition.”

Michael Barone, one of our most perceptive political commentators, got it right when he wrote of the rapid movement “from impeaching incitement to canceling conservatism.” That is the path our oligarchs are inviting us to travel now, criminalizing political dissent and transforming policy differences into a species of heresy. You don’t debate heretics, after all. You seek to destroy them.

Donald Trump’s accomplishments as president were nothing less than stunning. Trump was, and is, a rude force of nature. He accomplished an immense amount. But he lacked one thing. Some say it was self-discipline or finesse. I agree with a friend of mine who suggested that Trump’s critical flaw was a deficit in guile. That sounds odd, no doubt, since Trump is supposed to be the tough guy who mastered “the art of the deal.” But I think my friend is probably right. Trump seems never to have discerned what a viper’s nest our politics has become for anyone who is not a paid-up member of The Club. 

Maybe Trump understands this now. I have no insight into that question. I am pretty confident, though, that the 74 plus million people who voted for him understand it deeply. It’s another reason that The Club should be wary of celebrating its victory too expansively. 

Friedrich Hayek took one of the two epigraphs for his book, The Road to Serfdom, from the philosopher David Hume. “It is seldom,” Hume wrote, “that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” Much as I admire Hume, I wonder whether he got this quite right. Sometimes, I would argue, liberty is erased almost instantaneously.

I’d be willing to wager that Joseph Hackett, confronted with Hume’s observation, would express similar doubts. I would be happy to ask Mr. Hackett myself, but he is inaccessible. If the ironically titled “Department of Justice” has its way, he will be inaccessible for a long, long time—perhaps as long as 20 years. 

Joseph Hackett, you see, is a 51-year-old Trump supporter and member of an organization called the Oath Keepers, a group whose members have pledged to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.” The FBI does not like the Oath Keepers—agents arrested its leader in January and have picked up many other members in the months since. Hackett traveled to Washington from his home in Florida to join the January 6 rally. According to court documents, he entered the Capitol at 2:45 that afternoon and left some nine minutes later, at 2:54. The next day, he went home. On May 28, he was apprehended by the FBI and indicted on a long list of charges, including conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and illegally entering a restricted building. 

As far as I have been able to determine, no evidence of Hackett destroying property has come to light. According to his wife, it is not even clear that he entered the Capitol. But he certainly was in the environs. He was a member of the Oath Keepers. He was a supporter of Donald Trump. Therefore, he must be neutralized.

Joseph Hackett is only one of hundreds of citizens who have been branded as “domestic terrorists” trying to “overthrow the government” and who are now languishing, in appalling conditions, jailed as political prisoners of an angry state apparat.

Hayek’s overriding concern in The Road to Serfdom was to combat the forces that were pushing people further along that road to servitude. His chief concern was unchecked state power. In a new preface to the book’s 1956 edition, Hayek noted that one of its “main points” was to document how “extensive government control produces a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people.”

 “This means,” Hayek wrote, “that even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit.”

 This dismal situation, Hayek continues, can be averted, but only if the spirit of liberty “reasserts itself in time and the people not only throw out the party which has been leading them further and further in the dangerous direction but also recognize the nature of the danger and resolutely change their course.”

Note the power of that little word “if.” It was not so long ago that an American could contemplate totalitarian regimes and say, “Thank God we’ve escaped that.” It’s not at all clear that we can entertain that happy conviction any longer. 

That’s one melancholy lesson of the January 6 insurrection hoax: that America is fast mutating from a republic, in which individual liberty is paramount, into an oligarchy, in which conformity is increasingly demanded and enforced.

Another lesson was perfectly expressed by Donald Trump when he reflected on the unremitting tsunami of hostility that he faced as President. “They’re after you,” he more than once told his supporters. “I’m just in the way.”

Bingo.

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Robert Mueller’s Revenge

WSJ  5/11/2021  By William McGurn

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson has an answer for all those hoping to heal and move on from the Trump years: Nothing doing.

Her answer comes by way of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. In her ruling, Judge Jackson orders the Justice Department to make public an internal March 2019 memo to then-Attorney General Bill Barr about whether to prosecute President Trump.

The pretense is that this is about Mr. Barr, whom the judge accuses of being “disingenuous” about his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In reality, her tirade is but the latest expression of Mueller Madness: the great liberal frustration that, in the end, there was no “there” there in the Mueller report.

We know this not from Mr. Trump or Mr. Barr but from their fiercest foes. When Democrats finally did get around to impeaching Mr. Trump, they made a conscious decision to ignore the Mueller report. Instead, their (first) impeachment was over a phone call Mr. Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On Dec. 10, 2019, the New York Times reported that, after consulting with her caucus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided the House would move ahead with two articles of impeachment. Each would focus narrowly on Ukraine. A third impeachment charge, tied to Mr. Mueller’s report, was “too much of a reach.”

In short, Mr. Mueller’s first shot at Mr. Trump was collusion with the Russians, for which he found no evidence. His second shot was obstruction of justice, but he punted on a decision about whether what he found was a crime. This shot didn’t hit its mark either when Congress declined to act on it.

Plainly the judge is hoping the third time’s the charm. If she can’t get Mr. Trump, maybe she can at least tarnish his attorney general.

One of the judge’s complaints is that in reducing the 448-page Mueller report to a four-page summary of its principal conclusions and releasing it to the public, Mr. Barr was trying to “hide the ball.” The idea is ludicrous, given that Mr. Barr made public almost the full report—complete with its hundreds of pages detailing Mr. Trump’s bad behavior—only three weeks later. In his letter Mr. Barr duly noted Mr. Mueller’s point that the report didn’t “exonerate” the president.

Now, two years later, Judge Jackson revives the special counsel’s complaint that the attorney general’s letter didn’t fully capture “the context, nature, and substance” of his report. What the judge doesn’t point out is that Mr. Barr then called Mr. Mueller to ask what he’d got wrong and, according to a Justice spokesman, Mr. Mueller conceded there was nothing inaccurate but felt the media coverage was misinterpreting it and wanted more released. Weeks later, when Mr. Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee—the perfect opportunity to tell the world about the ball Mr. Barr had hidden—he again retreated into vague generalities.

We are left with a federal judge reaching into internal Justice Department communications in a way that, if allowed to stand, would jeopardize the ability of any attorney general to get candid advice from his staff. In an argument that sounds less like the words of a dispassionate judge than the fantasies of a naked partisan such as Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, Judge Jackson claims to know—without proof and apparently without appreciation for how the Justice Department functions—that Mr. Barr had already made his decision before the memo. Her opinion is a reminder of how egregious prosecution could be if left to judges.

After her ruling, gleeful headlines reported that a judge had all but called Mr. Barr a liar. Some who should know better—e.g., Neal Katyal, acting U.S. solicitor general during the Obama administration—have piled on by talking up possible criminal charges.

This is a test for Merrick Garland. As attorney general he surely has an interest in keeping confidential his own department’s internal deliberations on controversial issues. Whether the Justice Department appeals Judge Jackson’s outrageous decision will tell us whether Mr. Garland really is a square shooter, as he has been sold.

Meanwhile, there have been almost no public defenses of Mr. Barr. Partly this is because he is loathed by Democrats for launching an investigation into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2016 Trump-Russia probe. Partly it’s because some Republicans are also sore at him for not backing Mr. Trump’s claims that Mr. Biden won the 2020 election because of widespread election fraud.

None of this changes the reality of Mr. Mueller and his report: He found no underlying crime, his investigation was not obstructed, and he was never able to cite a single case involving the obstruction statute in which a government official—much less a president—was prosecuted for exercising his legitimate authority. In ruling as she has, Judge Jackson has shown herself to be another bitter partisan who cannot bring herself to face these facts.

Write to mcgurn@wsj.com.

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