Barr Brawl in the House

July 29, 2020

House Democrats have been itching to get Attorney General William Barr on the stand for more than a year. But after Tuesday's performance, I guarantee they won't be so eager again. The hearing in the Judiciary Committee, which was supposed to end in disaster for President Trump, was a spectacular failure for the Left, who emerged looking bitter, unhinged, and outsmarted. Barr, in sharp contrast, was the picture of unflappability, as liberals raged, interrupted, and mocked their way through five hours. If this was meant to be Barr's grilling, the media concluded, they blew it.

By the end of Tuesday's half-day circus, it was obvious that Speaker Nancy Pelosi's party had squandered the chance they'd been begging for. Instead of a hearing, it was a hate-fest. Liberals, who'd hoped to draw blood on everything from Portland to the pandemic, ultimately couldn't put aside their loathing long enough to have a real conversation. "I was one of those," Jonathan Turley lamented, "who had high expectations for some answers to important questions. Instead, Democrats dramatically demanded answers and then stopped Barr from answering... It happened over and over; Democrats simply did not want to hear answers that would undermine popular narratives... The whole hearing was about as classy as a demolition derby."

When Pelosi's party did find an area of vulnerability, Barr was more than equal to the task. In fact, his answers to their loaded questions were so disarming that Democrats ultimately stopped seeking them. "He picked apart their misstatements and disingenuous premises with aplomb," Andrew McCarthy pointed out. So what did Democrats do? They "dropped the threadbare pretense that this was a hearing" and decided shut down civil debate altogether. That also backfired, making them look petty and spiteful, while Barr sat, completely unrattled, asking: "If it's a 'hearing,' aren't I the one who's supposed to be heard?"

Everyone from ousted Trump officials to media sympathizers vented that the event was a complete bomb for Democrats. Adding to their frustration, some members of the party are starting to openly break with the Left on the riots. The longer Americans see cities on fire, fear for their homes and lives, and see the impact on their neighborhoods and businesses, the more dangerous it is to the party's chances. Embracing lawlessness, more moderates are saying, is not the way to win in 2020.

Democrat Ted Van Dyk took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to plead with his party to reconsider their defense of the riots. "The longer this continues, the greater demand to see it stopped will grow..." The party, he warns, has already alienated families of "public safety and emergency personnel." Soon, it will add "small-business people, homeowners, taxpayers, and voters." And their over-the-top criticism of federal troops is only making matters worse. "Any president dating back to Franklin D. Roosevelt would have taken action under these circumstances," Van Dyk argues. "Many of Mr. Trump's policies deserve criticism, but this isn't one of them. Democrats are presenting a pro-chaos caricature of themselves, which will discredit them with the public if they maintain it."

And yet, Democrats are not only refusing to disavow the violence, they're refusing to admit it's happened! Acting Homeland Security Chad Wolf continues to be shocked by that, as his teams take their lives in their hands trying to contain the mayhem. "We see power tools and we see accelerants. We see commercial grade fireworks. We see a variety of weapons and tactics being used against the federal courthouse there and against our law enforcement officers. We have over around 190 law enforcement officer injuries since July 1st," he told me on "Washington Watch." "So this idea that it is 'peaceful protesting'," Wolf shook his head, "peaceful protestors don't commit crimes."

The press, of course, continues to pump out one-sided portrayals of what's happening on the streets of Portland and elsewhere. "What you hear in the news media is a lot of very inaccurate statements. And they've all been debunked one way or another." One of the most offensive, Wolf says, is that his agents are somehow responsible for the chaos. "This idea that simply enforcing federal law and holding criminals accountable is somehow inciting violence is a false statement, in my view, and completely inaccurate and misleading." If anyone's to blame, he insists, it's the politicians refusing to uphold the law. "You have to hold people accountable," he insisted. "We don't see that yet in Portland... and it continues to... spiral out of control each and every night."

Wolf's advice, which House Democrats could stand to heed, was simple: "We need to make sure that folks understand that we can disagree. We can have a civil debate and we can do that peacefully and we can do that night after night after night. But once you cross the line and you become violent, that's when we're going to step in. We're going to protect our facilities and our law enforcement officers."