By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire
Like most men with a lot of money, William Barr would like to have more. He probably has a few pillows that still need to be stuffed with cash. He has therefore published a memoir. This is a good thing. It will allow his grandchildren, to whom he is probably kind, to know exactly why he deserves to be despised.
With a few asides to trumpet his own abilities and settle some scores with the press, Trump’s attorney general writes mainly about how he found his boss to be grossly unfit for office. Clownish, lazy, unintelligent, whatever. Apparently, this was not a secret within the Trump White House. But Barr still believes that Trump accomplished a lot (right-wing-agenda-wise, at least), so long as he listened to his advisors: men like Barr. It was only when Trump stopped doing so, that he made a few little mistakes (like seeking to overthrow the United States government).
Yes, according to William Barr, Trump needed William Barr, and our former president never fully appreciated that fact.
If Trump could write, which is doubtful, he might someday decide to give us a memoir expounding the opposite: that Barr needed Trump to get anything done at all, and that Trump could have used a broomstick to the same approximate effect.
Either way, these two people deserved each other, and history will ensure that their reputations go hand in hand. Some call it enabling. Some call it fate. It looks like love to me — a sad, sick, perverted love, like the love that a user has for his drug. The drug was power for these two cynics, and they gravitated together because they both wanted more of it. Funny that Barr is now giving voice to his own distaste for Trump. He sure managed to hide it when they were on the streets of Washington together, cruising for their fix.
History is littered with men of supposed intelligence and ability using supposedly lesser men to get what they want, until those lesser men rise up with wants and needs of their own and cause trouble for everyone. It’s a classic story in politics all over the world. It’s also why we need to be careful about organizations like the modern Republican Party that lead with cynicism and ask, quite literally, not to have their leaders taken seriously. Cynicism tends to get followed with grief.
Trump remains in the news these days, anyway, because of his ongoing crush on Vladimir Putin (ask the money men in Moscow today, how they feel about having supported Putin all these years; better still, ask the children in Kharkiv and the mothers in Kiev). His comments supporting the war on Ukraine would be startling if they came from anyone else but coming from him they are little more than mood music. He took American politics for nothing more than a power play; international politics was that times ten. And if you don’t take democracy seriously, if you believe that the strong and the rich have a natural right to take whatever they want from the weak and the poor, then sure, two cheers for Russia. Just amazing, what the Grand Old Party has come to.
Anyway, it’s interesting to compare the books coming from the Trump administration with those that came from Richard Nixon’s years. Nixon’s men knew him as awkward, they knew him as oddly emotional. But they did more than respect his intellect, which itself was prodigious. They also tended to have real affection for the man himself.
I have always been drawn to Dick Nixon’s story. He loved his country, he loved his family. He was hobbled by a brittle emotional make-up, that he battled every day until he finally got his dream job, the presidency, only to lose it because of that same brittle make-up. He also grew up with a brand of hardball politics that simply doesn’t exist anymore (partly because he destroyed it by playing it too loosely, partly because today’s media shines too much light on everything, and that kind of politics was only ever able to thrive in the dark), and we tend to see him skewed for that reason; we apply today’s codes to him, which is not strictly fair. To see him through older eyes, is to understand him better. He tried to be a good leader, and he failed. But he tried.
Trump and the men who surrounded him– history, please link them together, and do not let any of them escape his grubby grasp– failed without trying at all. They weren’t interested in leading. They had nowhere to go but down. Addicts are like that. Ask Bill Barr.
He is the author of Gate City, Split Thirty, and The Rocketdyne Commission, three novels about politics and advertising which, taken together, form The Henry Bell Project, The Book of Order, and his most recent one, The Hunter of Talyashevka . They are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.