The November 21st, 2022 issue of Bari Weiss’s weekly, Common Sense,
was given over to a guest essay by former Attorney General William P. Barr, who assures us that during the 2016 Republican primaries he supported every alternative to Donald Trump. Even then he knew, says Barr, that Trump was “grossly self-centered” and lacking in “self-control,” a man “frequently juvenile, bombastic and petulant.” Nonetheless, he went to work for this man, in whose presence “I found myself cringing,” because he was taken with Trump’s capacity for truth-telling. “Above all,” Barr writes, “Trump had accurately diagnosed, and given voice to, the deep frustration of many middle-class and working-class Americans who were fed up with the excesses of progressive Democrats; the shameless partisanship of the mainstream media; and the smug condescension of elites who had mismanaged the country, sold them out, and appeared content to preside over the decline of America.”
Though Trump as President did not manage to “temper his disruptiveness,” Barr contends, “his basic policy judgments were usually sound,” and Trump had reason “to be proud of his achievements,” including his “tax reform and deregulatory efforts” and his success in moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Had he not consistently pandered to his base and thereby “reenforced and intensified the alienation of many voters,” Barr might well be supporting him in 2024. But instead Barr wants new leadership for his party, a revival, he says, “of something like the old Reagan coalition.”
Reading Barr’s essay, we thought it might be a good idea to ask three of our frequent contributors to have at the blend of apologia, delusion and ideology that nicely captures the efforts of American conservatives to pretend that no decisive rupture with their “tradition” has occurred in recent years.
— Robert Boyers