Reclaiming my time

I found the congressional hearings this week illustrative of the inability of the Democrats to develop and coordinate effective strategy. The testimony of Attorney General Bill Barr, which was a golden opportunity for the Democratic house to make points during this election year, instead was largely wasted on ego-driven speechifying and “reclaiming my time” moments. It was an embarrassing display of foolishness during a moment filled with great potential.

Rather than lecturing Barr, the Democratic legislators had the opportunity to plan their questioning, and ask penetrating questions, and put Barr and the Trump administration on the record for its criminal and corrupt actions. For example, Barr claims that “leftists and anarchists” hijack peaceful protests and turn them violent and destructive; he said this several times. The obvious question, then, is “Mr. Barr, your federal agents have made numerous arrests. Upon investigation of those arrested and charged, how many have been proven to be “leftists and anarchists,” by what court and when?” Or, “Mr. Barr, how many of those arrested and charged have been proven to be “rightists” fomenting violence?”

Another question: “Mr. Barr, what percentage of the federal law enforcement personnel in Portland are provided by third-party contractors versus being actual employees of the federal government?” And, “Mr. Barr, what are the names of third party contractors that have been engaged by the federal government for law enforcement actions?”

Asking questions assumes receiving an answer, but the Democratic legislators appeared more interested in demanding “yes” or “no” answers, and if that was not forthcoming, then “reclaiming my time.” This created the appearance of a kangaroo court during which the witness is badgered and cut off. While time limits for each congressperson are limited and not wanting Barr to filibuster is understandable, it frankly looked and sounded lousy. This is not to say that the Republicans looked good; their toadying and obsequiousness was revolting, in addition to their jingoistic appeals to law and order. But this hearing was not theirs to control, and the Democrats blew it by generally looking petty and peevish. Yes, some Democrats did well, but overall, I found it frustrating and lacking in seriousness.

It’s been difficult to bring Barr before congress to answer questions, and only the threat of a subpoena made it possible. Yet, after all these months of trying to get Barr before them, the Democrats seemed incapable of restraining themselves from bloviating instead of investigating. I don’t know if this is due to the upcoming elections, egotistical impulse, or lack of cooperation, but whatever the cause, it’s not a good sign. Say whatever you will about Republican unity – misguided, cultish, blindly oppositional, or just plain weird – but the Democrats did the Republicans a favor by looking rude and self-righteous instead of studious and disciplined.

The thought of Trump winning another election makes me shudder. I’m doing what I can to prevent that from happening, but if this hearing is any indication, the Democratic Party had better get its act together, stop playing for the cameras and get serious or Donald Trump will be elected again, and that, my friends, would be a tragedy of the first order.

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