Behind the Barr

“It is time to look forward,” proclaims former Attorney General William Barr, on the last numbered page (565) of his new memoir, One Damn Thing After Another. Barr looks forward to the glorious future under a glittering array of younger Republican candidates. Readers should look forward to the acknowledgements, which come after the text, instead of up front, where they would be more likely to be noticed. 

“I am especially grateful to Barton Swaim,” Barr writes, “who devoted hours to carefully reviewing my drafts and talking through ideas. His edits and suggestions immeasurably enhanced this book. As Monty Python’s Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones) might say, who is this who is so wise in the ways of literature? 

Barton Swaim is an editorial writer and book reviewer at the Wall Street Journal,” the Hillsdale Collegian explains. Swaim is the author of The Speechwriter: A Short Education in Politics, about his four years as a scribe for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. When writing for others, Swaim notes, the task is to “stop them from making garbage-sounding arguments.”

Swaim moved on to the Weekly Standard (opinion editor), The New Criterion, the Washington Post, and other publications, all the way to the Wall Street Journal. Swaim earned postgraduate degrees in theology and English literature, and is the most likely candidate to be considered William Barr’s very own David Axelrod, proclaimed “Obama’s narrator” by the New York Times. True to form, One Damn Thing After Another betrays a ghostwriter’s stank. 

For example, when Barr describes telling Trump he found no evidence that voter fraud affected the outcome of the election, Trump is alleged to have responded: “‘But you did not have to say that! he barked.’” (emphasis added)  Not the sort of dog-whistle verb one would expect from a two-time attorney general in his first publishing venture, and the book abounds with dialogue in the style of a novel. 

Barr also thanks Keith Urbahn, founding partner of the Javelin literary agency, a former chief of staff to secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld and a reserve intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy. Urbahn also worked for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and as a Pentagon speechwriter. The Atlantic credits Urbahn as the first to tweet news of the hit on Osama bin Laden. 

Matt Latimer, also a founder of Javelin, is an adjunct professor at George Washington University, where William Barr went to law school. Latimer was also deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush and chief speechwriter to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. 

The versatile Latimer, author of Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor, was also a senior communications staffer for McConnell, who charged that Trump’s “crescendo of conspiracy theories” and “dangerous dereliction of duty,” caused the January 6 riot. Those connections make One Damn Thing After Another an inside job, but there’s more to it than its service as a NeverTrump tract. 

Barr deals with crime, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, the progressive takeover of the Democratic Party, and so forth. The former attorney general talks a good game but on these themes readers would be better served by reading Heather Mac Donald, Peter Collier, David Horowitz, Angelo Codevilla, Victor Davis Hanson, and the intrepid Julie Kelly. 

While they chase down characters, other than Trump, who “bark,” readers of One Damn Thing After Another would do well to consult the index. Current Attorney General Merrick Garland is mentioned only twice, with no discussion of his smear of parents as “domestic terrorists” for objecting to the racist indoctrination of their children. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci strikes Barr as “the consummate bureaucrat, one with a huge ego and penchant for self-promotion.” Fauci controls public health policy and billions in spending on medical research. Barr does not, however, explore how that dangerous concentration of power squares with the Constitution, and shows no interest in Fauci’s possible conflicts of interest with drug companies.

Joe Biden has problems of his own, but the two-time AG believes the Delaware Democrat won the 2020 election fair and square. Barr prefers to say Trump lost it, in what Barton Swaim, if he were being honest, might call a “garbage argument.” Barr thanks Swain, Urbahn and Latimer for all their help, but at the end of the acknowledgements readers may be sure the writer is William J. Barr his own self. 

“And finally, I want to thank all the men and women of the Department of Justice I’ve had the honor to serve with for their dedication and tireless work on behalf of the American people.” 

Thanks to William Barr, the American people know exactly what that means. 

Like former presidents and vice presidents, FBI, CIA, and Justice Department bosses are above the law. The Justice Department is now the pro bono law firm of the deep state. As the late Frank Zappa put it, those people up in Washington are looking out for number one. Number one ain’t you. You ain’t even number two. Watch for more of the same as the crucial midterms approach. 

About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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