Attorney General Bill Barr took a break from undermining the FBI’s Russia investigation to lecture the rest of us, especially people of color, to respect law enforcement or else.
December 7, 2019

AM Joy rightly savaged Barr over his comments made at an awards ceremony earlier in the week:

BARR: I think today, American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officers, and they have to start showing more than they do. The respect and support that law enforcement deserves and if communities don't give that support and respect, they may find themselves without the police protection they need.

As host Joy Reid rightly pointed out, Black and brown communities justifiably saw Barr’s remarks as a threat: “None of that Black Lives Matters stuff or kneeling or else - well, it’s a nice community you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.” She also noted the “interesting” timing of Barr’s remarks, given that there were several cases of police misconduct in the news this week.

Meanwhile, Reid added, Barr and Donald Trump freely criticize federal law enforcement, “essentially accusing them of spying on the Trump campaign.”

What it amounts to, Serwer and Reid agreed, is that only certain people have the right to criticize the police. And that harms the police, too.

SERWER: In some ways, what's tragic is that the threat has already been carried out. Already, the relationship between the communities who are protesting unfair treatment by the police and the police, that relationship has already deteriorated, it's already resulted in difficulty in solving crimes. But what Barr is really saying to these police is, you don't need to worry about that. Those people don't count as much as other Americans. They're not real citizens so you can treat them however you want and if they don't like it, well, then, too bad for them.

REID: Barr is obviously very personally invested in a lot of ways in mass incarceration. He actually wrote a whole book on the need for more incarceration. Bill Barr wrote the 1992 Justice Department memorandum, "The Case For More Incarceration," under George Herbert Walker Bush." He also helped oversee the implementation of a 1990 crime law that critics say escalated the war on drugs and had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. … This is the head of the Justice Department.

SERWER: I think it's an articulation of what we all see as the moral principle at the heart of the Trump administration, which is that some people are full Americans and other people are not full Americans and Barr is just expressing that world view as, you know, the person charged with enforcing law in the United States which is extraordinarily frightening.


SERWER: Mr. Barr is working very hard to substantiate the president's complaints about federal law enforcement, but he's uninterested in how local police might violate the rights of American citizens whose rights they are ultimately charged with upholding and protecting. So you see, again, there's this two-tier American citizenship going on here expressed in this world view.

Reid thrust a final sword into Barr’s anti-Americanism before closing: “And you can add in migrants into that situation of those who are deemed unqualified to even have basic rights applied to them.”

Barr is supposed to be attorney general for all Americans. But he couldn't make it clearer that he only represents some.

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