[guest post by Dana]
He made the comments while speaking at Hillsdale College on Monday:
[T]the event’s host asked Barr to explain the “constitutional hurdles for forbidding a church from meeting during Covid-19.”
The question lead Barr into a four-minute response where he said state governors were using their executive powers to stifle citizens and businesses from going back to work.
“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” Barr said as a round of applause came from the crowd.
He also criticized some governors for their response to COVID outbreaks in their states:
“Most of the governors do what bureaucrats always do, which is they … defy common sense,” Barr said Wednesday. “They treat free citizens as babies that can’t take responsibility for themselves and others.”
“We have to give business people an opportunity, tell them what the rules are you know the masks, which rule of masks, you had this month…and then let them try to adapt their business to that and you’ll have ingenuity and people will at least have the freedom to try to earn a living,” he added.
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I came here to do a post about Barr comparing federal prosecutors to preschoolers, but it works better as an update to this excellent post. Here’s the quote:
Mr. Barr also said that it was his job to push back on career lawyers and make important judgment calls because those prosecutors were too narrowly focused or too inexperienced to know how best to handle delicate cases.
“Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency,” he said.
It’s true that in a prosecutorial agency, the line prosecutors are subordinate in the hierarchy and must recognize themselves to be such. But they also have a special role in that each one has an independent constitutional obligation to prosecute without fear or favor. Real leaders understand that they themselves hold the ultimate decisionmaking authority, but they don’t strut around like peacocks boasting about it and trying to make their employees feel small and insignificant. That is what small people do. Small people like William Barr.
He probably doesn’t care about the hit to morale, because he probably recognizes he won’t be in the job much longer.