I like David French. He's seems to be a legitimately good person, and that's rare enough for journalists. And he's generally super reasonable (incidentally: today's topic isn't an exception to that, but if you'd like one, he said Revenge of the Sith was a better movie than Return of the Jedi – that's lunacy). But sometimes, when we engage in news guessing, we roll a snake-eyes. That's just how it goes.
So I'd like to point your attention to this podcast, where (if I recognize his voice correctly) he says something interesting. Start listening at about 12:20 for reasonable context, or even earlier for conversational context. To summarize: they were talking about the Barr letter released in March to give people a preview of the Mueller report, before it was determined that a version could be released publicly. The conversation is taking place at National Review, a conservative outlet, so of course they spent a lot of time talking about how it's pretty great news there wasn't corrupt foreign influence on the president, stuff like that. The whole discussion varies in quality – for instance, there's a weird illogical argument about how Trump's wrongdoing doesn't mean Clinton should have been president, so those liberals really do suck – which, I mean, they're not wrong, but that's not even an option, even in extreme circumstances. The name they were looking for was, possibly, Pence. But they seemed intent on making a pretty dumb point very deliberately.
But the comment that caught my ear was a (pretty obviously true) comment by David French. He said the idea that people were trying to spin the wording of the letter was bizarre, because it was utter lunacy to think the Attorney General would misrepresent the report to capture a five- or six- day news cycle.
Again, he's not wrong. It is lunacy.
But it seems that lunacy was not housed within the minds of overly-skeptical journalists – it was within Barr himself, and the journalists are utterly vindicated. The letter was misleading. That's not just my opinion – although it is my opinion – it was the opinion of noted Mueller Report Expert Robert S. Mueller III.
Don't get me wrong, who cares so much about that one news cycle that they'd want to hassle Barr for it? Attorney Generals are always the strange attack dogs of the president, and this one doesn't seem to be less willing to carry the President's water than any other one has been. He wants to pointlessly mislead the public? Well, he's a terrible public servant. But that's par for the Attorney-General-course.
The weird low-stakes nature of the gambit is what made it so bizarre. You could, at the time, give Barr the benefit of the doubt, because if he misled people we'd find out almost instantly. Then... we did.
It truly was lunacy, but I've not heard French follow up about this. The damning lunacy found in the report and how the administration treats it isn't something conservatives seem to care about. French did write that the Mueller Report should shock our conscience, and for good reason, but that didn't mention Barr. This whole process is a fractal of incompetence and decayed morals, originating around Trump, and I fear the closer people get the more they get absorbed into it. David French hasn't touched the blob yet, but I do get the impression he's trying to be a good coworker to people that love the blob and splash around in it for fun.