Former NY District Attorney Preet Bharara Discusses What Makes America Great

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Katie Osaki

As part of the Arts & Lectures performance series, district attorney Preet Bharara spoke on Oct. 9 about the state of our government, including his views on the president, the Brett Kavanaugh appointment, and more.

Bharara is the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He was named a “crusader prosecutor” after his work surrounding the 100 Wall Street executives found guilty of insider trading in 2014. His work as a prosecutor earned him high esteem in his own field, as well as in the world of politics, and drew many residents of Santa Barbara, including UCSB students, to his speech.

Bharara began his speech with a family anecdote. His brother, after struggling with many career-based hardships, decided to start a diaper company that Bharara thought was a bad idea. However, after a lot of hard work, Amazon bought his brother’s company, showing him that anyone who puts in the work can succeed in America.

He began this speech as a set up for current events in America and how they compare with the past, the general state of our government, and finally the role of immigrants and how they “make America great.”

To kick off his discussion on the current state of our government, Bharara began by dissecting the Brett Kavanaugh appointment. As a member of the law community, Bharara had many things to say about this particular appointment, but he focused on the cultural significance of it through reflecting on Clarence Thomas’ appointment in 1991. In comparing the two, he detailed the synonymous nature of each case, both having been accused of sexual misconduct and both being subsequently appointed. From here, he pivoted the discussion to who wins in politics.

“The question always becomes who’s up and who’s down. Does the U.S. win in elections? Does the court win or lose with appointments?” Bharara said.

With this, he moved on to talk about the balance of the court. He noted that 14 of the past 18 Supreme Court appointments have been made by Republican presidents. Bharara attached this to the idea that this was most likely not what the founders wanted when they thought up the idea for lifelong term appointments.

However, not being able to substantiate his claims, he moved on to the current state of the American government. Having worked closely with many officials in President Trump’s cabinet, his insight was a draw for many guests of the auditorium. Bharara started off the conversation with the two most commonly asked questions by Americans:

“What is going on in America? How should I feel about it?”

Bharara answered the first question by explaining the different pillars that build up our government including the press, law enforcement, Congress, immigration, and leadership.

Law enforcement plays an important role in building up the government because when our police aren’t paid enough, criminals slip through the cracks, and crime is able to run freely. According to Bharara, this creates a hostile environment for the country where people don’t feel safe and constantly look to their leaders, like congressmen, for help who evidently are not  there.

Bharara went on to observe that Congress is a mixed bag, which eventually led to talk of immigration. Through this, he began with more rhetorical questions including “Who is American?” and “Who makes America great?”

This discussion led to Bharara’s final point about the basic fact that our country needs leaders in order to function properly and he ended on one final note: “If you are American, you are bound to all your fellows.”

He further explained by saying that no matter who you are or where you come from, if you are American, you have the responsibility to maintain a relationship with your fellows in order to maintain a functional society. He wrapped this point up by circling back to his family; if his brother had not been supported for his hard work, he would not have reaped the benefits of what America is: a dream.