Update, 11:00 am ET: It’s tough to make a case against Barr on the basis of Mueller with responses like these:

That’s about as contentious as it’s gotten in this opening round … so far, of course.

Original post follows …

To kick off the highest profile hearing since Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, two Lindsey Grahams showed up to lead the (non-?)circus. If you like “immigration Lindsey Graham,” the new chair promised Democrats, you’ll see him. No one much liked the “other” Lindsey, he acknowledged, not even himself — but Graham suggested that Democrats will see him too if they don’t approach Attorney General nominee William Barr with respect.

Sun’s getting real low, big guy … 

Barr then opened with a statement in which he claimed reluctance to take the job at all. At 68, the next step he and his wife wanted to take was retirement, Barr told the panel, not to return to a job he’d already done once. After suggesting other candidates, Barr reluctantly took the job because of the “current environment,” which could be perceived as a tacit criticism of the Trump administration or the Senate confirmation process. Or both:

That’s boilerplate for opening statements from Attorney General nominees. This is what Senate Democrats on the panel wanted to hear:

Barr emphasized that the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation required as much transparency as the law allows. That may not be great news for the White House, depending on what Mueller includes in his report. Barr further testified that, despite unending criticism from Trump about Jeff Sessions, his decision to recuse on the Russia probe was “probably correct.” Barr also said that he’s known Mueller for 30 years and that he wouldn’t conduct a “witch hunt”:

Hmmmm. We’ll see if that earns Barr his first Twitter broadside from the Oval Office.

Still, it didn’t all go in one direction. For instance, this is what Senate Republicans wanted to hear:

At least at the start, Barr’s hearing launched smoothly with few surprises. Perhaps one would be a criticism of Sessions’ decision to press forward with prosecution of Sen. Bob Menendez, which Barr said rested on a “fallacious” legal theory. Barr’s even-handedness and straight-arrow approach will give Senate Democrats few opportunities to launch any effective attacks that will paint Barr as a Trump toady … not that a few of them won’t try anyway. Expect more fireworks later in the program from Spartacus and others who might be looking to launch presidential campaigns, too. If that happens, we’ll see Lindsey Graham’s evil twin make an appearance, no doubt.

Updates to this post will appear at the top in reverse chronological order.