The End of Impeachment: Georgia Conservative: Barr Unfazed By Backlash From Trial: Mean Reputation: Congressman From Georgia Takes Parting Shots at Senate: Shrugs Off Status as Democratic Target

By Rebecca Carr
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Saturday, February 13, 1999, page A13
Copyright 1999 The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Washington - If anyone thinks that President Clinton's acquittal will chasten Rep. Bob Barr, they had better think again. There he was, just one day after the House prosecutors wrapped up their case against the president, casting the lone vote in the House against a measure to suspend taxes on imported drugs for cancer and AIDS patients.

And before the Senate had even rendered a verdict, there he was declaring that history would not look "kindly" on the Senate for the way it conducted the nation's second presidential impeachment trial.

Then came the CNN cameras. The Georgia Republican did not hesitate to unleash his views about the Justice Department's decision to investigate independent counsel Kenneth Starr. "It's politically motivated," said Barr, practically screeching into the microphones. "I think it's very suspicious."

And as he left the Senate chamber Friday after the acquittal, he was still defiant, joking that he and the other managers better leave quickly before impatient senators could eject them "at the end of a bayonet." He said he half-expected to find "a sign tied to our backs saying, '. . . and don't come back!' "

For the last 18 months, Barr has worked to remove Clinton from office with what some have described as an unparalleled intensity. He was the first to call for the president's removal in the fall of 1997, several months before the nation heard about the saga of the president's concealment of his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

In fact, his life in Washington is a study in intensity. He sleeps on a leather couch (that does not pull out) in his square office in the Longworth Office Building. Inside his office, the walls and shelves are crammed with impeachment paraphernalia and well-wishes from constituents who write things such as "I feel your pain."

On one wall is a Harper's Weekly magazine depiction of the Senate impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson in 1868. A fan sent him a can of "impeaches" with Bill Clinton's photo on the front and a ditty on the side entitled "Impeachment Time in Washington," which is sung to the tune of "Peach Pick'n Time in Georgia."

Barr showers and shaves in the House gym. He rarely eats lunch. Instead of milk before bedtime, Barr prefers a mug of Starbucks with a shot of espresso. On good nights, he gets a mere five hours sleep.

He has made his mark attacking the president, and now it seems that the Democrats are equally "obsessed" with his removal, Barr said.

Clinton told aides recently that he wants to target Republican districts to win back the House for the Democratic Party, according to the New York Times. And Barr says he would not be surprised to find his name at the top of the list.

In fact, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, run by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), has singled out Barr as well. Though Kennedy admits it is a long shot, he wants to run a candidate against him in the next congressional election.

Barr's response?  In his best, "Bring 'em on down" tone of voice, Barr said he is hardly concerned. When asked about being targeted by congressional campaign committee, Barr barely concealed his bemusement, heaving a long "oooow."

The 7th District voters have spoken, Barr said. Nearly 70 percent of the e-mail, phone calls and letters favor his pursuit of the president on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. "I don't expect a backlash," Barr said. "I do know that some of the Democrats are obsessed."

The vast majority of voters support forcing the president to abide by the rule of law, Barr said. It is a matter of distributing equal justice.

"If the Democrats are going to go back and say you need to remove Bob Barr from office, I don't think it will resonate," said Barr. Indeed, Barr's district is historically conservative.

Barr said he is not bitter or angry about the outcome of the trial. In fact, he said, he is somewhat at peace with the verdict -- - or as much at peace as someone like Barr can be. "I feel a tremendous sense of frustration and sorrow, but I don' t feel anger," Barr said. "Maybe we've become so cynical, so calloused that we've come to expect double standards."

Barr said he is well aware that some may be skeptical of his outlook because of his "reputation for being a mean SOB." Still, that is how it is, he said.

The long impeachment drama has left its scars. Barr was taken to task in December for speaking to a group best known for its support of white supremacist views. He was called a "hypocrite" by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who said Barr had an affair with his third wife while he was married to his second wife. Flynt also charged that Barr had paid his second wife's abortion, despite being a staunch opponent to abortion. Barr has denied both allegations.

After the attacks, Barr's role on the prosecution team was reduced, something he acknowledges but won't comment on.

Barr is still upset about the attacks, particularly being called a racist for speaking to the national convention of the Conservative Citizens Council, a group he contends that he did not know about until he arrived at the convention. (A point the group disagrees with. They contend he knew well in advance about the true nature of their beliefs.)

"That is so abhorrent," Barr said. "It's hard to find the words to describe how that hurt me." It hurt, Barr said, because his reputation as a U.S. Attorney in Atlanta was based on fighting police officers who abused the civil rights of African Americans.

Where other prosecutors kept a tight lip on what they think about the Senate's handling of the case, Barr said he felt as if he had been denied a "fair opportunity" to present the evidence.

"The frustration is we were denied a fair opportunity to present evidence," Barr said. "That makes the defeat of this process hard to swallow."

Had the Senate voted to acquit the president after the House prosecutors had presented the evidence and called witnesses to the stand, then it would have been a fair loss, Barr said.

"We all learned to live with that," Barr said. "You don't bellyache about losing a business deal as long as the playing field has been level and everyone operates fairly. You don't whine about losing as long as the process has been fair and open. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

Barr doesn't blame it all on the Senate. He thinks Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and the House prosecutors should have been more insistent on calling witnesses to the stand and presenting evidence. "I don't think we can put all the blame on the Senate," Barr said. "I think we really should have held out for witnesses early on."

After being told by Senate leaders that they did not want to call witnesses to the stand, Barr said they succumbed to limit it to just three depositions. That was a mistake.

The other mistake, he said, was trying to establish a rapport with an adverse witness such as Lewinsky. Had she been his witness, he would have been much firmer. "There are different approaches to dealing with witnesses," Barr said. "If you know a witness is adverse, I don't think you necessarily have to worry about establishing a nice rapport with that witness."

In retrospect, Barr said the prosecutors should have been allowed to introduce new evidence. But that is hindsight.

And after it all ended, Barr was able to find some solace in his first contact with the public after the acquittal. As he and the other House mangers walked back through the Capitol to the House side Friday, about 20 tourists burst into applause as the prosecutors passed.

"That to me, more than anything that happened in the Senate Chamber over the last month, including today, tells me that we did the right thing," Barr said.

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