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
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Saturday, February 13, 1999,
© Copyright 1999 The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
- 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.
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
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."
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!' "
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.
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."
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."
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.
made his mark attacking the president, and now it seems that the
Democrats are equally "obsessed" with his removal, Barr
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.
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."
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."
vast majority of voters support forcing the president to abide
by the rule of law, Barr said. It is a matter of distributing
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.
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."
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.
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.
the attacks, Barr's role on the prosecution team was reduced,
something he acknowledges but won't comment on.
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.)
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
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.
frustration is we were denied a fair opportunity to present evidence,"
Barr said. "That makes the defeat of this process hard to
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.
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."
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
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.
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."
Barr said the prosecutors should have been allowed to introduce
new evidence. But that is hindsight.
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
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.