At this point, Barr must be considered the man to beat in the upcoming Republican primary in May. He has name recognition, job experience and money in the bank. In the most recent Federal Elections Commission report, he reported more than $400,000 in contributions. He also has a few controversial issues in his past political life that I suspect the other candidates are licking their chops to get at. If this bothers the man, it doesn’t show.
Barr says he is running because he has “the ability to get things done and I can make a difference. Many of the same folks in the House of Representatives are still there from when I was there. Most of them I get along with whether or not we have disagreements of substance or of party.”
I asked him about his switch from the Republican Party to the Libertarian Party, where he ran for President in 2008, and back to the GOP again. “It is all about the Constitution,” he says, “That is what most people care about, trying to get us back to the constitutionally-correct role of government.” Barr adds that while there may still be some people who are not happy that he switched parties, he doesn’t think it is “a large number of people.”
Why did he switch at all? “Because the Republican Party got away from its core which is championing smaller government and individual liberty during the Bush Administration,” he says. He maintains that the administration overreached after the 9/11 attacks by demanding the telecommunications companies turn over the electronic records of American citizens, when there was already a law — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — which prevented such actions unless there was individualized suspicion.
“And the use of torture,” he adds, “was in violation of U.S. law, military law and the Geneva Convention” Weren’t those logical reactions, given the events of 9/11, I asked? “It is never logical to violate the law,” he shot back.
Barr had a major role in the impeachment trial of Pres. Bill Clinton in 1999. Though the president was found not guilty, Barr says he has had no second thoughts. “One of the things people bring up about that time is that I was not afraid to stand up to the powers-that-be in Washington,” he says.
As for the recent budget bipartisan budget agreement, Barr says he isn’t sure there was a “workable strategy” employed. “Cutting military pensions to pay for other government programs sounds like perhaps Republican negotiators gave up too quickly.” Same with the government shutdown. The former congressman who was involved in a similar shutdown in late 1995 says, “Our strategy was to shrink the size and power of the federal government, not press for or cave in on a temporary shutdown. I don’t sense a long-term strategic plan today.”
He calls Obamacare “nonsense” but says the votes are not there to repeal the measure. “You can’t put all your eggs in one basket in Washington,” he says, “A lot of novices don’t understand that. You have to know the system and address the matter with amendments and riders.” In other words, take it apart piece by piece.
I asked him about his changing positions on medical marijuana and same-sex marriage. He says, “There is information now that wasn’t available 20 years ago regarding the possible medical benefits of marijuana that needs to be factored. If the people of California or Colorado decide in their wisdom — whether we agree with them or not — that they want to make it lawful for people to use marijuana for certain purposes, I think our federal government and our system of federalism is obligated to respect that and I respect it.”
As for the Defense of Marriage Act which he introduced in the House and was signed into law by President Clinton, and which he now opposes, he says, “I’m not a fan of same-sex marriage but I am a fan of and an advocate for the citizens of the states to make these decisions, not the federal government.”
Final question: I asked him to tell you why you should vote for him in the upcoming Republican primary. “Because they have in Bob Barr an absolutely known quantity,” he says, “A man who understands the Constitution, will fight for the Constitution and who knows how to use the Constitution and the processes of government in Washington to move our conservative agenda forward. No other candidate in this race can make that claim” — he smiles — “with a straight face.”
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb