Bob for the Job
Our long national nightmare is over. Jeff Sessions, the disloyal hater of all things not like him, remarkably including his boss the president of the United States, has been shown the door at the Bobby Kennedy Building. Do not think for a second that he “resigned." It was the first order of business for the president yesterday morning, and had been obviously coming for a very long time.
So the great question is obviously: Who’s next? Who has what it takes to heal this terribly wounded agency while at the same time loyally serving The Boss? It’s not going to be easy and talk of police-state people like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie is just…well…barfworthy for lack of a better word.
Here is your answer, America. Here is your answer, Mr. President: former congressman Bob Barr from Georgia. You are welcome.
While Barr is probably most well-known as one of the impeachment managers in the Senate trial of former President Bill Clinton, elements of the former congressman’s resume that would make him an excellent choice to serve as attorney general go far deeper than his drive to hold a former president accountable to the rule of law.
Beginning with his academic credentials – Georgetown Law, George Washington University master’s degree, and a bachelor’s from Southern Cal – and continuing through his years in both the private and government sectors, Barr’s career path seems virtually pre-programmed to stepping into the job Sessions has vacated. Barr’s appointment by President Ronald Reagan to serve as the United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia followed several years as a practicing attorney in Atlanta and, prior to that, some eight years with the CIA as an intelligence analyst and assistant legislative counsel.
During Barr’s tenure as the Atlanta-based U.S. attorney, which overlapped the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, that office earned a well-deserved reputation for vigorously and successfully prosecuting corrupt public officials (from both major political parties, I might add), as well as overseeing major drug trafficking and money laundering cases. Barr’s keen interest in those very same problems was on display by way of the legislative and investigative activities that consumed much of his energy during the eight years he served in the House, on the Judiciary, Financial Services and Government Reform and Oversight Committees.
While Barr cultivated a reputation as a hard-nosed conservative Republican member in the House (I first met him while he was serving in the House and I didn’t really like him. Today, having had years to get to know him and his wonderful, formidable wife Jeri on a very personal level, I consider him one of my dearest friends – one of the few people I’d take a bullet for, in fact), his willingness and ability to strike bipartisan deals was seen in his work with other members and outside groups representing positions across the ideological spectrum -- on issues as diverse as the USA PATRIOT Act and protections against unwarranted surveillance. Barr’s ability to work across the ideological divide continued even after he left the House (he tragically lost a Republican primary to the moronic John Linder following a gerrymandered reconfiguration of his west Georgia district in 2002).
The even-handed, honest broker that is the true Bob Barr really became apparent, at least to me, after he lost that House seat. I saw a humility and a genuine kindness in him that I really hadn’t seen as I got to know him better in his post-congressional life. It’s like the loss somehow freed him to be his true self. I’ve no idea how he would feel about the above statement, and I’ve never spoken with him about it, it’s always just been floating around the back of my mind.
Anyway. I point this out for a reason. HUMILITY is perhaps the thing we as a nation need the most in an attorney general at this moment in particular. It is not the job or the time for old white deep-state-loving, black-kid-hating, civil-liberty-loathing swamp creatures. The DOJ cannot and will not be healed if we keep playing the same broken record. I know that’s a big statement I just made, and I stand by it. As someone who has been the subject of government surveillance for no good reason, and someone who knows young men imprisoned for years for simply having some weed on them, I feel the stakes. And they’ve never been higher.
Back to Bob. At one point following his reentry into the private sector, Barr worked tirelessly to try and broker a plan to place reasonable limits on government surveillance powers, successfully bringing together my former employer, the American Conservative Union, and the ACLU on matters of common concern. Strange bedfellows ALWAYS create change. Bob is a master craftsman when it comes to forging such (to some) unthinkable alliances. I for one want an attorney general whose door will be equally open to the ACU and the ACLU. To the Black Caucus and the Freedom Caucus. And at the end of the day, keep dancing with the one who brung him, so to speak. It is all doable, though it may sound quite daunting.
Make no mistake, despite his ability to broker such arrangements and reach across aisles, Barr is a true dyed-in-the-wool constitutional conservative. His long tenure as a board member for the NRA is tribute to his unwavering support for the fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Barr also is fearless in engaging others in open debate when they stray from ensuring that the federal government pay heed to the Bill of Rights, whether it be by Republican or Democratic policy makers. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have an attorney general who openly professes his or her dedication to upholding the Bill of Rights on the regular? Who’s actually guided by them? Whaaaaat?
It can be!
I need to address an elephant in the room before I leave you be on this subject. It’s a fact that some Republicans took issue with Barr’s serving as the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 2008. On that, I’ll just say that he always made it clear that his ultimate goal was to help bring the government and the Republican Party back to their constitutional foundation. His support for those Constitution-based principles of a government tightly constrained by that revered document remains as strong today as when he took his first oath of office as a member of the House of Representatives in January of 1995.
It is the independence that comes from a deep respect for constitutional principles of government, and from the strength that comes from having taken on—and invited in—friends and adversaries from all sectors, that would make the Honorable Bob Barr of Georgia an excellent choice to lead the Department of Justice in service to our president.
God Bless the (non-lying) men and women who serve our nation at the DOJ, and may god bless the president as he wrestles with this, one of the most important decisions of his presidency.