Bye Bob Barr
August 23, 2002
By Kelly McHugh
Over the last few weeks I haven't been able to watch the
news without seeing various confused-looking administration
officials making contradictory and shaky plans to attack Iraq,
or more corporate corruption that seems to run completely
unchecked by the Bush administration. So it was a relief to
me when I heard on the news that Georgia representative Bob
Barr had lost the Republican primary in his district.
I was not gleeful because of any malevolent tendencies, but
I am hopeful that the end of Bob Barr also signals an end
to the Clinton-bashing that has defined the Republican Party
for more than a decade. Bob Barr exemplified the hypocrisy
of this; he was a public moralizer of Clinton with a questionable
personal life that included charges of an extramarital affair
of his own.
Reflecting on Barr's career in public life, I couldn't help
but equate him to the character of Inspector Javert in Victor
Hugo's Les Miserables. Javert is a weasel-like and
insipid man who abuses his position in French government to
harass a man who committed a few paltry indiscretions. The
man, Valjean (Clinton), through his own intelligence and drive,
reforms himself and becomes very successful and powerful.
Javert cannot let Valjean's small indiscretions go, and at
every turn Javert looks to smear Valjean and his friends and
Barr is perhaps even more insidious than Javert was. First
he was one of the leading proponents of impeachment and the
wasteful spending that accompanied it. When he failed to have
the president removed from office, he spent the remainder
of his time in Congress having regular conniptions about namby-pamby
events in the Clinton administration.
He took something as ridiculous as the claims that a couple
of low-level Clinton staffers trashed their offices during
the transition and escalated it into a ridiculously expensive
investigation (again?) in an attempt to make it seem like
members of Clinton's family had thrown feces on antique furniture.
When it was found that the damage to the offices was no worse
than previous transitions, Barr looked for something else.
He decided to sue James Carville, Larry Flynt, and Bill Clinton
for slander and "emotional distress" inflicted by
the exposes on his own shady personal life published in Hustler.
As he made the rounds of the political talk shows to chat
up his newest foray into Clinton-bashing, he repeated the
conservative mantra, "We just want to forget about Bill
Clinton and move into the future with our new president."
Please, Bob, you don't want to forget Bill Clinton, if you
did you would have to figure out what Republicans whined about
before Clinton was elected (poor people and affirmative action).
And now we come to the end of the saga of Javert and Barr.
In Hugo's novel, Javert takes his own life when he realizes
that Valjean has defeated him at every turn and his own life
has become a meaningless struggle to destroy someone else.
I thought perhaps this literary prophecy had been fulfilled
when Barr almost "accidentally" shot himself with
an antique gun last week. But alas, more tragic for Barr,
he was ousted by a fellow Republican.
Barr had felt confident that he could rest on his laurels
as that creepy guy who really hates the Clintons and his constituents
would keep returning him to office. The trite republican cliché
of 2000 was the imaginary "Clinton fatigue", but
perhaps now Barr and Company will realize that most people
were tired only of the Republicans' negativity towards Clinton.
Most of the other big name anti-Clintonites have passed from
the picture. Gingrich resigned because of ethical problems
and Bob Livingston quickly follow suite. Dick Armey is retiring
and Ken Starr and Linda Tripp were parodied into absurdity
by Saturday Night Live. Perhaps Barr fatigue has finally set
in to Georgia voters. In the risk of sounding spiteful, I'm
glad they are afflicted, because the rest of us have suffered
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