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Bye 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 family.

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 too long.

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