He Once Led the Charge to Impeach Bill Clinton. Now Bob Barr Wants Back in the Arena.

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May 15 2014 7:36 PM

The Third Coming of Bob Barr

The Georgia politician has returned to the Republican Party. He’s just hoping the Republican Party will have him.

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He didn’t mention “the Tea Party,” but that’s the movement that makes him confident. On Tuesday night a conservative in the district had a couple of choices. He could attend a fundraiser for state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, Barr’s strongest challenger, where for a small fee he could meet the candidate and hear from RedState’s Erick Erickson.

“We need to not just send Republicans to Washington, but send conservatives into the general as our Republican nominees,” Erickson told me. “I like Bob Barr a lot, but I feel very sorry for him. He reminds me of Tolian Soran desperate to get back inside the Nexus.”

Alternatively, the conservative voter could head to the monthly meeting of the Canton T.E.A. Party, held at an old train depot in the suburb of Holly Springs. (The Canton group, like many in the movement, makes TEA into an acronym: “Taxed Enough Already.”) On the way in, he could pick up a brochure that made it clear why the Canton Tea Party vetted all the candidates and endorsed Barr.

“Bull Dog” Barr has some ideas about what to do with an out-of-control president – it’s called impeachment. He did it once with Clinton and he can do it again.
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The meeting started at 7 p.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance and a few debates on local panics. Three candidates for school board strolled in to make their pitches, and all of them opposed the Common Core curriculum. To gasps, one activist held up a Common Core workbook that was on sale at the dollar store. “They had four of them,” she said.

Barr showed up halfway through the meeting, right after Rep. Paul Broun, the T.E.A. Party’s endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate. After waiting patiently through the school board talks, Broun spoke for 20 minutes, waving a copy of the Constitution and warning that “John Boehner has no clue about this document.”

Barr sat quietly while the rest of the room cheered. Once Broun was finished, the T.E.A. Party’s chairwoman, Carolyn Cosby, introduced Barr as a man of “character and commitment.”

The candidate paced the floor, apologizing for being a little tardy, because he was “at a Friends of the NRA dinner” and didn’t “mind sticking around to defend the Second Amendment.” Then came the pitch.

“One of the things I’ve been doing since I was, shall we say, involuntarily retired from the House a few years ago is teaching constitutional law,” he said. “These are third-year law students I teach or third- or fourth-year college students. The two materials I require are the Constitution—and it’s amazing how many of them haven’t read it—and the Federalist Papers.”

Barr walked his crowd through the greatness of the founding documents and the brilliance of the founders, pointing out that they wrote to each other in cursive. “We’re losing that as a requirement in our schools, to learn cursive!” he said. “I suspect that cursive writing has no place in Common Core, either.”

Then Barr described just how Congress was failing at its current tasks. It was good and fine that it had held Lois Lerner in contempt. But it had done the same to Holder and achieved nothing. Congress needed to look back to the investigation of the Teapot Dome scandal—“you remember that,” said Barr, pointing to an old and friendly face in the crowd—and remember that one of its congressional investigators once detained perps who wouldn’t hand over documents.

“Where are these people now that we need them?” Barr asked. “That committee chairman, once those witnesses showed up—and one was a Cabinet secretary—ordered the Capitol Hill police to take them into custody and detain them. The secretary screamed bloody murder. But the chairman was right. This has become a lost principle. We see it now, with this president issuing these executive orders, giving the high hat to Congress, while actually directing U.S. attorneys and officials not to enforce the law.”

Barr had more ideas. “Let’s say the president signs an executive order,” he said. “The next appropriations bill that goes through the Congress—the money he needs to pay Jay Carney and all those jerks who pretend to speak for the administration can be amended with one sentence: No funds appropriated here can be used to enforce Executive Orders 1, 2, 3, etc. It forces the president to the negotiating table. When I was in Congress, Tom DeLay—one of the best guys we had in there—when he was our majority whip and Newt was speaker, we never just let these bills come to the floor. We always went to the negotiating table. That’s how we got a balanced budget.”

A crowd of 30-odd Tea Party activists, all of them certain to vote and most of them planning to meet again twice this week, applauded the new Bob Barr.

“What we need are folks up there who have a backbone,” he said. “Those are some of the things I did when I was up there before, and by golly I would do them again.”

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.