Barr vs. Barr

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Last week, the House of Representatives repealed a 10 year old provision of the D.C. appropriations bill that blocked implementation of a voter approved medical marijuana law for the District: joining the lobbying effort to repeal this amendment was its author, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr.  Like Arianna Huffington, Barr once palled around with Newt Gingrich; but after losing his seat in 2002, he became a friend of the ACLU and the Marijuana Policy Project, a libertarian candidate for president (in 2008), and an opponent of anti-libertarian measures he once championed: Barr now opposes the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which he authored) as well as the war on drugs.
   
Maybe Barr had a genuine conversion experience after leaving Congress; maybe he was always a closet libertarian successfully passing as a right wing extremist; maybe he's a cynical opportunist whose shifting allegiances anticipated the power shifts reflected in the '06 and '08 elections.  I welcome his newly found or recently uncovered libertarianism, in any case; but -- like the Sotomayor confirmation follies or the extra-marital escapades of Senatorial bible thumpers -- the spectacle of Bob Barr lobbying against his former self seems unlikely to increase or restore faith in the legislative process.  
    
From afar, it looks merely like self-interested gamesmanship, which may be partly why people sometimes combine low opinions of Congress with relatively high opinions of their own representatives.  (Oddly enough, a glimpse of how the sausages are made can actually increase your regard for some of the people who struggle to make them.)  There are smart, thoughtful, hard-working members of the House and Senate who believe what they say and take seriously the burdens they promise to bear, and -- considering the company they keep -- must recognize we're in more trouble than we know.  

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Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer, and civil libertarian. She is the author of I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional, and a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. More

Wendy Kaminer is a lawyer and social critic who has been a contributing editor of The Atlantic since 1991. She writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion and popular culture and has written eight books, including Worst InstinctsFree for All; Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials; and I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional. Kaminer worked as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and in the New York City Mayor's Office and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993. She is a renowned contrarian who has tackled the issues of censorship and pornography, feminism, pop psychology, gender roles and identities, crime and the criminal-justice system, and gun control. Her articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The American Prospect, Dissent, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly, Free Inquiry, and spiked-online.com. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio. She serves on the board of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the advisory boards of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Secular Coalition for America, and is a member of the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

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