Barr vs. Barr

By Wendy Kaminer

Last week, the House of Representatives repealed a 10 year old provision of the D.C. appropriations bill that blocked implementation of a voter approved medical marijuana law for the District: joining the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.  

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2009/07/barr-vs-barr/21690/