- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

The void in Republican congressional leadership created by the upcoming retirement of House Speaker Dick Armey widened with Rep. Bob Barr's defeat in Tuesday's primary, some lawmakers and conservatives said yesterday.

"He'll be missed because he is very much in the Armey wing of the conservatives in Congress, as opposed to the support-the-government-in-everything wing," said American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene.

"The other person who played his role is Armey, and he is going too," said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist. "One hopes that there will emerge someone who feels as Bob did but who didn't step forward in the past because Barr was there to do it for him. But these people are rare."

Mr. Barr, first elected to the House in the 1994 Republican landslide, lost by a 2-1 margin in his Tuesday primary contest against Rep. John Linder, a fellow conservative Republican who has been less outspoken than Mr. Barr.

"I'm not making any decisions for a while about my future," Mr. Barr said, but friends say he is considering teaming up with Oliver North for radio and television work.

"Many people who served far longer have left less of a legacy," Mr. North said, shortly after a phone conversation with Mr. Barr. Asked about Mr. Barr's plans, Mr. North would say only, "Bob has lots of opportunities in front of him."

As to whether he might go back to practicing law, or write books, lobby or go on the speaking circuit, Mr. Barr said, "I'm not ruling out anything."

Mr. Barr has been widely viewed as a rigid partisan, a law-and-order "lock 'em up and throw away the keys" conservative. He was the first lawmaker to call for President Clinton's impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

But those who know him see him as a fierce civil libertarian who repeatedly put principle over party and allied himself with liberal Democrats if he thought the cause was just.

"Bob Barr understands that too much government is a threat to your liberties, whether it's welfare dependency or the FBI peeking in your window or your bank account," said Mr. Norquist.

Among his proudest achievements, Mr. Barr said, was allying with Mr. Armey in fighting moves by the Clinton and Bush administrations to create a national identification card.

"Most recently, we secured a provision in the Homeland Security Bill passed by the House to prohibit moving to a national ID card," he said.

He also was among the few lawmakers who went out of their way to draw public attention to government attempts "to put security cameras all over the place."

Mr. Barr was allied with Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York in opposing civil-rights abuses in major anti-terrorism bills in the Clinton administration in 1996 and then in the Bush administration last fall.

Asked if his departure from the House would make any difference, Mr. Barr said, "It is going to create something of a void. Very few of us are willing to stand up to the inherent and constant desire by Republicans and Democratic administrations to assume greater and greater powers over the citizenry.

"There are very few who understand and even fewer willing to fight against it," he said.

Mr. Keene said there will be a void because Mr. Barr "was willing to take the lead on issues of great concern to conservatives, particularly with regard to individual rights and civil liberties, which goes totally against the image of him created in the media."

Retiring Texas Sen. Phil Gramm agreed, saying what made Mr. Barr stand out in the House was that he "feels strongly about issues, and speaks out strongly. Few members of Congress have made such a strong contribution in such a short time."

In November 1997, Mr. Barr introduced the first proposal to have the House Judiciary Committee assess whether Mr. Clinton had committed any impeachable offenses.

"The issue then was the campaign-financing scandals coming to light as result of the 1996 presidential campaign," Mr. Barr said. "It had nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky. We didn't know about her until 1998."


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