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In defense of Bob Barr

I am a classical liberal Democrat, with enduring ties to my party
that date back to the years when Franklin Roosevelt proudly
described himself as “slightly left of center.” Today, I am
grateful to Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia. He has
helped me to avoid the deadly sin of hypocrisy that is now
tainting the “new” irrational left wing of my party.

Although reason may appear near death on the new left, it is
still alive and well in such writers as Nat Hentoff. He has
published a common-sense article (“Barr’s Other Side” Washington
Post, Jan. 9, 1999) about Congressman Barr’s speech before the Council
of Conservative Christians.

As reported by Hentoff, in a letter to that group Barr wrote
that the materials he received from it contained no references to
their “repugnant racial issues.” He added: “If I had been aware
white supremacists’ views occupied any place in the council’s
philosophy, I would never have agreed to speak.”

Appalled by what he called “the swarm of vigilantes who
attacked (Barr),” Hentoff recalled a lesson that he had learned
years ago from an older reporter: “All the facts can be right up
to a point. But if you leave out other information that casts
that story in a significantly different light, you are likely to
do a lot of damage. ” He concluded, “Some of the journalists who
condemn zealotry should look in a mirror.”

I have an ongoing friendship with Bob Barr, even though I
take issue with some of his conservative ideology. I also have a
high regard for Mr. Barr’s personal and professional integrity —
as well as his common-sense.

Early in President Clinton’s second term I received a
call from Mr. Barr seeking my counsel, He asked me to compare the
Clinton offenses on the public record to the impeachable
offenses of President Nixon in 1974 — when I served as chief
counsel to the Democrat-controlled “Rodino” Committee.

In 1996, long before Monica Lewinsky became a public figure,
I shared Bob Barr’s view that Henry Hyde and the House Judiciary
Committee had a constitutional responsibility to commence an
impeachment inquiry. As I saw it, by then there was already
substantial evidence on the public record that, acting through
his White House aides and Commerce Department appointees,
President Clinton was impeachable on at least two counts
unrelated to the Monica Lewinsky scandal: (1) The payment of
“hush money” in the form of some $400,000 in employment contracts
to obtain the silence of Webster Hubbell — the First Lady’s
former law partner — who resigned a top post in the Justice
Department to face indictment and imprisonment; and (2) Receiving
bribes in the form of illegal campaign contributions from the
Riady family and other foreign sources with close ties to the
Peoples Republic of China.

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Michael Dukakis tried to
tar George Bush with the brush of Iran-Contra, insisting that,
although Bush claimed he was “out of the loop.” as Vice President
he was tainted. Dukakis’ attack on Bush used a Greek proverb —
“The fish rots from the head down,” meaning that because
President Reagan was involved, the rest of his administration was
spoiled too.

This proverb more perfectly suits the Clinton
administration. The reckless bad judgment, disregard for the
law, obstruction of justice, and pattern of lies began in the
Oval Office and has spread downwards. For months he lied to his
own cabinet, to the American people, and to a federal grand jury.
Through his attorneys he continues to defend his lies in the
Senate trial. And based on his lies his aides and friends have
swarmed to attack anyone who believes that Clinton should be held

In 1972 a group of burglars was arrested for breaking into
the Watergate office of the Democratic National Committee. Most
of the burglars, including Howard Hunt, had a history of illegal
CIA-sponsored activities that dated back to the prior
presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson — and were committed
in the name of national security.

In the summer of 1974, the Democratic-controlled Judiciary
Committee adopted three Articles of Impeachment against President
Nixon, which I helped committee members draft. We did not charge
that he had personally committed a felony. Instead, we
charged him with violating his oath of office by failing
faithfully to execute the laws of the United States. We also
charged Nixon specifically with “telling lies to the American
people” — even though he had never lied under oath before a
court. Indeed, none of the articles charged Nixon personally
with any advance knowledge of the Watergate break-in or with
either directing or having advance knowledge of any of the
illegal activities of the FBI, CIA or IRS.

Today, such “new” Democrats as Senators Tom Harkin, Charles
Schumer, Robert Torricelli and Barbara Boxer publicly mock Henry
Hyde, Bob Barr and others as “radical right wing extremists.”
Soon after taking an oath to be “impartial,” Senator Harkin
publicly denounced the still unpresented House case as “a pile of
pure dung.”

Even worse, many of the “new” Democrats sit back quietly
as the likes of Larry Flynt, Alan Dershowitz, James Carville,
and Alec Baldwin denounce Henry Hyde and all white male
conservatives as racists and hypocrites. Clearly, racism is
despicable — but so are false accusation of racism and the
hypocrisy of pouring invective on others while claiming purity
for oneself.

What will become of the party that was once led by
presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Kennedy, and Carter?
The “New Democrat” movement (founded by President Clinton and my
own Senator, Joseph Lieberman) has institutionalized hypocrisy.
Say whatever needs to be said, do whatever needs to be done so
you can win.

With the help of those in the mainstream media who lack
Mr. Hentoff’s standards, the new Orwellian White House has made
irrational hypocrisy the rule rather than the exception.

Jerome Zeifman served as chief counsel to the House Judiciary
Committee during the Nixon impeachment proceedings.