In an article he authored last week for townhall.com, former Congressman Bob Barr echoed the sentiments shared by me and many others who support President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Sen. Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general. The insights offered by Barr are especially apropos considering his background.
The Georgia lawyer served as the presidentially appointed United States attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was a member of the House Judiciary Committee for the eight years he served in Congress from 1995 to 2003. In other words, when Barr praises Trump’s pick for attorney general — in expectation of returning to the department the priorities of the Reagan-Meese years, when the focus was on fighting serious federal crimes rather than attacking police departments and pressing a liberal social agenda — he knows what he’s talking about.
During his tenure as a federal prosecutor (which overlapped with Sessions, who served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama), Barr led the prosecutions of many significant drug cases (including one of the first involving a cartel figure extradited from Colombia). He also pressed for the establishment of, and then headed a subcommittee in, the U.S. Attorneys’ office at the Department of Justice that focused on public corruption — reflecting the fact that his office prosecuted many such cases (including that of a Republican Member of Congress from Georgia). Barr’s nonpartisan handling of public corruption cases helped insulate him from some of the charges of partisanship that Democrats lodged against him when, as a congressman, he was an early and aggressive advocate for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Another of Barr’s signature issues in the House was defending the Second Amendment. Barr became the “go-to guy” for the National Rifle Association on key firearms issues, based on his knowledge of the issue, and his understanding that the Second Amendment must be defended constantly and against indirect as well as direct attacks. Right up there with his advocacy of the Second Amendment was Barr’s relentless defense of privacy rights, earning him the sobriquet “Mr. Privacy” by famed writer William Safire.
Unlike many members of Congress who leave that body and either fade into oblivion or become full-time K Street denizens, after Barr left in early 2003, he returned home to Atlanta and continued — actually, accelerated — his work in support of those passions; and in so doing, managed to break new ground in terms of building bipartisan support for limits on excessive government power. Working for organizations across the ideological spectrum to win support for reining in unnecessary and liberty-limiting government powers, Barr won praise (and occasional wrath) from Republicans and Democrats alike; but always respect for the consistency and strength of his principled arguments.
And as for what some might mistake for some sort of elephant in the room (Elephant! See what I did there?), even when Barr briefly left the GOP to run on the Libertarian ticket in 2008, his signature issues in that campaign remained core conservative — tax and regulatory reform, Second Amendment support, and debt reduction.
Why is this all relevant? Simple. In less than two months, Sen. Sessions will be assuming leadership of one of the most important federal departments. He will be taking the reins of a department that is charged with upholding the rule of law but which for eight long years has instead served to enable a president to play fast and loose with the Constitution and our laws. Under the leadership of the current and former attorneys general, the Department of Justice’s priorities have veered sharply from an aggressive focus on serious, “federal-level” criminal activity to a social-activist agenda aptly illustrated by Loretta Lynch’s recent (and official) expressed fixation with America’s public restrooms.
Sen. Sessions, by background, temperament, and actions, will not be a touchy-feely attorney general; he was not such as a U.S. attorney, he was not such as a U.S. senator, and he will not be serving such a president. But, in reordering and then implementing the priorities at the Department of Justice, Sessions will need help. Having as one of his assistants a lawyer like Bob Barr — with a proven record of fighting the establishment, taking on the bad guys no matter how bad, and working with diverse coalitions to accomplish those important goals — would serve him, the president, and the American people well.