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Transcript

Republican Convention: The Meaning of IS

Bob Barr
Author & Former Congressman
Tuesday, August 31, 2004; 11:00 AM

In his new book, "The Meaning of IS: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton," former congressman and senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Barr (R-Ga.) lays out his thoughts on the issues and players surrounding the impeachment of President Clinton.

Barr was online live from the Republican National Convnention Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the book as well as his thoughts on the politics and the 2004 election.


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The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Bob Barr: Good morning. This is former Congressman Bob Barr, coming to you from Madison Square Garden in The Big Apple. Glad to be with y'all.

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Anonymous: How have you been treated in New York?

Bob Barr: As always, the people of New York have treated us with courtesy and friendship.

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Washington, D.C.: What did you think of the speeches last night?

Bob Barr: Both Sen. McCain and Mayor Giulani are excellent speakers and did not disappoint last night.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Our former member of Congress, George Gekas, was the only impeachment manager who wasn't from a Southern state. Why was the impeachment movement apparently led by Southern members of Congress, and do you think you should have attempted to present more managers from other regions of the nation, or did it not matter?

Bob Barr: There were impeachment managers from across the country. Jim Rogan was from California. Steve Buyer was from Indiana. Steve Chabot was from Ohio. Need I go on?

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Augusta, Ga.: Would you please tell us in detail which allegations you believe have been proven whereupon President Clinton should have been removed from office?

Bob Barr: Read my book, "The Meaning of Is!" I detail the national security grounds, the systemic violations of immigration and campaign finance laws, etc., as reasons why we should've move earlier against the former president to impeach.

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Augusta, Ga.: Is there anywhere in New York where you can find a good glass of sweet ice tea?

Bob Barr: Insofar as I like unsweet tea, I'm very happy up here!

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Alpharetta, Ga.: Do you feel that Cheney's comments the other day in regard to gay marriage will efffectively counteract the some of those proposing the federal marriage amendment.

Bob Barr: To a limited extent, yes.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: What is in your political future? Do you plan to attempt to win your seat back someday or perhaps run for another office?

Bob Barr: I am very happy NOT running for office, but rather working on vitally important issues such as protecting our vanishing right to privacy, and our other civil liberties from an overzealous and power-hungry federal government.

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Too many 9/11 references?: Do you think the references to 9/11 for political gain are getting a little old? Even as a Republican, supporter of this administration and someone who lost a friend at the Pentagon -- I'm getting pretty sick of it. It has nothing to do with forgetting what happened, its just I dont want people talking about it from the podium anymore. Have you heard anything like this from the delegates, or will they pretty much eat whatever comes from the speakers?

Bob Barr: Not much dispute among delegates, but I, too, would like to hear more discussion of other substantive issues such as systemic tax reform, serious cuts in federal spending, and protecting our civil liberties (including the right to keep and bear arms).

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West Coast: Greetings from California,
First of all, Kudos to you for taking the time and effort assisting the ACLU. I admire you for that. Question: I know that historical context is crucial, but if one were to apply the same standard to all our Presidents as we did to Clinton, assuming they evaded intrusive sex related questions, a la Clinton, could we have impeached Washington,Jefferson, Ike, FDR, JFK about twenty times, and who knows who else?
Good luck to you, and have a nice time in New York!

Bob Barr: Thank you, and keep helping us fight to preserve what little privacy and other civil liberties we have left.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Dear Mr. Barr,
Would you characterize Bush's presidency as a squandered opportunity? Certainly the potential for "uniting, not dividing" was squandered, no?

Bob Barr: There certainly are a lot of opportunities that have not been seized and fulfilled.

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Atlanta, Ga.: What do you feel is the most important issue this election season?

Bob Barr: To me, probably the top issue is curtailing the size and power of the federal government, though I suspect the vast majority of voters would not rank that at the top of the list of priorities.

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Seward, Neb.: Is the belief that the war on terror cannot be won the new administration line, or is this just another example of Bush's inability to respond without a script?

Bob Barr: I suspect it was a legitimate point -- that the threat of terrorism will never and can never be completely eradicated -- inartfully uttered.

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Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: Not too far off topic I hope. I think the best media venue I've seen you in is on Bill Maher's show Real Time. Why do you suppose that more red meat Republicans like yourself don't appear on his show? What are they afraid of? They might find jousting with real opponents instead of strawmen invigorating and... educating?

The Republican convention underscores my point. Just the priest class preaching to the converted with no real attempt to tackle the real ills that beset this nation: poverty, unemployment, diminishing middle class, lousy public health care, scientific achievement stunted by religious indignation.

Real dialogue from your party stalwarts not monologues is the prescription. As Bill would likely tell them if he was invited to the big tent.

Thanks much. Vietnam Era Vet

Bob Barr: Unfortunately, many Republicans don't relish a good, hard fight. I do.

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Nashville, Tenn.: What do you say to those who believe Clinton's offenses were far less severe than Bush's and the current war in Iraq?

Bob Barr: They're entitled to their opinion.

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Ithaca, N.Y.: Do you think that certain aspects of the Patriot Act, continued funding and support of federal departments such as Education, and the dramatic increase in deficit spending represent a betrayal of true conservative political values?

Bob Barr: Absolutely.

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Fairfax, Va.: Why should anyone buy your book?

Bob Barr: Because it's a darn good read, and its only about 250 pages, as opposed to 957 in Bill Clinton's book! And it's cheaper!

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Phoenix, Ariz.: I recall your indepth interview with Bill Moyers, PBS NOW, and your stand against some of the provisions of the Patriot Act that clearly are taking away many of our civil liberties. What other hidden adgendas have been inserted into other bills that have stripped our rights since that interview aired? You would think that most Americans, from both the right and left, would be up in arms over this... but they are not... why do you think this is? Are the majority of Americans to caught up in their own problems to care or are they just plain stupid?

Bob Barr: Good questions. As I travel the country and work these issues on behalf of the American Conservative Union and the ACLU, I find that many people are simply unaware of how their freedoms are being and have already been eroded by the PATRIOT Act and many other post-911 laws and programs. Once they are made aware of this, they are very concerned about it. This is why it's so important to help educate the public as to thes vitally important civil liberties issues.

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Tab, UWS:
Speaking of a "overzealous and power-hungry federal government", has there been any political "chatter" about the Bush record of deficit spending among the GOP delegates? Deficit spending used to be a big "no no" among conservatives. Any sense that folks are concerned that the Bush economy is off course?

And, if I may, are there concerns by delegates that the "War on Terror" (which apparently is no longer winnable, according to Mr. Bush) is taking away too many of our remaining rights?

Bob Barr: I certainly agree with your points, though at a modern day conventions, you're simply not going to hear any dissent anymore.

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Middle America: If a Democrat had used the EXACT same words as George Bush regarding winning the war on terror, what would you, Giuliani, Limbaugh, and others on the right have said in response?

Bob Barr: Hey, I am not defending his words!

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Boston, Mass.: What was the crime did President Clinton commit for which you thought he should be impeached. Was not it something that he should only be accountable to his wife but not to the nation. After all we did not vote him to be loyal to his wife and White House was his home for eight years. As a president he was forced to disclose some of his personal information to the independent council that any other US citizens would not have to disclose under the US law. Please comment.

Bob Barr: Gee, let me think . . . oh yeah, I remember -- Obstruction of Justice and Perjury. Still crimes for which people ought to be and have been prosecuted. Not sex. Not fibbing to one's spouse. But lying UNDER OATH in a COURT OF LAW. Got it?

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Herndon, Va.: I found the speech -- I forgot the speaker's name -- in defense of the Patriot Act at the convention rather weak. Listening to it on the radio, I did not get the impression that the audience seemed too reassured by it either. How do you think the delegates feel about it? Any comments on the defense offered?

Bob Barr: Not much reaction, period, unfortunately, on these issues.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael Moore's appearance at the convention, putatively on behalf of USA Today, is a somewhat novel form of political theater. I thought his actions were disruptive but intentional. Do think the co-opting of the media by such "celebrities" is anything to be concerned about? Looking forward to reading your book.

washingtonpost.com: Michael Moore Joins the Press -- And Gets Some (Post, Aug. 31)

Bob Barr: Nothing new in Mr. Moore's appearance or in his doing opinion pieces, though I do think it was somewhat strange that the same paper that has him doing daily opinion pieces would not allow Ann Coulter's pieces to run.

Hope you enjoy the book.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you still think it was appropriate to force Washington, D.C. to change the name of its airport at great expense?

Bob Barr: It was not at "great expense." And yes, I think it is appropriate for the representatives of the People, reflecting the wishes of the People, to so honor a very popular former president. We do it all the time for former presidents from BOTH political parties. Do you get similarly incensed when a federal facility is renamed for a former democrat president?

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Arlington, Va.: What do you think of the Purple Heart bandaids?

Bob Barr: Cute. But I wouldn't wear one.

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Staten Island, N.Y.: What do you think of the Republican's Platform on gay issues? With you being the author of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) that was passed in 1996, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject of a Constitutional Amendment.

Bob Barr: I am opposed to a constitutional amendment and have so testified before both House and Senate committees.

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Queens, N.Y.: Welcome to New York and I hope you go back to Georgia and tell people that we are not violent degenerates as we are portrayed.

Regarding the 9/11 mantle, I work 5 blocks from the WTC and went through the underground subway stations everyday on my day to work -- I feel that terrorism is a single threat, but after 3 years I don't feel any safer or that we are really doing anything effective.
Do you think it is disingenious of the convention to claim that Bush is such a great leader because of his leadership in response to the attacks of September 11th?
Don't you think Clinton or another president would have responded the same way or even more effectively?
Don't you think the response has been a collective response to address terrorism instead of any 'vision' Bush has provided? I.e., Reluctance to setup the Homeland Security dept., Reluctance to setup a commission to investigage and document what led to the attacks and how our agencies responde, Waiting 3 years to make any reforms to our intelligence agencies.
Thank you

Bob Barr: I think New York is a uniquley great American city. I love New York. The people here are great!

Much has been done since 9-11 -- some good, some bad -- and some steps have improved security. However, much, much remains to be done. I don't think creating more bureaucracy in our Intelligence Community is going to help, by the way.

Ultimately, I think the reponse by the American People collectively has been the most inspiring aspect of the rsponse.

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Georgia: Mr. Barr... when are you going to stop the finger pointing and personal destruction and focus on something that builds and celebrates people? I know you are good at it, so why are you using your talents on the wrong things

Bob Barr: Gee, I thought all my work these past two years, in working with organizations as diverse as the ACLU and the American Conservative Union in behalf of civil liberties, was doing something that is positive and non-partisan. I guess in your eyes, such efforts are destructive.

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Holly Springs, N.C.: Hon. Congressman Bob Barr:

Why was there so much hatred fro President Bill Clinton from Republican side?
Is it true that hard-core Democrats feel the same about President Bush now?

Do you think that democrats will never be able to forget about the 2004 Florida episode?

Regards.

Bob Barr: Probably not.

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Harrisonburg, Va.: On your Web site, I read the following:

"Following the show, he will appear in a comedic lineup at 8:40 p.m. for the Hotline Comedy Show at the Republican Convention hosted by Hotline and Americans for Tax Reform."

Can you tell us your favorite joke?

Bob Barr: Politics.

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Arlington, Va.: From listening to your thoughts on the Gay Marriage Amendment, The Patriot Act, the ACLU and more I am coming to the conclusion that you are more of a Libertarian than a Republican. Would you agree? What are your thoughts on the Libertarian Party, the philosophy and their role as a third party?

Bob Barr: The Libertarian Party, as I have written publicly, has much to offer the American people, though I do not agree with its entire platform. I have enjoyed those times I have spoken to the Libertarian party.

Of course, I was disappointed the Libertarian Party worked to defeat me in 2002 in what I think many of its members now realize was a pretty dumb move.

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Marietta, Ga.: Do you feel that a bill to abolish the IRS will ever be pushed through congress? If so, do you see a national sales tax replacing it?

Bob Barr: It's a great idea, but it'll take alot more than a little bit of talk for this to happen. It will take years of hard and consistent work. I don't see the leadership in Washington truly committed to the idea yet.

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Cabin John, Md.: So, Congressman Barr, what did you do during the Vietnam war?

Bob Barr: I was in school at USC. Then, in 1971, began working for the CIA.

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Washington, D.C.: I was very bothered by your "threat" to stop funding for DC metro system when authorities would not change the name of the National Airport station to Reagan National. Does congress have the ability to stop funding that easily? Two, do you feel you handled that situation appropriatly? The metro people certainly were in the wrong, but I feel you were as well.

Bob Barr: Man, let's move on! The name was changed lawfully. Federal buildings and facilities have their names changed all the time. Live with it.

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Pattaya, Thailand: Did you loose your primery election because of your stand on Waco and why can't America face the truth?

Bob Barr: I don't think Waco had anything to do with my loss in the 2002 Republican Primary in Georgia.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Thanks for taking questions.
How do you account for the fact that so many Americans have grown apathetic and are no longer engaged with their political representatives? Is electronic media a factor? I am a life long Democrat, but have myself become so thoroughly disillusioned with both parties, and the lack of interest on the part of American voters, that I'm considering going apolitical.

Bob Barr: I know exactly what you mean, but don't go apolitical on us! There are some good candidates in both parties out there. And there are some third parties also. And some non-partisan groups. Stay involved.

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Nashville, Tenn.: Did you run for re-election after the self-imposed term limits mentioned in the Contract With America had passed? How do you reconcile this difference?

Bob Barr: There were no "self-imposed term limits" in the Contract With America. There was a constitutional amendment proposal for term limits, which I supported. It did not pass. I never supported unilateral surrender; i.e., one-sided, self-imposed term limits.

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New York, N.Y.: While I understand renaming buildings and locations for past presidents, don't you feel that renaming an airport for Regan was inappropriate?

It was his actions that led to firing of numerous air traffic controllers.

Bob Barr: You may've forgotten that the ATC's violated the terms of their contract.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: As a conservative with Libertarian leanings, I have concluded that my values are best served with a divided government (i.e, Executive and Legislative branches controlled by opposing parties). I believe the benefit is that only the issues that have bipartisan support and public backing (and that isn't very many) will be passed into law. Also, the checks and balances envisioned by the Constitution will be given a chance to work (as isn't the case with the Patriot Act, for example). Your thoughts?

Bob Barr: The greatest gains we've made in recent years in curtailing federal power and spending occured when we had Congress controlled by Republicans and a democrat in the White House.

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Acworth, Ga.: Bob -- Greetings from your neighbor in the 6th district!

How do you see the Georgia elections this November? Will Isakson win in a landslide? Unfortunately, it looks like we get to put up with Cynthia McKinney again....

Bob Barr: I agree both Isakson and McKinney will win in November.

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Los Angeles, Calif. -- Apolitical: Congressman Barr,
Thanks for your response. I'm sure there are some good candidates, politicians in both parties but why isn't the cream rising to the top?

Bob Barr: Lots of reasons, but if you, and I and others don't stay involved, it will only get worse.

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Sunrise, Fla.: Not that I thought the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 was a fair and accurate portrayal of the president, I do however find some of the peculiar connections between President Bush and companies like the Carlyle Group to be a conflict of interest. In addition, it seems that many countries and companies seem to have relationships with the current administration that benefit from decisions made by President Bush. I have read all of the rebuttals made against the movie, but still am yet to find an answer to the following question. I am an independent voter and my decision is based on having this one question answered.

If the president goes to war with Iraq and companies he favors, like the Carlyle Group and Halliburton or their subsidiaries get the majority of the contracts, how is that not a conflict of interest? In these days of strong lobbying and pork barrel politics, what's to stop a president from choosing to do something like go to war for his own or his constituent's personal gain? I have to admit I was disturbed to find out that half the war was paid for by Iraqi oil, with no Iraqis involved, and that was the only legal reason for not allowing other companies to place bids for contracts. If you can shed some light on this quixotic issue I would be very appreciative.

Regards

Bob Barr: Time doesn't premit a discourse on the important questions you've raised here. But I do agree these are important questions that need to be delved into, and not accept superficial positions put forth by proponents on either side.

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Bowling Green, Ky.: Rep. Barr -- I have a great deal of respect for you and the conservative principles you espoused, but the Republican party has abandoned all sense of conservatism with turning their backs on immigration, gay marriage, fiscal responsibility, etc. Why do you still call yourself a Republican when it seems your party has left for the other side long ago?

Bob Barr: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

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Roselle, Ill.: Good Morning Mr. Barr,
I want to applaud you for your forthright responses to questions.
Why is it that Republicans consider patriotism is their monopoly and nobody else -- particularly Democrats -- is any good for the country? Why do you think there is so much divisiveness in this great country of ours?
Thank you.

Bob Barr: The divisiveness goes back at least to the late 60s, and unfortunately, seems destined to be with us at least through this cycle if not longer.

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Anonymous: You're right. Clinton should have impeached and removed from office.

But why don't you hold Cheney and Rumsfeld to the same standards? (I don't think Bush has done anything wrong; I think he is their innocent pawn.)

If you go back and look, there is a myraid list of laws that they have violated including war profiteering and a failure of leadership (confirmed in THREE reports) about the prison scandal.

I guess being a Republican is a good shield against impeachment.

(Of course, now it is too late. The voters, if the elections aren't already rigged, will speak in November.)

Bob Barr: Read my various opinion pieces (many still on my website bobbarr.org). I don't think you can then come away with the opinion I am easy on Republicans.

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Fairfax, Va.: Who do you support for President and why?
I am surprised to hear of your work for the ACLU; has this put you at odds with your Republican colleagues?

Bob Barr: Most people who know me, and that includes my former colleagues in Congress, know that my positions regarding privacy and other civil liberties and fighting federal government efforts to take them away or reduce them in the name of fighting crime or terrorism, are long standing. I led, for example, the move in 1996 to scale back the original anti-terrorism law that was drafted in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.

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Nashville, Tenn.: Do you still call yourself a Republican?

Bob Barr: I call myself Bob Barr. And proud of it!

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Washington, D.C.: Any thoughts on how to address the deficit without raising taxes? Or should taxes be raised?

Bob Barr: Secret Plan: Reduce Deficit by Reducing Spending!

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Rochester, N.Y.: Mr. Barr --

How long before we see the emregence of a third party? Don't you think that Bush's ideas are so far to the left of what core conservative principles (and this has been adopted by the party faithful) are that there really is no distinction between the GOP and the Democrats?

Bob Barr: Unfortunately, in our system of government, unlike the parliamentary systems, having multiple parties is very difficult, and probably we won't see the rise of a truly strong third party anytime soon; though I think the competition definitely would help.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think the New York protest groups are alienating moderate votes? What message are they sending to the undecided -- united cause or civil disobedience?

PS -- as a D.C. resident, I'm embarrassed by the collective whining about the name of an airport.

Bob Barr: Thanks for your vote of support against whiners.

I don't think the NY demonstrators will have any effect whatsoever on the election.

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Point of Breaks, Tex.: Mr. Barr --
Do you know that thousands are not only crossing are border every day illegally, but the problem is coming through our airports at the same rate? Did you know that legal visas are being handed out for students and visitors that are bringing families here from all over the work? What is your party doing about the abuse of VISAs in the USA?

Bob Barr: Unfortunately, neither major political party seems truly committed to stopping the flood of illegal immigration, especially from Mexico.

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Washington, D.C.: I see you are a big advocate of the ACLU. Do you support the ACLU's stance on NAMBLA?

Bob Barr: I work with the ACLU on privacy and related issues. I don't support any person's or group's stance that is supportive of NAMBLA.

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Clarksburg, W.Va.: Mr. Barr --

Are you out of politics forever? What do you think is the difference between the Regan GOP and the George II GOP?

Bob Barr: Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig difference.

I'm very much involved in politics, though I have no plans to personally run for office again.

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Former Georgia Resident: Rep. Barr,

What originally brought you to Gerogia? Do you still reside there?

Thanks for taking questions, and for your service.

Bob Barr: I've been a proud resident of Georgia since 1978. The great people of Georgia and the opportunities in my great state brought me there and keep me there.

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Schaumburg, Ill.: Hon Mr. Barr,
Do you think a Democrat would be competent and serve our country as well as if not better than a Republican?
Regards.

Bob Barr: Always depends on the particular person.

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Alexandria, Va.: To add to the earlier question about renaming National Airport, yes, Reagan may have been a popular president. That's why he had a trade building and a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier named after him. Was it really necessary to add his nme to the airport as well, especially in light of the ensuing cost of revising countless signage in the DC area and nationwide? If I recall correctly, little, if any choice was given to the People or even the Airports Authority in renaming National.

I grew up in this area and have always known Washington National Airport and nothing else. I continue to call it National to this day. And I would have the same reaction had someone tried to rename it Clinton National Airport.

BTW, your book sounds interesting. I'll check it out.

Bob Barr: Let me know what you think of the book. It's pretty hard on Republicans as well as on Mr. Clinton.

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Albany, N.Y.: The ACLU has always been a lightening rod for Republicans and conservatives, and membership and collaboration has usually been looked upon with disdain by many colleagues in your party. As a Republican with libertarian leanings, I do not see them as necessarily mutually exclusive, but many others of both organizations do.

How should the ACLU market itself to attract new Republican members? How should the Republican Party market itself to attract members of the ACLU?

Bob Barr: Stress their work against expanded government power to serveil and collect evidence on law-abiding citizens.

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Carbondale, Ill.: I admire your candor. Regarding the Clinton years, would you do anything different if you had it to do over again? I'd love to ask Mr. and Mrs. Clinton the same question.

Bob Barr: I answer that question in my new book -- "The meaning of Is."

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Silver Spring, Md.: Recently as I was watching TV, I did a doubletake as I saw you, a very conservative individual, speaking to the ACLU, a liberal organization that has become a swear word for many conservatives. Do you believe this administration is not protecting our civil liberties, and do you believe a more liberal administration that agrees with the ACLU more frequently might do a better job in this area?

Bob Barr: Our civil liberties, including the right to privacy, are not currently being protected; far from it.

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Durham, N.C.: Good day, Mr. Barr. Honestly, at this moment I'm more upset at whoever names hurricanes and tropical storms for giving us 2 "g" named storms. What's up with that?

On a more serious note, how bad does partisan sniping have to get in Washington before politicians there actually get to the difficult work of government? Is this part of the conservative pledge of "less government"--to have endless thousands of man hours spent conniving, blowing hot air and setting up the entrapment of people each side doesn't happen to like? If our enemies need any comfort I'm sure they get it everyday just reading our newspapers.

What is the rough figure on the cost of all the investigations of Bill Clinton by a GOP led Congress in the 90's?

Bob Barr: The rough cost of investigations to uphold the rule of law and protect our institutions against corruption at the highest levels of government? Not enough.

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Long Beach, Calif.: Do you feel any irony in the fact that Tim Hutchinson and Newt were involved in extra-marital affairs with members of their staffs at the very time of the impeachment of Clinton?

Bob Barr: Washington was, is, and will likely remain, full of ironies.

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Bethesda, Md.: Do you really think Max Cleland isn't a true patriot?

Bob Barr: I have never thought that. By the way, Max is a friend of mine.

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Bob Barr: This is Bob Barr signing off for now. It's been great sharing time and thoughts with y'all. Thanks to the Washington Post folks for making this possible.

Stay involved!

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