Many who remember Bob Barr as one of the hard-charging managers of Bill Clinton’s impeachment in the 1990s were surprised to see the former congressman from Georgia utterly crushed this week in his attempt to return to the U.S. House. Barr lost to former state senator Barry Loudermilk by 66 percent to 34 percent. How could someone who had once been a conservative hero be repudiated by his former constituents in the Atlanta suburbs?
Ultimately, Barr was done in by the zigs and zags of his career since he was redistricted out of his House seat in 2002. He had worked with the ACLU on civil-liberties cases, waged a quixotic campaign for president as the Libertarian Party nominee in 2008, and was seen to have shifted his votes on issues ranging from abortion to marijuana for medical use.
But the issue that hurt Barr the most was his 2009 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging that Eric Holder be swiftly confirmed as President Obama’s attorney general. Holder has since become a nightmare for conservatives, having been held in contempt by the U.S. House for refusing to turn over documents in the Fast and Furious scandal and battling Georgia’s voter-ID law.
Barr tried to sidestep the issue by explaining, “My letter was based on my professional association with Holder during his time as an attorney in private practice during the Bush administration.” He said he had since observed Holder “either complicit, or directly involved in a litany of scandals and other problems” and in 2013 had called for his resignation.
But it was too late. Dan McLagan, a spokesman for Loudermilk, explained that Barr’s endorsement of Holder had been the most important single factor in the race. “Once Barry was able to show voters that Bob Barr endorsed Eric Holder for attorney general, Barr started dropping and never stopped. “
As co-author of a new book with Hans von Spakovsky that details Eric Holder’s career, I can attest to the tremendous anger that Holder engenders among grass-roots conservatives. Bob Barr’s crushing defeat didn’t shock me, because I’ve witnessed just how shocked conservatives have been by Eric Holder’s record.
— John Fund is co-author, with Hans von Spakovsky, of Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department (Broadside Books, 2014).