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Interview with Bob Barr, October 3, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:42 - Career before politics

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Partial Transcript: Before we begin, tell us a little bit about where you grew up, your upbringing, education, things like that.

Segment Synopsis: Barr highlights his life and career before deciding to run for higher office in the 1990s. He credits Ayn Rand's works for giving him a conservative political philosophy, which was only further developed when he met Paul Coverdell.

Keywords: Central Intelligence Agency; Cobb County, Georgia; George H.W. Bush; George Washington University; Georgetown University Law School; Ronald Reagan; Southeastern Legal Foundation; United States Attorney; University of Southern California; Watergate scandal; Young Republicans; intelligence analyst; international relations; objectivism; private law practice

00:07:40 - Georgia Republicans in the 1980s

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Partial Transcript: What was your assessment of the state of the Republican Party in Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Barr describes the Georgia Republican party of the 1980s, particularly the increasing momentum and energy the party had after Ronald Reagan and Mack Mattingly's elections in 1980. Barr then gives his reasons for why Cobb County became the hub of the Republican Party in Georgia.

Keywords: Carl Harrison; Chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party; Democratic Party; Grant Brantley; Metro Atlanta; county commissioners; demographic shifts; fundraising; grassroots organization; local parties; state offices

00:13:05 - Service as U.S. Attorney

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Partial Transcript: So, from that position, by 1986, you are appointed to U.S. attorney.

Segment Synopsis: Barr summarizes his four years as the U.S. Attorney for the North District of Georgia and states what his administrative goals were in the office. He touches upon some of the high-profile cases that his office handled, including international money laundering schemes and the indictment of Pat Swindall for corruption charges.

Keywords: Andrew Young; Department of Justice; Julian Bond; Larry Thomspon; Mack Mattingly; Ronald Reagan; law enforcement; private law practice; transparency

00:18:57 - 1992 U.S. Senate race

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Partial Transcript: How did you decide to get into seeking elected office?

Segment Synopsis: Barr recalls his attempt running for the U.S. Senate in 1992, which concluded in him losing in a primary runoff election to Paul Coverdell. Barr stresses how holding no harsh feelings toward Coverdell and emphasizing party unity ultimately helped Republicans overcome Democrat incumbent Wyche Fowler.

Keywords: Christian Coalition; Christian right; John Knox; Ralph Reed; Southeastern Legal Foundation; Waycross, Georgia; abortion; political base; state senate

00:24:55 - Running for Congress in 1994

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Partial Transcript: So you were unsuccessful in your bid for U.S. Senate, but that didn't deter you.

Segment Synopsis: Barr explains why he opted to run for the 7th District's Congressional seat in 1994 and the strategy his campaign employed to best the Democratic incumbent, Buddy Darden. He then discusses the role that Newt Gingrich's Contract with America played in his campaign.

Keywords: 1993 tax increases; 1994 Assault Weapons Ban; Marietta Daily Journal; Bill Clinton; Joseph Gaylord; campaigning; name recognition

00:34:13 - Service in Congress

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Partial Transcript: So you come in, and the Republican delegation from Georgia has grown.

Segment Synopsis: Barr describes working with his fellow Republicans in Congress, as well as the conservative constituency of his district. Barr then lists some of the more prominent events he oversaw while in Congress, including the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the Whitewater scandal.

Keywords: 1995-1996 government shutdowns; 2nd Amendment; Carrollton, Georgia; Charlie Norwood; Cobb County, Georgia; Contract with America; Douglasville, Georgia; Floyd County, Georgia; Haralson County, Georgia; House Financial Services Committee; House Judiciary Committee; House Oversight Committee; Jack Kingston; Janet Reno; John Linder; LaGrange, Georgia; Larry McDonald; Mack Collins; Nathan Deal; National Rifle Association; Newt Gingrich; Rome, Georgia; Saxby Chambliss; Summerville, Georgia; Troup County, Georgia; Waco compound seige; conservatism

00:42:33 - Controversial votes / 2002 primary race

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Partial Transcript: Are there any positions or votes that put you at odds with your Republican colleagues or Republican leadership?

Segment Synopsis: Barr details the incidents in which he voted against the wishes of the Republican leadership, explaining his rationale for those decisions. He then rememembers his unsuccessful primary race against John Linder in 2002 after the two were gerrymandered into the same district.

Keywords: 1995-1996 government shutdowns; 4th Amendment; Bill Clinton; Cobb County, Georgia; Don Young; Fulton County, Georgia; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Jack Kingston; Oklahoma City bombing; Rand Paul; Saxby Chambliss; USA PATRIOT Act; budget resolution; civil liberties; conservatism; metro Atlanta; right to privacy; terrorism; west Georgia

00:49:55 - Libertarian Party / 2008 Presidential run

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Partial Transcript: So you were defeated in the primary and leave Congress in 2003.

Segment Synopsis: Barr states his reasons for leaving the Republican Party in the mid-2000s, mainly criticizing the direction George W. Bush was taking the party's stance on civil liberties in the wake of 9/11. Barr next talks about his run for President in 2008 as the Libertarian Party's candidate while also noting the organization's key weaknesses as a political party.

Keywords: Roberta Gonzales; Ronald Reagan; business regulations; campaign funding; factional divisions; fiscal conservatism; government expansion; party unity; right to privacy; school choice; tax reform; torture

00:57:25 - 2014 Congressional run / Rise of Republicans in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: So you attempted a comeback to Congress.

Segment Synopsis: Barr recounts his failed attempt to reenter Congress in 2014, noting what has changed in campaigning over time. He then comments on the factors that contributed to Republicans' success in Georgia in the 1990s and 2000s, as well as the factors that hindered Democrats.

Keywords: Barry Loudermilk; Eric Holder; Facebook; GOPAC; Newt Gingrich; Phil Gingrey; Roy Barnes; Twitter; business community; demographic shifts; grassroots organization; news cycle; patronage system; racial divisions; technology

01:04:29 - State Republican Party divisions

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Partial Transcript: Do you think there's a divide--not necessarily a divide--do you think the state party here in Georgia is more unified around particular priorities or principles than, say, what we're seeing in Washington, in Congress right now?

Segment Synopsis: Barr ponders some of the issues that divide Republicans in Georgia, such as taxation and medical marijuana. He briefly discusses John Watson's influence as state party chairman and how Watson is tackling some of the issues that have been facing the party in the preceding years.

Keywords: 2nd Amendment; TSPLOST; fundraising; gasoline tax; government regulations; grassroots organization; hospital tax; local candidates; minority parties; religious liberty

01:12:12 - Bipartisanship / 2016 Presidential election

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Partial Transcript: What are some issues, either here in Georgia or nationally, that Republicans and Democrats can work together on?

Segment Synopsis: Barr considers some of the topics that Democrats and Republicans, both at the national and state level, may be able to cooperate on, drawing from his own Congressional experience. Barr then gives his rationale as to why Donald Trump succeeded in the 2016 Republican primary, and why Hillary Clinton succeeded in winning Cobb and Gwinnett Counties, yet lost Georgia as a whole.

Keywords: Gary Johnson; Jeb Bush; John Kasich; Libertarian Party; Marco Rubio; Obamacare; Ted Cruz; civility; demographic shifts; healthcare; local elections; party leadership; racial diversity; tax reform; welfare reform

01:22:15 - Problems in the Democratic Party

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Partial Transcript: The special election to replace former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who just stepped down.

Segment Synopsis: Barr lists some of the internal issues in the Democratic Party that has kept them from succeeding in Georgia. He then specifies Jon Ossoff's campaign in the 6th Congressional District special election as exemplifying all the problems Georgia Democrats have.

Keywords: 2002 election; Jon Ossoff; Karen Handel; Sonny Perdue; campaign funding; grassroots organization; party leadership; political messaging

01:25:54 - 2018 gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: There's going to be a gubernatorial election in 2018.

Segment Synopsis: Barr discusses the merits of each Democratic and Republican candidate in the 2018 election for the Georgia governorship. He concludes that neither Stacey Abrams nor Stacey Abrams will fare well against their Republican opponent, and the issues of the Republican primary will likely be set by the Georgia General Assembly's 2018 legislative session.

Keywords: Brian Kemp; Casey Cagle; Clay Tippins; Cobb County, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; House minority leader; Hunter Hill; Mike Williams; personal attacks; religious liberty

01:30:05 - Future of the Republican Party / Rise of populism

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Partial Transcript: What do you think the Republican Party is going to be, is going to look like, ten, twenty years from now?

Segment Synopsis: Barr predicts what will happen to the Georgia Republican Party, concluding that although they will remain the majority, Republicans will lose some statewide offices and state legislature seats. Barr next comments on the rise of populism both in the United States and abroad and on all sides of the political spectrum, though he assures that this is just a "phase" and not likely indicative of anything long-term.

Keywords: Bernie Sanders; Bill Clinton; Cobb County, Georgia; Democratic Party; Donald Trump; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Jeremy Corbyn; Justin Trudeau; Marine Le Pen; Nathan Deal; Newt Gingrich; business regulations; conservative values; demographic shifts; government spending; national politics; party leadership; policy changes; political messaging; racial politics; tax cuts

01:35:57 - Opportunity School District Amendment / Criminal justice reform

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Partial Transcript: I know we zoomed all the way out to international affairs, but now that you mentioned Nathan Deal, the so-called failing schools, the school takeover amendment, how it was framed in 2016.

Segment Synopsis: Barr discusses some of the shortcomings of the Opportunity School District Amendment, highlighting that most of the negative backlash was due to the tension between state control and local control for public schools. Barr then praises Nathan Deal, among other state leaders, for taking what he considers necessary steps in criminal justice reform, tackling issues such as mandatory minimums and criminal reintegration.

Keywords: Rand Paul; Texas; asset forfeiture; bureaucracy; mass incarceration; party factions; recidivism; sentencing guidelines