Pubdate: 7 Dec. 1998
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Section: Sec. 1
Copyright: 1998 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Cynthia Tucker


When Newt Gingrich announced his resignation, he said he was leaving
so the Democrats would not be able to use him as a poster boy . That
Reasoning suggested that Gingrich was the only GOP figure with a
persons guaranteed to chill voters, frighten children and upset family

Gingrich was well-known for his outsized ego and his strident
partisanship, traits given heightened scrutiny because of his post as
speaker of the house. But he is by no means the scariest Republican in
congress. For Republican excess. If Gingrich wanted to shed his party
of its frightening extremists (and there are several), he should have
taken Georgia Representative Bob Barr with him.

At the moment, Barr is the Democrat's best ally. He is doing all he
can to ensure that the GOP never becomes the nation's majority party.
When he is not rabidly insisting on the impeachment of President
Clinton, a position soundly rejected by a majority of Americans, he is
insulting gays or other members of ethnic minority groups.

Barr's latest caper is a two-fer: He found the opportunity to insult
AIDS sufferers while also interfering with the voting rights of the
citizens of a municipality that happens to be predominantly black:
Washington, DC. It is just the sort of maneuver that Barr has made his
specialty: a stunt that accomplishes nothing but to alienate a sizable
portion of the electorate.

On November 3, Washington residents joined voters in five states in
voting on referendums that would legalize the medical use of marijuana
for patients suffering from cancer, AIDS or Glaucoma. The ballot
initiative resulted from a campaign by Wayne Turner and his partner,
Steve Michael, who died of AIDS in May.

But Turner and other DC residents still do not know for sure how the
referendum fared (though exit polls suggest it passed overwhelmingly).
Back during the negotiations over the federal budget in the fall, Barr
had attached an amendment to a D.C. appropriations bill that barred
its Board of Elections from spending any money to count the votes from
the referendum.\\Later, Barr mocked the intentions of the districts's
voters: "Is there legitimate speculation to think, given Marion
Barry's history and the liberal leanings of D.C. voters that they've
decided to fight drugs?"

Funny thing is, Barr did not make similar comments about the voters of
Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, Nevada and Washington state who also approved
medical marijuana initiatives on November 3. Is there legitimate
speculation to think, given Barr's history, that he would stifle the
democratic process only in a city that is largely black?

The American Civil Liberties Union has gone to court to force the
district to announce the results of the referendum, a lawsuit that has
also attracted the support of the Libertarian party. That may be
enough this small bit of Barr tyranny, but the nation must depend on
the voter's of Georgia's 7th Congressional District to ultimately rid
the nation of this plague.

Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope there as well. Although the
7th District is an overwhelmingly conservative piece of real estate,
stretching from Atlanta's western suburbs to the Alabama Line, the
November 3 election results show a constituency less than enamored  of
the incumbent. Barr's Democratic opponent, Jim Williams, was a
pleasant, but unimpressive candidate. little-known and underfunded,
who listed the names of his pets in his campaign literature. Williams
still pulled 45 percent of the vote.

Tha was a result that Barr was powerless to conceal from more
realistic contenders who might be eyeing his seat.

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady