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And it's the result not just of these social issues. It's the result, I think, also very much of the power of the government to regulate in the economic sphere. Government regulates so much of what goes on in business and in our economy at all levels, from the personal through the state to the federal level, that it has acclimated people to think of the federal government as not just the last but the first resort to solve problems that people perceive in this society. That is not the job of the federal government.
reason: Do you still think it was justified to impeach Bill Clinton?
Bob Barr: Absolutely. I believe in the rule of law.
The impeachment of Bill Clinton, I think, was a very appropriate exercise of legislative power in this country. Congress clearly has the constitutional power and the responsibility to assure itself on behalf of the American people that a president is operating within the bounds of the law, a responsibility that very, very few Congresses even understand anymore. Look at the sorry oversight experiences of the Congresses under the last several administrations. They rarely view as their responsibility assuring that the executive operates within the laws and with the intent of the laws that Congress has passed and the presidents have signed.
Where you have a president who violates those laws, if they are of the sort that go directly to the character of the presidency, not the president but the presidency, and the operation within the constitutional separation-of-powers framework that our Framers gave us through the Constitution, then I think it's imperative for the Congress to step in. The basis on which I had filed back in November of 1997 the first inquiry of impeachment had nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky or the subsequent obstruction of justice and perjury by the former president. It had to do with other issues that we were never able to secure support from the Republican leadership in the Congress to move forward on, and those related to possibly trading national security information and procedures, national security-related technology, in return for foreign monies coming into our electoral process, directly to the White House in some instances.
We were unable to get the Republican leadership to move forward on the basis that was the primary reason for our initial inquiry. Then the information came in on the obstruction and the perjury. To me, perjury and obstruction were of the sort of potential offenses on the part of a president that went to the character and nature of the presidency, that would provide and should have provided the appropriate basis for an impeachment.
reason: Who's your model Supreme Court justice, living or dead?
Bob Barr: I don't agree with him on several of his substantive opinions, but in terms of the approach and the background and the intellect that he brings to the arguments on the bench, it would be Antonin Scalia. I think he is a very, very fine jurist.
Pretty much all of the justices who have taken the bench in the last several cycles are far too ready to defer to the executive branch in terms of executive branch power. They are far too ready to concede plenary power to the executive branch over anything that might be called national security, whether it is or it isn't. That worries me a great deal.
reason: What Cabinet-level positions do you think could be abolished?
Bob Barr: I would certainly start with the Department of Education. There is, to me, no legitimate basis whatsoever to have the federal government involved in education, period, and certainly to the extent of having a multibillion-dollar federal agency setting the standard for schools in our country.
The Department of Energy to me has no broad legitimate function. If there are some legitimate purposes for having the federal government involved, for example, in assuring the security of atomic materials, that is a very limited function that can and should be more properly handled by the Department of Defense. It does not require a Department of Energy.
The Department of Commerce, to my mind, has no legitimate Cabinet-level function. If there are legitimate functions of the federal government in the commerce area to assure free interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause, that could be handled either through the Department of Justice, assuring that the laws against infringing interstate commerce are appropriately enforced, or maybe by having a very much smaller Commerce Office.
reason: If you were in Congress these last six years, do you think you would have started an inquiry or voted to impeach President Bush?
Bob Barr: I think there clearly were and remain areas that Congress needs to look into from an executive branch abuse standpoint. Whether or not that rises to the level of impeachment, we don't know yet, and I wouldn't speculate on that. But I do believe in the area, for example, of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, systemic abuses, based on a completely alien notion that the chief executive can ignore laws whenever the chief executive decides to, should be investigated.