The federal government, which Barr calls a leviathan, has grown much too large. Barr hopes to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) to do something about that problem.
Dalton Mayor and gubernatorial hopeful David Pennington has suggested the way to save the country is for the states to start taking back their power by refusing to accept federal money and the strings that come with it.
About $21 billion in state funds from taxes and fees are raised within the state every year, while Georgia receives an additional $20 billion from the federal government.
Barr said on one hand Pennington was correct to call for less reliance on federal money. But it’s not just a matter of the states refusing to take money from Washington.
“There is a very, very important role for elected officials at the federal level to deal with, and that is to stop taking so much money from the states and the individuals through taxes,” Barr said. “So long as you have all of this money flowing from the states to Washington, and then Washington doling it back out, yes, you want the states to stand up and say ‘No, we’re not going to keep taking this because that comes with a very heavy dose of control,’ but you have to stop all of that money or at least slow all of that money flowing to Washington.”
Barr listed the federal tax laws that take money from the states from excise taxes to highway taxes.
“All of that goes to the federal government, and then they dole it back out,” he said. “So if what the mayor is saying that this can only be solved at the state level, that’s not true. That’s an important part of it, but an equally important part is to address the issue of the power that the federal government has and that has increased over the years by taking all of that money in the first place.”
Kill Common Core
Last summer, Barr joined a number of residents who addressed the Cobb Board of Education about their opposition to the Common Core nationwide standards. His opinion hasn’t changed.
“Why do we even need to be worrying about or considering some sort of national standard or national program?” Barr said. “We’re Georgians. And education is a state issue. It ought to be a state issue. To me, that answers the question right there. There’s no need whatsoever for the Common Core program or something similar no matter what you call it, therefore you don’t even get to all the detailed questions. What will the criteria be? Do we buy into the mathematics and the science criteria, but not the more esoteric or more subjective subjects? There’s no reason to be involved in it period, it’s not the way we ought to be setting our standards in Georgia for educating our children. I would repeal it, kill it, bury it, get rid of it, there’s no need for it.”
Chris Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’ controversy
At first glance, Barr said he thought New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal was much ado about nothing.
Yet, “ . . . when you think about it, it is potentially a very serious abuse of power by a government agency and individuals,” he said.
Barr praised Christie for the job he did in the news conference where he identified the problem and the actions he had taken to address it.
“Whether or not that’s the end of it, we don’t know yet because there are ongoing investigations, but it certainly appears that the armor he had built up for himself as a very strong, invincible, tough leader, there are legitimate questions that he’s going to have to deal with,” Barr said.
One of those questions is that if Christie is such a great leader, how did he not know what was going on in his inner circle, Barr said.
Hillary and Benghazi
Although a Senate Intelligence Committee report released this month faulted the State Department and the intelligence community for not preventing the attacks in Benghazi, Barr said he would not rely on that alone to neutralize Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 presidential race.
“I think it is a serious problem for her, but whether or not it’s a fatal wound depends on what else comes out and how it’s handled both internally within the Democratic Party, and our party, the Republican Party, but clearly it is extremely relevant and the Republicans both in the Congress and in Republican presidential campaigns should not let that just sort of go away,” he said.
Republicans, Barr said, allowed Hillary Clinton to “brow beat” them when she testified on the matter and famously asked, “What difference does it make?”
“Well, excuse me, Madam Secretary, it makes a hell of a lot of difference,” Barr said. “We have an ambassador who was murdered, we have three good, American patriots who were murdered as a result of the inactivity, the inaction, and the bad decisions by your administration. You want to know why it matters? That’s why it matters, and instead most of them sort of let her brow beat them. If Republicans let Hillary Clinton browbeat them on this issue then it’s going to be a serious problem for the Republicans.”
Guns and schools
The state Legislature is debating whether to allow firearms on university campuses, a proposal Barr, who is on the board of the NRA, supports.
“To me, it’s nonsensical and irrational to recognize that people have the right to keep and bear arms, but you’re going to publicly disarm them simply because they’re going to school?” Barr said. “I mean, to me that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”
Barr said he would also support allowing designated staff in kindergarten through 12th grade public schools other than police officers to carry firearms.
“You need to be careful about it to make sure that the firearms that you do have present at the schools are in the hands of responsible, trained individuals, whether that be a police officer, retired police officer, an administrator, principal, and what not that has been qualified, understands firearms and so forth, but I do think that that makes a lot of sense,” he said.
Militarization of police
The federalization of local police departments, as they get more federal dollars and deploy the kinds of weapons used in wartime, is not a healthy trend, although it is a practice that has been unfolding for years, Barr said.
When he previously served in Congress, he recalled how much it bothered him to learn that small towns in Georgia’s 7th District were receiving large numbers of automatic weapons from the federal government. And this was before the Department of Homeland Security had been created.
“They were getting these through FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, of all things,” he said.
There are two sides to this point, one being the militarization of police and the other being the “over criminalization” of the nation.
“There is absolutely no legitimate reason why local police departments need to have armored, military vehicles,” Barr said. “There is no reason why every time a warrant is served in some counties, not necessarily here in Georgia, but other counties, why you have to have a SWAT team present.”
There have been cases, particularly in Fairfax County, Va., where tragedies occurred because too many police officers with too many weapons were doing routine service of subpoenas and arrest warrants in non-violent cases, he said.
“Certainly you want to take necessary, reasonable precautions because people who are perfectly nonviolent, really nice people, when they’re served with an arrest warrant they can go bonkers, certainly, so it’s not a question of disarming police, it’s a question of over militarization and the mindset that comes with that. It’s not a healthy one,” Barr said.
There is no doubt the government has been operating outside the Constitution when it comes to the National Security Agency, Barr said. The NSA must be reined in through congressional oversight, legislation limiting the NSA’s scope and budget limitations if necessary. When he worked for the CIA years ago, Barr said there were clear legal lines of demarcation between the intelligence agencies when it came to gathering domestic intelligence or targeting Americans.
“Now that line is virtually nonexistent and it’s a very, very dangerous line that we crossed so they definitely need to be reined in,” he said.
The United States is now saddled with an imperial presidency, although it didn’t start with Obama, Barr said.
“We saw it grow clearly during the Nixon era and we saw it back then,” he said. “We didn’t see it so much with Reagan or really so much with Bush 1, but it really started I think with Clinton and I think Bush 2 and now Obama, and each one ratchets it up to a higher level.”
Presidents increase their power through the overuse of executive orders and other internal executive branch tools such as signing statements. They are further emboldened when Congress does whatever they ask.
Congress has a number of tools at its disposal to counteract this problem, Barr said, noting he exercised some when he chaired a judiciary subcommittee in Congress.
“A member of Congress individually can write and demand certain things of officials in the executive branch, can draw attention to them, can propose legislation and so forth. There is a lot of things that individual members of Congress can do, and I’ve been doing what I can as a former member of Congress from the outside over the last several years through my writing and through some court challenges as well,” he said.
The 11th District
The 11th Congressional District contains about 700,000 people and includes all of Cherokee and Bartow counties, about half of Cobb including Acworth, Kennesaw, Marietta and Dobbins, about half of Smyrna and most of Vinings before swinging over to Buckhead and a portion of Sandy Springs.
Barr said more than 80 percent of the vote is in Cherokee and Cobb.
Republicans have a 19-point advantage over Democrats in the district which means it’s pretty much impossible for a Democrat to win, he said.
Among his opponents are former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville), Tricia Pridemore, the former executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, and state Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead).
Serving as Barr’s campaign manager is his son Derek Barr, 32, a Pope High School Class of 2000 graduate who received a law degree from John Marshall Law School and is putting off studying for the bar exam while he works on his father’s campaign.
Barr, 65, has two sons, and his wife, Jeri Barr, also has two children. The couple has eight grandchildren and lives in Smyrna.