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The Unforgettable William Barr...

Laurence Jarvik

Posted on December 10, 2018 11:14

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Sometime in 1993, fate seated me next to former Attorney General William Barr on the Washington-NY shuttle. We spoke for about an hour about the recent tragic raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas which killed 76 people. He told me no one would have died if it had been properly handled. He knew because he supervised a similar raid at a prison in 1991--where everyone lived. I never forgot that conversation...

According to press reports, President Trump plans to nominate William Barr as Attorney General to replace Jeff Sessions. 

By accident of fate, I met him in person in 1993 on a Washington shuttle flight.

Thinking about the long-ago conversation, Barr seems a remarkably good choice for the Trump administration, despite Bush and CIA ties which might scare away some conservatives.

In 1993, Barr made an outstanding first impression on a complete stranger.

When I first sat down, I didn't realize who my seat-mate was. He looked like any prosperous, plump, sleek businessman, in a nice suit with horn-rimmed glasses. However, he was notably not standoffish, pretentious, or snobbish when I introduced myself.

He did not hide his identity. When I heard he was the former Attorney General, I couldn't resist asking him what he thought about Janet Reno's raid on the Waco Compound in Texas, which had been in the news.

Surprisingly, he didn't flinch, but answered calmly, analytically and at length. He said he himself had overseen a similar operation, where hostages had been rescued. He had paid very close attention, had insisted that bloodshed be avoided. And it was.

I remember Barr saying his operation succeeded because everyone had been very patient, waiting until the hostage-takers had fallen asleep in the middle of the night. Then, using "flash-bang" grenades at 3 am, SWAT teams overwhelmed the sleeping gang, freeing hostages while capturing perpetrators - without the loss of a single life.

Barr persuaded me that had the will been there in the Clinton Administration to do the same, Waco need not have ended in a massacre. 

I had never heard of the Talladega prison riot involving Cuban refugees which he had been talking about. I didn't realize from media accounts that the FBI had handled situations similar to Waco without tragic result, although now it seems obvious. 

At the time, I was struck that Barr didn't hesitate to speak his mind frankly or to share opinions with a stranger on a plane. He seemed remarkably open, honest, and unafraid. He was not agitated or emotional. He was instead cool, collected, and interested in explaining how things worked, rather than striking a moralistic pose or seeking approval.

Practical, compassionate, not an ideologue, he did not "virtue signal," as we might say today.

I never wrote about that conversation, probably because it was so at variance with what the media were saying at the time, and it wasn't a subject about which I had any expertise. But it stuck with me to this day.

Barr had taken a great deal of time to comprehensively answer a question from a Nosey Parker, which he could have ignored. He was obviously a very busy man, yet he spent an hour illuminating the most controversial issue of the day.

If I were ever in a jam, William Barr seemed precisely the type of person I would want on my side. No BS, just calm, considerate and manifestly competent.

Unforgettable.

 

Laurence Jarvik

Posted on December 10, 2018 11:14

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Source: The Hill
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