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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks at the Swearing-In Ceremony for William Barr as Attorney General

1991-11-26

Thank you all. And thank you, George and Mr. Attorney General, distinguished members of the Cabinet, Members of Congress who are with us here today. I spot Senator Thurmond, Senator Hatch, members of the White House staff, and Bishop Daily, to you, sir. Ladies and gentlemen: Let me offer congratulations to Bill Barr and a warm welcome and best wishes to his wife, Chris, and to these three wonderful daughters here, with whom I had the pleasure to visit just a few minutes ago. May I salute Mr. and Mrs. Barr, Bill's parents, here in the front row and many, many other family and friends that are here for this happy occasion. This is my kind of Barr association. [Laughter] I knew it. [Applause] I knew it. I debated -- and there's Senator Kennedy. Ted, I didn't see you earlier. Welcome, sir. I debated whether to try that one, I'd like to take it over. [Laughter] Like a replay. Time out.

Today America gives new responsibilities to a young man of outstanding character and achievement. As always, Shakespeare's words help us sum up the man, ``Young in limb, in judgments old.'' The newspapers report Bill Barr was giving Eisenhower for President speeches when he was in kindergarten. And his parents pass along the word that young Bill was discoursing about separation of powers before he gave up his pacifier. [Laughter]

So, I am proud to welcome Bill Barr to this Cabinet. And he will make our country proud of his work as Attorney General of the United States. He offers a model of thoughtfulness and hard work for all young Americans. And when I first met him, Bill was holding down a demanding job in the legislative affairs office at CIA, and at night he was going to law school. As a lawyer in private practice and in Government service, he has shown unstinting commitment to excellence and to fairness.

As the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and as a key participant in our National Security Council deliberations, he has never hesitated, Bill Barr has never hesitated to speak his mind and to offer honest, solid legal advice. As Deputy Attorney General and then Acting Attorney General, he has fostered a strong sense of teamwork that draws the best out of our professionals at the Justice Department. Bill's leadership has brought about recent successes in prosecuting savings and loan fraud, in resolving the Talladega hostage crisis, and indicting the terrorists who plotted the Pan Am bombing.

Under our new Attorney General, the Justice Department has four major priorities: First, keep on with the fight against drugs. We're winning some battles. There are some encouraging statistics out there. But we haven't won this war, not yet. We'll keep putting our best efforts into the fight for the lives and well-being of our young people. That's what's at stake here.

Second, we are continuing, and we'll intensify, our efforts against violent crime. In the Federal Government, we're determined to help State and local authorities combat violent criminals. Bill Barr's leadership in particular will help us with a new crackdown against career criminals who use firearms, and he'll redouble our efforts to help victims and witnesses.

Third, our administration will work vigorously to enforce civil rights laws. We will support our fellow Americans' efforts to promote fairness and harmony, and we will join forces to fight the cancer of discrimination.

And finally, Bill Barr and his team will roll up their sleeves to heighten the attack against white-collar crime. We're determined to strengthen the people's protections against fraud in financial institutions, insurance, and Government procurement. We'll turn the full force of the law against con artists who steal people's savings. And we'll do the same to anyone from abroad who tries to rob our inventors and our investors of what is rightfully theirs.

We won't relax until Congress gives us the tools we need to fight crime. I asked for an end to frivolous habeas corpus appeals that waste time prosecutors should be spending on new cases. Congress, in my view, has ignored that urgent need. I asked for legislation assuring that needless technicalities will not cause evidence to be thrown out when police officers act in good faith. And Congress has ignored us on this one, too.

I asked Congress to make it easier to prosecute rapists and child molesters, and again, failure to act. And I asked for meaningful Federal death penalty authority, and, once again, I am not satisfied. Congress has failed to deliver. The conference committee's bill that's up there now, in my view, is so weak and so soft on criminals that I'll have to veto it if it reaches my desk.

This isn't a partisan issue; it's a matter of common sense. And it's a question of who is in touch with our State and local law enforcement authorities out there on the front lines. And at last count, I've heard from 31 of our States' attorneys general, Democrats and Republicans, who say they will stand by me in the position I have taken.

Beyond the critical issues of crime and drugs and civil rights enforcement, we need civil justice reform. Bill Barr will help us straighten out a civil litigation system that has spun out of control. We've become the most litigious society in the world. And that causes a painful, costly drain on our economy, on our professions, and ultimately on the civility we need to hold society together. Bill has been, and will remain, a stalwart in our efforts for civil justice reform.

I am confident that Bill Barr possesses an abundance of every quality that makes a great Attorney General. He is tough; he is fairminded, a man of integrity, of intense dedication. It's true that I've ordered Bill to go all out in fighting crime. But I've left the details to him. It's altogether his idea to try to drive drug dealers out of our neighborhoods by playing his bagpipe. [Laughter] A constitutional question has been raised on that one, violating the eighth amendment, cruel and unusual punishment. [Laughter]

But for 15 years, I've been honored to know this good man. And I've been deeply impressed by his ability, by his love of country and of his profession.

And now it is my honor to present Judge Laurence Silberman, who will administer the oath of office to the 77th Attorney General of the United States.

Note: The President spoke at 3:42 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice. In his remarks, the President referred to: George J. Terwilliger III, Acting Deputy Attorney General; Bishop Thomas Daily, Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, NY; and Judge Laurence J. Silberman, U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia.

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