William Barr, President Bush's nominee for attorney general, perked up the Senate Judiciary Committee this week with some refreshing candor. Roe vs. Wade was "wrongly decided," he said. Everyone knows that is the administration's position, but so many nominees have paraded before the committee and dissembled about their opinions on the subject that Barr's forthright statement elicited a compliment from committee chairman Joseph Biden.
Barr further impressed the committee by announcing the appointment of a retired federal judge to investigate allegations that the Justice Department essentially stole a computer program from a small software firm -- and that cronies of former Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese were then allowed to sell the software as a reward for their help in political campaigns.
If the charges are true, they are serious indeed. But for eight years, Reagan and Bush administration officials have stonewalled any attempts either to get to the truth or to lay the allegations to rest. The last attorney general, Dick Thornburgh, continued that policy -- and it may have helped taint him as a Bush lackey in his unsuccessful attempt to win a Pennsylvania Senate seat.
Barr's appointment of a "special counsel" is an important move and a welcome indication that he may be ready to make the Justice Department live up to its name.