News & Politics

Favorites: Bob Barnett

How Does Top Book Lawyer Relax? Reality TV

Bob Barnett, a partner at the Williams & Connolly law firm, is probably best known as DC’s literary representative to the stars: His clients range from both Clintons to Lynne Cheney to Tim Russert, William Bennett, Art Buchwald, Barack Obama, and Jordan’s Queen Noor.

His literary efforts are only a small part of his workload. This spring he’s helped negotiate Larry Summers’s departure from the Harvard presidency, represented Frank Raines in the Fannie Mae investigation, handled a case against Wall Street’s Mario Gabelli, and helped Alan Greenspan plan his postgovernmental life. That’s besides a host of work for clients like McDonald’s, General Electric, Toyota, Deutsche Bank, Comcast, and Revlon.

What’s your favorite spot in Washington? On the way to the airport, as Route 110 bends past Arlington Cemetery, there is a beautiful and perfectly formed tree. It is gorgeous in a different way during each season of the year—just like Washington itself. That is my favorite spot.

Favorite pastime? Going to antique shows—preferably with my wife and daughter.

Favorite television show? CBS Sunday Morning, where [my wife] Rita Braver is a correspondent.

Favorite book? Personal History by Katharine Grahamprobably the best autobiography written in the last 50 years.

Which book project of yours has been a surprise success? John Sineno, a New York City fireman, went on the old Phil Donahue Show to demonstrate his firehouse recipes. A publisher called, and we did a book deal. Every yuppie in America bought one. It sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

You’ve dabbled in a lot of politics. What attracts you to politics? There are few endeavors that are more meaningful. We elect our leaders. They govern our country. Mistakes are very costly. I like the people—on both sides of the aisle. They are smart, dedicated, energetic, but they seem to be getting younger and younger.

What’s your favorite social event? The Kennedy Center Honors. I was privileged to serve on the board for ten years and am now the senior counsel. The Honors celebrates the best in performing arts, brings Washington and Hollywood together, and is a great party.

All-time favorite restaurant? Ted’s Log Cabin in Waukegan, Illinois—my hometown. I miss Germaine’s and the old Mel Krupin’s. The Inn at Little Washington and Galatoire’s in New Orleans are current favorites.

Favorite everyday restaurant? Furin’s on M Street across from the Four Seasons. Good food. Family-owned. When my wife is on the road, which she is about 150 days a year, I have a different carryout place for each night. Sushi-Ko on Monday, Chicken Out on Tuesday, Café Divan on Wednesday, Eddie’s or City Lights of China on Thursday. Hopefully, she’s back in town on Friday.

Favorite food? Cotton candy, preferably at a county fair.

Best meal ever? Appetizer: crab rémoulade from Galatoire’s; salad: cobb salad from the Hay-Adams; main course: my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner; dessert: bread-pudding soufflé from Commander’s Palace [New Orleans]; breakfast: lobster omelet from the Inn at Little Washington.

Favorite vacation spot? Room 231 at the White Elephant Hotel in Nantucket.

Historical figure you’d most like to meet? I had the honor of clerking for Judge John Minor Wisdom. He passed away several years ago. I wish he were still here—I would love to talk with him again.

Favorite object you own? My collection of antique cuff links.

What would surprise others about you? I watch a lot of reality television—a lot.

What’s your proudest accomplishment? Meredith Barnett [an MBA student at Harvard]. I wish I had four more Meredith Barnetts.

If you could be doing anything other than being a lawyer, what would it be? First choice: publisher of the Washington Post. Second choice: president of a network news division. Third choice: an English teacher at Waukegan High School.

What makes Washington special? Washington is at the perfect crossroads of law, media, politics, and policy—all things I love. You can’t find that crossroads anywhere else.