Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, spoke today at The American Spectator/Americans for Tax Reform Newsmaker Breakfast today. Barr emphasized that his candidacy was designed to bring libertarian principles and the Libertarian Party into the mainstream by collecting as large a number of votes as possible. He argued that change will not come from within the two major parties. Barr said that many of the reform ideas contained in the Contract with America were influenced by Ross Perot's 1992 presidential candidacy, which attracted enough support nationwide to move the debate and influence Republicans.
Barr hastened to add that he wasn't necessarily running to help nudge the Republicans in the right direction, but contended that the only way our politics will move in a more small-government direction is if Libertarian candidates receive significant support. Barr argued that the Libertarian Party needed to be a "real political party" rather than a "debating society." On the issues, Barr discussed his new, detailed plan to privatize Social Security, his opposition to the Bush administration's national surveillance program, and the need for a "Grace Commission on steroids" to recommend spending cuts. Barr didn't want the commission to simply focus on government waste, as it did under President Reagan. Describing the federal government itself as "wasteful," Barr said the commission would identify programs that have no "legitimate basis" constitutionally, that could be better operated by the states, and which do not sastisfy cost/benefit analysis so they can eventually be put on the chopping block.
Barr also criticized John McCain's "we are all Georgians" statement as meaningless and simplistic. He cautioned against becoming involved in the territorial dispute between Russia and Georgia for reasons that do not touch upon vital American interests. He subsequently criticized both McCain and Barack Obama for being too interventionist and "equally bad" on foreign policy.
CEI's John Berlau asked Barr about his recent appearance with Al Gore after calling global warming a "myth" on Glenn Beck's show. Barr replied that he did not buy into either Gore's apocalyptic view of climate change or his big-government, "tax-driven" policy solution but does believe that the science points to warming surface temperatures. He says that there should be further scientific exploration of the problem to perhaps lead to different fuel sources, but his willingness to listen to Gore should not be construed as an endorsement of the former vice president's policy views.
Al Regnery asked Barr about whether he had met with Ron Paul and sought out his supporters. Barr said yes to both questions, pointing out that he had hired Paul supporters for his IT team, but respected Paul's decision not to endorse a presidential candidate at this time. Barr also said that it didn't matter whether McCain picked a pro-choice running mate like Tom Ridge because "libertarian-leaning" Republicans and "real conservatives" wouldn't vote for McCain anyway. Barr also acknowledged that some Libertarian "malcontents" were not reconciled to his candidacy, but that such people exist in every party and his campaign had moved on to the general election.
Finally, IBD's Sean Higgins asked Barr if his lack of emphasis on Iraq during the breakfast indicated the war was less salient. Barr responded that he thought the war was very salient and related to the economic concerns he'd been addressing, as our military presence in Iraq costs $400 million a day. He argued that taxpayers would rather spend money on the infrastructure at home instead of building up infrastructure in Iraq. He called for an end to the military occupation so that our troops could come home. He said he would shift toward a national-security posture that was "defense-oriented with a capital 'd.'"
UPDATE: Dave Weigel has more.
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