Libertarian Party presidential candidate — and former American Spectator Contributing Editor — Bob Barr has to prove this weekend, in Denver, at the LP convention, that his commitment to liberty is genuine and not new-fangled (in the way that Alan Keyes’ Illinois citizenship was in the 2004 Senate race against Barack Obama), and that he can be the messenger for a message that’s lost in the current political debate.
A perusal of his blog posts during his time with The Spectator reveals he’s been a consistent gadfly for the Bush administration’s War on Terror policies. Barr might not give Libertarians everything they want — kiddie-porn won’t become legal under a Barr administration — but will work to push the Republicans back in the direction of protecting individual liberties.
On this blog, Barr wrote against the indefinite detention of potential terrorists and attacked the “terrorist surveillance program” as “NSA spying.” He cheered on “Civil libertarians on the right and left” in Congress who were, in December 2005, preparing to filibuster an extension of the Patriot Act that didn’t include “modest but important amendments” meant to limit the government’s powers in detaining suspected terrorists.
Then there was that now-ironic post about former New York Governor — and then-Attorney General — Eliot Spitzer, “the poster child for anti-business and anti-individual liberty tactic[s],” suing H & R Block for selling low-interest, high-fee retirement accounts. Barr, of course, framed Spitzer’s actions as an overreach and an attack on “the Little Guy” in his attempt to achieve prosperity.
When, in April 2006, Congressman Tom DeLay left the House, Barr declared it “The End of an Era,” an era in which the Newt Gingrichs and Tom DeLays and Dick Armeys espoused a principled, limited-government conservatism that swept in the “Class of 1994.” It was as much a compliment of old Republican leadership as an attack on new Republican leaders, whose me-too-ism on spending led to a slaughter of the GOP in the 2006 elections.
A week later, Barr was challenging President Bush’s weakness on immigration reform and pandering appeals to the “decency” of the American people. Barr deciding it was more important to be right than to be decent. “America is first and foremost a “nation of LAWS”; at least we used to be,” Barr said. Immigration reform was one of Barr’s major bugaboos at Reason‘s recent Libertarian debate, with Barr going so far as to say would-be immigrants need have background checks and disease screens before gaining entrance to America.
In one of his final posts before joining the Libertarian Party in December 2006, Barr saluted Governor George Allen as a “class act” for passing on his right to a re-count in favor of a smooth transition. Allen’s senatorial campaign in Virginia was marred by gaffes and a bad election year for Republicans.
One wonders whether Barr will go quietly into the night, as Allen did, if things don’t go smoothly for him at the Libertarian Party convention this weekend — or if we’ll see a repeat of the Reform Party debacle from 2000, when Pat Buchanan’s detractors stormed out of the Reform Party convention, threatening to start their own party if the nomination were delivered to the Paleoconservative.
Buchanan got less than one-half of one per cent in the general election, and the Reform Party hasn’t been a player since. But with Dr. Ron Paul earning over one million votes in the Republican primary, and Barr claiming at the recent Libertarian debate that “we need to move far beyond that,” and having just enough name recognition to tug at the voters disgusted by the choice between a Democrat and cap-and-trade McCain, Libertarians aren’t going away any time soon.