Although some libertarians have criticized Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr for appealing only to “disgruntled conservatives” — including Tom DeLay’s wife and maybe Jenna Bush — the flip side of that coin is that Barr reserves almost all of his ire for the Republican Party. His harsh criticism and exposure of GOP hypocrisy might end up having an appeal to the Left.
In his recent interview for Bloomberg TV, Barr started things off — as he usually does — by emphasizing civil liberties and personal-privacy issues. He condemned former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez for saying “habeas corpus doesn’t matter,” and the president for saying the law does not apply to the commander in chief. Perhaps most interestingly, Barr gave details on a closed-door meeting with Republican leadership in 1998, when the party officially abandoned what Barr considered to be the principles of the 1994 Republican Revolution.
Barr named names. When asked if Newt Gingrich was behind the sell-out, he said “absolutely.” Dick Armey was also mentioned. The gist of Barr’s story was that the party leadership agreed to supply pork to endangered Republican lawmakers in order to ensure their re-election.
The second segment of the Bloomberg interview began a clip from Ron Paul, to whom many are comparing Barr. Paul cited the perceived “libertinism” of the Libertarian Party as one reason it has had difficulty garnering a significant share of the vote. Returning to Barr, the host asked him, “There are some elements in [the Libertarian Party] that are just too far out, that the party becomes encapsulated in its own philosophy and works in on itself until it becomes self defeating?”
“There certainly is that element,” said Barr. He then explained, however, that libertarianism is a mainstream American ideology, particularly from a historical perspective. Barr also commented on how the LP is “very diverse.” He then quoted Reagan in agreement that “the core of conservatism is libertarianism,” while adding his own take that “in the breast of every American beats the heart of a libertarian.”
The interviewer did not accept the equation of conservatism and with libertarianism offered by Barr, and differentiated by saying that, while in Congress, Barr was a conservative and not a libertarian on social issues. The interviewer then asked Barr where he now stood on abortion. Would he, as president, sign legislation banning abortion on a national scale, and would he appoint Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade?
Barr pointed out that these were “two very different questions.” As for the first, he said: “Absolutely not. Even though I am pro-life, I am not in favor of the federal government becoming involved.” He then explained that, contrary to popular perception, there are many pro-life libertarians who see abortion as an act of aggression against the unborn.
When asked about same-sex marriage, Barr defended one half of DOMA, and also said it should be up to states to define marriage; comparing the issue to abortion.
Interestingly enough, Barr positioned himself to the left of Ron Paul on the issue of “church-state separation,” saying, “I really don’t see any need for religion or any role for religion in public institutions, per se.” He then delineated between an individual judge displaying the Ten Commandments in his office, of which Barr approved, and what Judge Roy Moore did, putting a ten-ton monument in public space, of which Barr did not approve.
Barr echoed earlier statements saying drug prohibition should be left up to the states.
There was an extended conversation about campaign-finance reform, during which the pro-reform interviewer (or perhaps he was just playing devil’s advocate) seemed to get the best of Barr. Barr pointed out that “reform” like McCain-Feingold stifled free speech, but he seemed to concede the interviewer’s assertion that the absence of regulation would work against minor parties.
On foreign policy, Barr said, “American foreign policy in the Middle East is completely irresponsible and short-sighted.” When asked if he would remove troops from Iraq “immediately” or “close to it,” Barr said, “close to it,” and added, “I think it would be irresponsible to telegraph to our adversaries when and how we’d withdraw.”
Barr said he had “no problem with our special relationship with Israel,” but added that this should not preclude “special relationships” with other countries such as Iran.
Barr said that he favored talking to Iran, but not necessarily with Ahmadinejad — not unless there were some “very serious changes.”
Barr gave a press conference earlier today entitled “Time to Talk with Iran.” Hopefully, the campaign Web site will provide video. For now, here is video of Barr’s Bloomberg performance.