Nader and New York’s independent mayor Michael Bloomberg are discussed in a short article in the “Talk of the Town” section. It begins with Nader’s much-publicized rally on Wall Street. Nader’s rally is tied into Bloomberg’s musings of a presidential run and his effort at getting rid of voter-approved mayorial term limits. And all of this is tied together through the corrupting influence of terms limits, which leads author Ben McGrath to conclude,
Back at Cooper Union, the theme of the week was reinforced when one of Nader’s deputies took the stage and offered a signed, fortieth-anniversary edition of “Unsafe at Any Speed” to the first audience member willing to pledge the maximum amount of twenty-three hundred dollars, on the spot, to the campaign. “You can put it on a credit card and pay it off over time,” he said, eliciting laughter. “Is there one person able and willing to be a hero tonight?” Finally, a hand went up near the front, to great applause. Then the would-be donor, a man in a beige sports coat, stood and morphed into a meddling tycoon. “One caveat,” he said. “I would like to be able to speak with Mr. Nader for a moment or two and ask him a couple of questions.”
“We can do that,” came the reply, and money married influence.
Barr, however, gets a feature article, all of seven pages long, entitled “The Third Man.” It looks at Barr’s career as a Republican, his childhood spent around the world, his conversion to libertarianism, and his effort at winning the presidency. It is a great insight into the man, and there a lot of things mentioned in the article familiar to the libertarian grassroots, but rarely talked about outside of them, such as the Free State Project, the petition to kick Barr off of the Libertarian Party’s ticket, the scandal caused after the Ron Paul press conference, and Paul’s subsequent endorsement of Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin. A few interesting excerpts:
For many people, including skeptical libertarians, Barr still has the reputation of a partisan, but his self-imposed exile from the Republican Party is representative of a broader disaffection among conservatives who did not immediately rally behind McCain. Republicans in the mold of Barry Goldwater, who believe in small government, minimal constraints on the free market, and expansive civil liberties, have become profoundly uneasy about the direction of the country under President Bush, who has presided over the largest increase in federal spending since the Great Society, raised the national debt to more than ten trillion dollars, suspended habeas corpus for enemy combatants, and recently proposed the seven-hundred-billion-dollar bailout of Wall Street. David Boaz, the executive vice-president of the Cato Institute, and David Kirby, the executive director of America’s Future Foundation, have argued that, because of such policies, the libertarian vote, which for decades has been solidly Republican, “may be the next great swing vote.” According to surveys, as much as a fifth of American voters hold libertarian values, and in recent years more than seventy per cent of them have voted as Republicans. But Boaz and Kirby noticed that in the 2004 Presidential election only fifty-nine per cent of them voted for Bush, and between the midterm elections of 2002 and 2006 three million of them drifted away from the Republican Party—a shift that Boaz and Kirby argue “may well have cost Republicans control of Congress.” In this year’s Republican primaries, Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas and a longtime libertarian, earned more than twenty per cent of the vote in Idaho, Washington, Montana, and North Dakota. “His supporters are the equivalent of crabgrass,” Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist, told Time. “It’s not the grass you want, and it spreads faster than the real stuff.” In August, Newt Gingrich warned that if McCain chose as his running mate Senator Joe Lieberman, of Connecticut, Barr would win fifteen per cent of the vote.
For Barr, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent expansion of executive power under President Bush, were a political turning point. “I went through Reagan National after 9/11, and saw guardsmen with automatic weapons,” he told me. “It dawned on me that we’ve entered a whole new world. It may have made other passengers feel more secure, but it made me feel dramatically less free. Freedom is a lot more important than security. You can never buy freedom through security.” Barr reluctantly voted for the Patriot Act; he says it’s among his greatest regrets, and privacy issues are central to his campaign. “When the government can invade the information in your bank account, when the government can listen in to your telephone and e-mail conversations, simply because they think it is necessary to protect us from terrorists, or whoever, they are undercutting the very basis of our free civilization,” he says….
Barr has been pursuing a different course. “What I have been trying to do in recent years is to get the Libertarian Party to think of itself as a political party that operates in the real world,” he told me. “If you present to the American people a program that says, ‘Elect us and we will radically change everything you know about the political system as soon as we get into office,’ then people aren’t going to vote for you.” In 2006, Nolan told me, the Party had a “civil war” over its platform, most of which was subsequently dropped. The following year, the Party’s dues-paying membership grew by twenty-eight per cent…
The family’s experience in Iraq established a pattern. As an expatriate, Barr enjoyed unusual personal freedom, but often against a backdrop of tyranny or political upheaval. He was detached from American society as well as from the culture around him. In Panama, where his father briefly took a job, the family one night attempted to have dinner in the American-controlled Canal Zone, but were turned away because their car had a Panama license plate. (“Even though we were U.S. citizens, and this was considered U.S. territory, we were second-class citizens,” Barr told me.) Before Panama, Barr’s family lived in Peru, where, as a teen-ager, he learned Spanish. He went to parties, drank, and smoked. A friend of his recalled, “Really, there were no rules, and we didn’t like rules, and the few rules that there were we really didn’t follow.” On expeditions into the Amazon, Barr fished for piranhas, and hunted alligators at night. “You would take a .22 rifle and creep along the riverbank with a flashlight,” he told me. “The light would catch their eyes, and you would see these two glowing points of red, and you would shoot for that.” Barr learned to adapt. “You make friends quickly,” he told me. “But you don’t become too attached, because you know you’re not going to be with them for that long.” His hobby was astronomy—the single geographic constant in his life at the time was the sky.
And, perhaps most significantly, David Sedaris admits to writing in Jerry Brown in the 1976 election.