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Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr, right, on panel, from right to left, with
longtime Republican activist Richard Viguerie, Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz and Forbes CEO Steve
Forbes at FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas (WND photo)
With John McCain needing every vote he can muster to overcome Barack Obama, a key figure in his party’s 1994 revolution
could make his effort all the more difficult in some battleground states.
Former Rep. Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, has insisted from the start he’s a “competitor,” not
a potential spoiler, as an Atlanta Journal-Constitution headline tagged him one week ago. But in states such as Indiana,
where a poll Friday had McCain and Obama tied at 47 percent, the 2 percent of voters who say they plan to vote for Barr loom
Asked about the spoiler label, Barr’s campaign manager, Russell Verney, asserted to WND that it’s no more valid today
than it was months ago when the former Georgia congressman declared his intention to win.
Barr won’t be “taking away” any votes from McCain in Indiana or anywhere else, Verney contended.
“McCain didn’t own those votes, nobody can take them away,” he said. “Bob Barr competed for those votes. If John McCain
had an agenda that the American public supported, John McCain would have those votes and many more. The public just rejects
In an interview with WND in July, Barr said he found the “notion of a spoiler is sort of a funny one.”
“I actually get kind of a kick out of it. There are no spoilers, there are winners and losers,” he said. “John McCain is
an adult, a very powerful man, been in the United States Senate for a long time, and he’s either going to win or lose based
on whether he or the Republican Party do an adequate job of presenting a vision and a message, a program and a platform and
a candidacy that resonates with the American people.”
Barr, who has qualified for ballots in 45 states, now says he expects the result of Tuesday’s election will be an Obama
victory and a Libertarian ticket that has garnered a significant percentage of the popular vote, enabling the party to
advance some of its issues to the national agenda. Barr has made much recently of his opposition to the $700 billion
The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls, however, shows Barr with just 1 percent nationwide. Independent Party
candidate Ralph Nader, who many Democrats bitterly decry as the spoiler of Al Gore’s 2000 campaign, polls at 2.3
A former federal prosecutor and member of Congress from 1995 to 2003, Barr has hoped his message of limited government
and individual liberty would not only pull in disenchanted Republicans but also blue-collar, Second-Amendment Democrats who
emphasize civil liberties and aren’t comfortable with big government.
Barr distinguishes himself from both McCain and Obama on Supreme Court picks, and he sounds more like the Democratic
nominee on foreign policy.
Bob Barr talks with a supporter of his Libertarian Party presidential candidacy after
delivering a speech at the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas in July (WND photo)
He would nominate a Supreme Court justice in the mold of swing-voter Anthony Kennedy and would consider negotiating
directly with the mullahs who run Iran’s radical Islamic regime.
“I would not rule that out at all,” he said. “We didn’t like Brezhnev, we didn’t like Khrushchev, we didn’t like
Andropov, all of these leaders of the Soviet Union. We didn’t like Mao. … Very tyrannical leaders. But we dealt with
Meeting with them “doesn’t mean that you’re adopting the philosophy or ideology of those leaders,” he argued, “but you
work with them to move them away from the policies that are detrimental to their people and to our interests.”
What about the fact that the State Department considers Iran a terrorist-supporting regime?
“Well, the administration throws these labels around, I think without a great deal of thought to them,” he said. “They
label people enemy combatants, very easily, very quickly. It’s very easy to label somebody as an axis of evil or a terrorist
regime. And I think that’s part of the problem. We throw these labels around and that immediately freezes things and makes
it very difficult to then deal with those nations and those regimes.”
Barr said he would not negotiate with Osama bin Laden, because the al-Qaida leader “very clearly is a terrorist –
that’s what he is and he is directly responsible for the actions that resulted in the deaths of many thousands of innocent
people in this country on 9/11.”
But isn’t Iran clearly orchestrating terrorism, with it’s backing of Hezbollah and other groups?
“The Soviet Union supported terrorist regimes all over the world,” Barr replied. “As did the Chinese in Vietnam. And yet
we dealt with them.
“Here again, you’re not endorsing the policies of an adversarial regime simply because you are looking at ways to avoid
conflict and looking for ways to gain influence in that country.”
Barr said he advocates “a creative, imaginative, flexible foreign policy that isn’t based on the simplistic sound bites
that this administration throws around.”
He emphasized exploring ways to go around Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and deal directly with
decision-making groups, such as economic, educational and political organizations.
“We have a great deal in common with Iran,” he said. “We are much more in many ways, in common with Iran, not with
Ahmadinejad. And he’s not the true power in Iran, at any rate. The more we target him, the more we play into the hands of
An Anthony Kennedy for Supreme Court
Ask what he would look for in a Supreme Court nominee, Barr pointed to the majority decisions in two high-profile cases
this year, involving the right of terrorists held by the U.S. in Guantanamo, Cuba, to access U.S. courts and the individual
right to bear arms.
“I would look for people that would bridge that gap and would recognize that those two cases are very similar,” he
Justice Kennedy essentially cast the deciding vote in the two 5-4 decisions, affirming enemy combatants held on foreign
soil have a right to habeas corpus and that Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban violates the Second Amendment.
“Kennedy would very much fit that mold,” he said, “somebody that understands the clear meaning of the Constitution, the
clear intent of the Constitution, the framework of the Constitution and does not appear to let political or public policy
Kennedy, writing for the majority in the Guantanamo case, asserted the detainees have a constitutional right to challenge
their detentions in federal court, declaring, “Liberty and Security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled
within the framework of the law. The framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that
framework, a part of that law.”
Barr said that although he personally likes Justice Antonin Scalia and regards him as a “very, very bright man,” he
didn’t find his minority opinion to be based on sound constitutional principles.
“It was more public policy paper that could be used and cited by proponents of the current administration in a political
campaign,” Barr said. “That’s not the sort of thing I would look for in nominating somebody to the court.”
Scalia wrote in his dissent that the decision would harm national security and “the game of bait-and-switch that today’s
opinion plays upon the nation’s commander in chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more
Americans to be killed.”
Barr said he wants a jurist “that understands the plain meaning of the Constitution, whether it’s in the habeas corpus
provision or the Second Amendment, related to the right to keep and bear arms, that that language actually means something
and must be clearly understood and clearly carried out.”
Many Republicans have criticized Barr for his work with the American Civil Liberties Union over the past five years.
“That illustrates the superficiality of the Republican Party and many in it these days, to have this sort of knee jerk
reaction to anybody that might work with an organization with which they disagree with on certain issues,” he countered.
Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr (WND photo)
Barr argued the issues on which he’s collaborated with the ACLU are in line with the traditional Republican philosophy of
smaller government and personal privacy.
“That used to be something important to Republicans,” he said, “working to stop the government from working outside of
the law, on warrantless spying on Americans. That used to be something that resonated with Republicans. That’s because they
use to care about individual liberty, smaller government, less powerful government.”
Barr pointed out he worked with the American Conservative Union as well as the ACLU on privacy issues and scaling back the
“Now are Republicans going to denigrate me or remove themselves from supporting the American Conservative Union because
it stands for individual liberty and there’s overlap with the ACLU?” he asked.
In the 1990s, as a high-profile member of the Republican-led Congress, Barr authored and sponsored the Defense of
Marriage Act, a law enacted in 1996 that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and enables
states to not recognize a same-sex marriage registered in another state.
But Barr apologized at his party’s convention this year for his role in the act and says he opposes the Federal
“My position has always been that the definition of marriage, how society deals with marriage, ought to be an issue for
the states,” he told WND. “The citizens of one state can’t force, through the full faith and credit clause, the people of
another state to adopt their definition. To me that’s a quintessential conservative notion of governance, letting each state
decide that, based on principles of federalism, which our founding fathers recognized as one of the strengths of this
Asked if he is for or against same-sex marriage, Barr, regarded as a leading defender of traditional values in the culture war in the 1990s, said, “Personally I do not believe it is appropriate. But I do not
view it as a threat to me any longer.”
So, you have changed your view of the issue?
“Yeah, philosophically, and this is partly the result of seeing that the sky doesn’t fall,” he said.
He pointed to his change of mind on another issue for which he drew attention during his service in Congress, the practice of Wicca in the
As a congressman, Barr explained, he proposed that the Pentagon ban Wicca because military leaders had expressed concern
that it would be detrimental to order, discipline and morale.
“As it has turned out over the last several years, as the practice of Wicca has been allowed, or recognized in the
military, it’s not been a problem,” he said.
Similarly, the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” rule governing homosexuals in the military has proved to be bad policy, he
“Having someone who is homosexual in the military is not in and of itself detrimental to the good order and discipline of
the military,” Barr said.
“So I think part of this is a process of looking at changed circumstances, giving a chance for these things to work their
way through, see if there is still a problem,” he said. “Being willing to go back and say, no, this has not proved to be a
problem or this has proved to be a problem.”
Barr applies that philosophy to his view of the Patriot Act, which he worked on when it first came up in Congress. But he
now regrets supporting it, charging the Bush administration has broken a promise not to expand its scope beyond
investigation of terrorism.
“The reason I voted for it was the administration made certain promises to me and to others – very directly, at the
highest levels – that it would not be abused, they would not seek to expand it, they would be open with how they used
it, reporting to the Congress, and so forth,” he said. “And we were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt at that
Barr insists he’s made no ideological shift since he was a member of Congress in the 1990s.
“The fundamental principles I see with regard to people’s relationship with government have remained the same,” he said.
“I believe very much in trying to shrink the size of the government, keep the government to those powers that are absolutely
essential and constitutionally appropriate for the government, that that government which governs least governs best, so to
speak, to address the problems for which government has a legitimate role at the lowest level possible and only after that
fails, move to the next level.”
What has moved him to more openly embrace libertarian philosophy, he said, is the federal government’s success since the
9/11 attacks at convincing many Americans and political leaders of both parties “that the federal government must have the
power in order to provide security for the people to do whatever it thinks is necessary.”
“What makes me tick in 2008 is the very same thing that made me tick in 2000 or 1990 or 1988,” he said.
He maintains, he said, a “fundamental belief in the power of the individual, the responsibility of the individual, the
accountability of the individual to keep government down as much as we can.”
The economy is a prime example, he said, of an issue on which Republicans have strayed from principle.
“There’s a certain degree of comfort for people when we have a problem in the economy to turn to the government.”