Out of the House, Into the Open


New at Reason: Bob Barr was a congressman, but he still believes in freedom. Jesse Walker interviews the ACLU's right-hand man.

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  1. Drug War.

  2. This has a certain Orwellian doublespeak feel to it.

    His saying that he is big on civil liberties but for the drug war is an awful lot like people who say they believe in the 2nd amendment but also support “assault weapons” bans, full cap. mag., bans and rigid gun control aimed at people under 21.

    What’s next? A politician who says he firmly believes in the first amendment, but thinks pornography, hate speech, and bad words should be banned?

    I don’t know how I feel about Barr’s claim that he regrets voting for the Patriot Act. It’s easy for people to regret something that later turns about to be unpopular.

    His idea that the (Un)Patriot Act would be a ceiling, not a floor, should be a lesson to everyone who thinks they believe in freedom. No law should ever be looked at as if it were a ceiling.

  3. Voted YES on Constitutional amendment prohibiting Flag Desecration. (Jul 2001)
    Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)
    Voted YES on Amendment to prohibit burning the US flag. (Jun 1999)
    Voted YES on ending preferential treatment by race in college admissions. (May 1998)
    Supports anti-flag desecration amendment. (Mar 2001)
    Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons. (Jun 2000)
    Voted YES on more prosecution and sentencing for juvenile crime. (Jun 1999)
    Voted NO on maintaining right of habeus corpus in Death Penalty Appeals. (Mar 1996)
    Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder. (Feb 1995)
    More prisons, more enforcement, effective death penalty. (Sep 1994)
    Voted YES on military border patrols to battle drugs & terrorism. (Sep 2001)
    Voted YES on prohibiting needle exchange & medical marijuana in DC. (Oct 1999)
    Voted NO on more immigrant visas for skilled workers. (Sep 1998)


  4. Kevin-

    You’ll find that a lot of people here don’t mind some of those votes that he cast. It will run the gamut from people who don’t mind ending racial preferences (a lot of people here), to people who think civil libertarians are a bunch of chicken littles unable to grasp that real libertarians only care about guns and taxes (a small but disturbingly significant handful).

    However, what is important is that most of these stances are at odds with the ACLU’s stances. Depending on how you look at it, this could mean any or all of the following:

    1) The ACLU has no principles and will latch onto anybody who wants to criticize John Ashcroft.

    2) Bob Barr has no principles and is teaming up with the ACLU as a way to vent his rage at the government now that he’s no longer a part of it.

    3) Bob Barr and/or the ACLU recognize the importance of working with various people on specific issues of common concern, even if they don’t agree on the whole kit and kaboodle.

    My take: a combination of #2 and #3. The ACLU actually strikes me as fairly principled, in the sense of consistent (not in the sense of subscribing to an airtight and rigorous philosophy from which all stances can be derived, i.e. the goal of many libertarians).

    I know, I know, the ACLU is left of center and hence part of the axis-of-evil. And I know, real libertarians only care about guns and taxes, and if you aren’t doing anything wrong you don’t have anything to fear from the precedents Bush set in his treatment of Jose Padilla.

    Now that I’ve tossed a few bones to the trolls, let’s get serious. I’ll grant that the ACLU isn’t very libertarian on certain issues (e.g. racial preferences). And I’ll grant that the ACLU is often more interested in making a bad government program less intrusive and/or discriminatory rather than getting rid of the program altogether. But any left-of-center group that would challenge McCain-Feingold in court (insert caveat that I didn’t read their amicus brief, so I don’t know if they challenged all of its provisions or just some) and would defend Klansmen must have some sort of consistency in its approach. So I can respect them even if I disagree with them on some things (gasp!).

  5. Thoreau,

    Good points. I pasted that list of legislative stances without editing. I did suspect it contained some less/non-objectionable items in it. But I think my motivation persists: Barr’s record does not seem like much for libertarians to get excited about. Talk is low-priced. How did he vote? Fine, he voted with us on a few things. Who hasn’t? I think Reason should squint less when looking for allies. I’m still glad the LP helped boot him.

  6. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
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    DATE: 05/20/2004 03:14:02
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