The Weekend Political Thread: Bob Barr Edition


The big news this weekend should be Bob Barr's presidential launch, so here's a link to the happenings at the Heartland Libertarian Conference. Starting at 11 a.m. ET there'll be streaming video of the Libertarian candidates debate, sans Barr. At 3:50, Barr's announcement will be streaming.

Steve Gordon has polled support for Barr and finds him easily leading the field–but as expected, not with a convention-stealing majority of votes.

UPDATE: Stacy McCain's efforts at refreshing have paid off: The site is live. It looks a whole lot like Ron Paul's site. Liked "Hope for America"? Hey, try some "Liberty for America."

And no, you're not the only one having trouble watching the announcement. Check YouTube tomorrow, I guess. "I'm announcing [buffering] my intent to [buffering] seek the presidency" is a bit of a letdown; the whole speech, from what I can tell, is actually quite good.

UPDATE II: Here's the press release:

In his speech, Barr noted that, "America today faces a grave moral and leadership crisis, and those of us who care about our country's future can no longer sit on the sidelines and remain neutral." "As Dante Alighieri said many centuries ago," Barr observed, "the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." Continuing, Barr stated that, "some say it is not now expedient or politically pragmatic to do the right thing, for the right reason." But, he then asked his audience, "When has there been a better time? When has the risk of inaction carried more serious consequences? When will it be appropriate to take extraordinary steps? What must happen to our Constitution before we set aside our complacency and expediency in favor of principle?"

Barr represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, where he served as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and as a member of the Committee on Financial Services. Prior to his congressional career, Barr was appointed by President Reagan to serve as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and also served as an official with the CIA for nearly eight years.

Since leaving Congress, Barr has been practicing law and actively advocating American citizens' right to privacy and other civil liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. He serves also as a board member for the National Rifle Association, and works with the American Conservative Union and other groups.

Barr's speech to the Heartland audience touched on the issues the candidates for the two major status quo parties have not addressed sufficiently, namely: the urgent need for truly cutting the size of the federal government, protecting our civil liberties, securing our borders, and fundamentally reforming our tax code.

"Removing 'earmarks' but not cutting the underlying spending is simply government as usual and is nothing more than a cynical shell game," Barr stated; adding, "and that's the high water mark in the debate thus far." Barr said this is not adequate, and that America's voters deserve better than a choice between the lesser of two evils."

Here's a for-the-Web announcement.

Here's four ways Barr can avoid Ron Paul's mistakes, off the top of my head.

1. Be specific. The Paul campaign was a function of its candidate, unable to stick to a few clear messages: It didn't simply try out issues and see if they got any gains from them, it bounced from issue to issue without much connectivity. Right now I see four issue areas on Barr's site: "Cut big spending," "individual liberty," "secure our borders," and "national defense." That's a good start. (And border hawk campaigning will have more resonance in a race against John McCain than in a multi-way race with other candidates going for that vote.)

2. Tap the Ron Paul network, if not Ron Paul. Obviously not everyone who donated to Paul will donate to Barr. But if the Barr campaign can purchase Paul's list, and do a little fishing to see how many of those donors are gettable, it can build the biggest war chest any Libertarian's ever built. (Badnarik raised about $1 million last time.) Whether Barr wants Paul's explicit endorsement (Barr endorsed Paul, after all) is up to him, and whether he thinks the association would help him with protest voters.

3. Attack, attack, attack. The Paul campaign was about ideas, sure, but there was precious little thirst for blood: Paul didn't go after his fellow candidates, and was thereby left out of the narrative from week to week. The only extended line of attack was on McCain's "100 years" comment, but Paul had to be prodded to do it.

4. Talk to voters where they live. That goes for the candidate and for his campaign. They can knock on doors and make phone calls while he runs a real, dogged campaign, town halls and speeches, daily press conferences. Are some of those press conferences going to have a certain lack of, uh, reporters? Sure, sometimes. But you have to feed the beast to get coverage.