George Will on Bob Barr

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Newsweek readers are getting their first impressions of the Bob Barr presidential campaign: Perpetually pessimistic conservative George Will assesses Barr and comes away optimistic and impressed. And he adds a few interesting pieces of data. Take this, on the fortunes of the LP.

Ron Paul, like Barr, has a sandpapery persona, and his Republican presidential campaign has been a mixed blessing for the Libertarian Party, whose presidential candidate he was in 1988. Paul has energized and enlarged the latent libertarian constituency. But his monetary fixations (trying to restore the gold standard and to inflame the public against the 1913 Federal Reserve Act) have deepened libertarianism's taint of quirkiness. And his money needs have competed with the Libertarian Party's: Its online fund-raising has declined 70 percent since he announced his run for the Republican nomination. But the party's membership has increased 20 percent since 2007.

Aha: That was why the party kept announcing that it would hand Paul the nomination if he wanted it. Not just to tempt him, but to jump up and down and tell libertarians that—hey!—it was still here. This is actually pretty promising for Barr. It was tough to say where all that Moneybomb money was coming from, and easy to speculate that liberals, truthers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists were joining Paul but would never join a more doctrinaire libertarian movement. A lot of them won't, but enough of them have expressed some interest in helping the LP.

More from Will, tipping his hand on why he likes Barr:

One wealthy libertarian would give $1 million if the McCain-Feingold law regulating political participation did not ban contributions of more than $28,500 to national parties. Another wealthy libertarian—he is dead, so he has none of the supposedly corrupt purposes that make McCain so cross—bequeathed more than $200,000 to the party. That would fund the ballot access struggles, but it is in escrow because of McCain-Feingold. If libertarian voters cost McCain the presidency, that will be condign punishment.

Stacy McCain has an interview with Barr and a bearish assessment of his nomination chances.

Although one online poll of Libertarians showed Barr as a narrow favorite (with 30 percent, compared to 22 percent for [Wayne Allyn] Root and 17 percent for [Mary] Ruwart), it is impossible to predict who will emerge May 26 as the LP's nominee. Barr acknowledges that he would face a tough fight for the nomination, and notes that he's still not an official candidate.

"Whether it's the Republican Party, Democratic Party or Libertarian Party, anybody that goes into a party nominating process viewing it as a sure thing is almost bound to recognize that they're surely going to lose," he said in an interview after his LPNC speech. "You cannot, and I do not, take it as a sure thing. I feel very confident that if I do become a candidate, that I will win the party's nomination, but I do not take it for granted."

If you want a sense of who'll be voting for the nominee, and how good/bad Barr's chances are, go back and read Brian Doherty's epic rundown of the 2004 convention. It was a far less complicated race, with movie producer Aaron Russo, radio host Gary Nolan, and… Constitutional scholar Michael Badnark. There was a sense that year that libertarian Republicans were ready to ditch Bush, that a good LP candidate could seize 3-4 percent of the vote in some swing states. But for a number of reasons the party nominated the driest, least media-savvy, and most outwardly odd candidate. The party's got a comparable embarassment of riches this time, but it's easy to write a scenario where left-libertarians and people who simply don't like him elevate some less prime-time-ready candidate, and watch as the political press ignore them for six months.

NEXT: Woke Up, It Was Chelsea Lying

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  1. You’d think the LPA would nominate Barr just for the bragging rights of taking McCain’s scalp. Because that is what it would do.

    Barr is not a perfect libertarian, but McCain’s scalp would look mighty nice over the mantle.

  2. In light of the meltdown of the economy and the Federal Reserve’s nakedly corporatist bailout of major investment banks, I’d say Paul’s emphasis on monetary policy and the corrupt nature of the fed was prescient, not quirky.

    Then again, I’m not a big-time establishment pundit, so what do I know.

  3. If libertarian voters cost McCain the presidency, that will be condign punishment.

    Learned a new word, today. Thank you, George Will!

  4. Many Paul supporters appear to be remaining in the GOP because in some states they can take over (perhaps). In others, the machine GOP won’t let them anywhere near the levers of power. Most won’t be swallowing hard and voting for McCain, even if post-Nov. they decide to stay in the GOP.

  5. Elemenope: That was my first reaction to the article too!

  6. I would be very wary of any pollling of LP members.

    Online polls have a huge self-selection bias, and telephone polling would take months to find enough LP primary voters to get a valid sample.

  7. George Will on Bob Barr

    Dude, that’s disgusting. But I guess we do try to be tolerant around here, don’t we?

  8. I still don’t understand why they selected Badnark over Russo. Or, for that matter, Paul over Zappa.

    It seems they just want to fail.

  9. George Will said taint!

  10. I’d say Paul’s emphasis on monetary policy and the corrupt nature of the fed was prescient, not quirky.

    Agreed, but prescient two minutes too late. The shit hadn’t hit the economic fan, at least in the public eye, until the last few weeks.

    Unfortunately, Paul’s campaign lost steam when McCain became the clear winner and focus turned to the Democrat primary. Had the economy tanked two months earlier, or if the GOP race was competitive right now, Paul message would be resonating pretty well.

    Coincidence? I think not…

  11. I am willing to bet 50,000 dollars that no matter who the LP nominates, that the candidate will get no more than 1% of the total popular vote … any takers?

  12. jackal,

    No more than 1%? You’re on, although I’d prefer to wager something I’d actually have a chance of acquiring.

    Any ideas?

  13. Oo Oo! I’ll bet you eleventy billion dollars.

  14. But his monetary fixations (trying to restore the gold standard and to inflame the public against the 1913 Federal Reserve Act) have deepened libertarianism’s taint of quirkiness.

    How sad that advocating for sound money is tainted with quirk. Even as it becomes a higher priority day by day.

    Barr doesn’t clear the Libertarian Bar IMHO. If he’s the nominee I’ll vote for him, but I’d rather another unseen Badnarik than a gay hating, christian zealot, drug warrior, neocon in libertarian clothing.

  15. Tax… lol. Ok … How about 200 dollars and a one hundred dollar gift certificate to the restaurant of your choice?

  16. “embarassment of riches” –That’s rich! Kooky, boring old farts with raicst pasts. Sound like winners to me.

  17. MK2’s bitterness is condign punishment for his stupidity.

  18. Only somebody who thinks Bob Barr can constitute part of an embarrassment of riches in any context could intrepret astonishment at such stupidity as bitterness. You libetrairans must have the lowest political IQs on the the planet.

  19. jackal,

    It depends. Due to recent supreme court rulings, this wager might be illegal if we reside in different states 🙂

  20. You libetrairans[sic] must have the lowest political IQs on the the planet.

    What, we’re not nuanced on the trappings of acquiring and consolidating power?

    Libertarians? Must have the wrong website.

    /sarcarm

  21. Warren, it is quirky because it is so unrealistic. Keep in mind, Paul is not advocating a return to the Bretton Woods faux gold standard but is a Rothbarian who wants a return to a 19th century gold standard. How can one real accomplish this, for one think you would have to get agrements with our other world trade partners to go on the same standard otherwise, if it was even politically possible, a return to a pure gold standard just in the USA would cause a severe deflationary depression.

  22. Yes, McCain’s scalp can hang neatly next to Bob Barr’s who we aided in defeating in his primary battle many years ago.

  23. jackal,

    Is that fiat money or real money?

  24. LMNOP. I also looked up condign. It’s good word with less keystorokes and syllables than appropriate.

  25. As much as I despise the “gay hating, christian zealot, drug warrior, neocon in libertarian clothing” types – that seems to be the growth segment of the Libertarian Party.

    I am from Georgia and I dislike Barr/Gingrich intensely but George Will/Reason just changed my mind. I now support Barr. (with an assist to fluffy)…

  26. Learned a new word, today. Thank you, George Will!

    Almost every one of George Will’s columns have a new
    word or two in them for me. In fact, I often open a dictionary/thesaurus website at the same time as Will’s
    column site just because I know that’s going to happen.

  27. I still think it’s a huge mistake to nominate someone so closely associated with one of the two major parties, whose spent his whole political career on one extreme of the right vs left culture war, especially someone whose politics had no discernable libertarian bent until after he got booted from office.

    And Barr boosters are drastically overstating his “prime-time-ready” name recognition. Barr is a big name in politics to the same degree that Ed Begley Jr is a big name in Hollywood.

  28. Barr’s claim to political fame as Clinton impeachment manager is a double-edged sword; more people know who he is, but half of those hate him.

  29. I guess I wouldn’t mine Bob Barr as the Libertarian candidate. Then I would feel no remorse in not casting a vote for the Libertarian presidential candidate for the first time in my life as I write in Ron Paul’s name instead.

    Maybe Barr can pull some of his old tricks that he used to stop marijuana from becoming legalized in DC and suppress some vote results across the country.

  30. May I lament once again that Bob Barr didn’t make a libertarian run for the GOP nomination, in lieu of Mr. Paul?

  31. I would be with all the “condign” educatees, but it’s apparently a word he likes a lot. The last time an H&R post had a Will column, it was in there, and I looked it up then.

    Mr. X – are there many among those who hate him who would consider voting Libertarian?

    I have some reservations about Barr (I’d prefer Ruwart), but I don’t think he’s being dishonest about his political conversion. When someone has more to lose than gain from adopting a political position, it’s hard to see it as a cynically calculated move.

  32. “When someone has more to lose than gain from adopting a political position, it’s hard to see it as a cynically calculated move.”

    He could just be stupid.

  33. MK2,

    That is one of my favorite lines from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”.

  34. Clearly, Bob Barr doesn’t want to be president. If he did, he’d modify his policies to match what most Americans want and what they aren’t getting from the major candidates. In the real world (not the fantasy world), there’s very little to differentiate him from his opponents, and he’s almost the same as McCain where McCain is most vulnerable.

    And, he’s going to be viciously attacked by the GOP but, because there’s very little difference between him and McCain, there isn’t much he can do about it.

    It’s pretty funny how incredibly dumb many libertarians/Libertarians are.

  35. What’s that foul smell? I noticed it around around 1:00pm.

  36. what most Americans want and what they aren’t getting from the major candidates.

    What are those things, and are they disjoint sets, overlapping, or a single set?

  37. What I think makes Barr “prime time ready” is that he might actually run a good campaign. I spent 6 months wondering what Ron Paul was doing with my money and then found out it was exactly what I expected: nothing. $35 million to help RP re-win his congressional seat and convince a bunch of…individuals…that it would be a great idea to try to “re-take” the Republican Party.

  38. George Will on Bob Barr

    This was not the homosexual restroom encounter the headline promised.
    Not that I’m not relieved.

  39. If you listen to any of Ron Paul’s public speeches, the loudest applause invariably comes following his call to abolish the Federal Reserve System. It may seem quirky to “mainstream” libertarians, but thanks to Aaron Russo’s “Freedom to Fascism” documentary, rising oil and food prices, and a plummeting dollar, criticism of the Federal Reserve is more popular than ever.

    I wouldn’t call this year’s crop of Libertarian candidates “an embarrassment of riches” — but I might be tempted to drop the last two words when describing them. Michael Badnarik was an excellent candidate, and either Gary Nolan or Aaron Russo’s ghost would be better than anyone running this year.

    Bob Barr has mainstream legitimacy as a past Congressman, but then, so did Ron Paul in 1988, and it didn’t help him much.

  40. Almost every one of George Will’s columns have a new word or two in them for me. In fact, I often open a dictionary/thesaurus website at the same time as Will’s column site just because I know that’s going to happen.

    Just one of many reasons why the late Harry Browne was a great writer — he used words people readily understood, rather than trying to impress people with his vocabulary, as Will does.

  41. One of the great things about being freelance is that I now get to argue (online, at least) with George Freaking Will.

    I usually agree with Will, but his status as Exalted Oracle of Conservative Conventional Wisdom means that, when he’s wrong about something, that wrongness tends to become the stuff of “Everybody Knows,” e.g.:

    “Everybody knows that [Issue X] is why Republicans can’t win in [State Y] because it hurts them with [electoral demographic Z].”

    A heavy consumption of punditry leads to that kind of faux certainty about political trends, so that the supposed trends take on a sort of life of their own, as self-fulfilling prophecies.

  42. Lonewacko, do you ever consider not being so incredibly obnoxious so as to further your own cause just a little bit? I mean, you’re as ridiculous as a person can be solely known via an anonymous comment, and you’re (rightly) regarded as a clownish bigot by most of the people here. If you’re going to sink so much effort into not changing minds here, why not start over with a more reasonable approach?

  43. Good question! The answer is that I have little respect for Reason, its contributors, and its commenters. My audience are those who visit this site and who aren’t major users of the commenting system. They see how my comments devastate what little argument is provided here, and they see how few are willing to take my arguments on and instead engage in ad homs (such as the ones in your comment).

    As for Barr, check out the link above. There’s absolutely no reason for those outside the LP to support him, making his run simply a vanity endeavor or similar.

  44. Serious question,

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Lonewacko is a performance artist (and a bad one at that). Unless you’re really feeling pomo it’s best to ignore his ilk.

  45. I’m always feeling pomo. But what does it mean?

  46. TDR, given the usual standards of Lonewacko’s performances it’s probably best not to know.

  47. My audience are those who visit this site and who aren’t major users of the commenting system.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    That’s good stuff, especially the “my audience” part. You crack me up, LW!

  48. what do i have to do to get a reason wiki page? do i pay someone something, or is it more of a point system based on the wittiness of my comments?

  49. The Democratic Republican,

    It’s like Wikipedia but no deletions for “notability,” so sign up, create your name, and don’t be a dick 🙂

  50. It seems to me that if libertarians ever want their ideas to get anywhere, they’re going to have to accept the converts — and accept that the converted have pasts that include sins against libertarianism. Otherwise, we remain a small self-righteous group who write indignant articles that accomplish nothing.

    Would we like to see people change their minds or not…?

    Bob Barr has been coming around for several years now.

  51. I make no promises concerning the third stipulation.

  52. And why is it that a post on Obama gets 800 comments but one on Barr/LP can’t even get 50?

  53. Expected Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr on “Libertarian Politics Live” tonight

    Former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia will be a guest on “Libertarian Politics Live” tonight. The expected Libertarian candidate for President will be discussing the Fair Tax on this day before the Income Tax deadline. He’ll also be discussing foreign policy and other issues, as well as giving an update on his Presidential campaign exploratory committee.

    Listen in at 7:00 pm cst at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/libertarian.

    Eric Dondero from Houston will be Hosting, and Co-Hosting will be Andre Traversa of Chicago.

  54. Well, there goes my endorsement of Barr.

    Thanks a lot, Donderoooooo!

  55. Lol, when Wayne Allyn Root came to speak before the Chicago Libertarians a week or so ago, there was a snark at Eric Dondero’s expense. It’s on film too.

    If I ever run into Andre I’ll ask him what his impression of Eric was.

  56. Oh and if anybody’s curious, you can see Bob Barr’s keynote speech before the debate last week:
    http://www.lpmo.org/heartland2008/

  57. “Barr is not a perfect libertarian.”!!!!! He’s not a libertarian of any kind. He’s a conservative. He’s anti-gay, pro war on drugs, wants to ban abortion, wants prayer in government schools. That is a fricking conservative. American Spectator says that Barr can get mroe votes than any other LP candidate but they say the reason is that he appeals to conservatives because he is one of them. His big concern in office was “protecting” marriage from gay couples — that while cheating on his wife with his next wife.

    If Barr is nominated this libertarian will campaign against the Lp for the first time in my life and work to see the party disbanded as destructive to the libertarian cause.

  58. LP: Bob Barr has softened many of his hard core conservative policy stances. On the other hand, this may also brand him as a flip flopper. Decide for yourself:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Barr#Post-congressional_career

  59. Eric Dondero: maybe you could double-down and discuss my points (link above) in the interview with Barr.

  60. Bob Barr has softened many of his hard core conservative policy stances.

    So if Hillary Clinton softened her hardcore liberal policy stances and grunted a few approximately libertarian comments, would she be welcomed here?

  61. So if Hillary Clinton softened her hardcore liberal policy stances and grunted a few approximately libertarian comments, would she be welcomed here?

    If she kept it up over a significant period of time*, I expect she’d be accepted by reasonoids. It ain’t gonna happen though.

    *Different lengths of time would be required by different people.

  62. The North Carolina LP convention was this past week-end. Bob Barr was here, in his capacity as S.E. region rep to the LNC. There were two events for presidential candidates while he was here; Barr DID NOT ask to be included. He also did not attend the hosiptality event, pass out any literature, or behave like a candidate for ANYTHING (even reelection to his current post).

    This is odd behavior for a prospective candidate. Mary Ruwart, by contrast, stayed here for the entire 2? day event, schmoozed, hugged everybody, paid for a table for her books/tapes/CDs, worked the two events, and … all that despite the fact that she lived here for several years and could probably count on our support with a minimum of effort. THAT is a serious candidate.

    We do NOT hate Bob Barr, here in NC; we just have concerns about the way the party elites pushed through his nomination to the LNC. Most of the delegates I talked to could support Barr if he were the LP nominee, but believe that a person doesn’t convert from drug warrior to libertarian standard barrier without a good period of proving himself.

    One other candidate similarly proved himself here in NC: George Philles. Yes, yes, I know he’s a nerd and a physicist. But he did all the things that Mary did, except the hugging, and he proved to be a forceful and effective speaker. We Libertarians could do worse — have DONE worse — than to nominate George Philles. He came in second in the straw poll, here.

  63. piperTom:

    What is your opinion on Christine Smith and Wayne Allyn Root in North Carolina? IMHO they have the best “stage presence” along with Gravel and Barr. Phillies is a dork and Ruwart makes me want to take a nap. (I know, superficial reasons to dismiss candidates, but I think charisma is one of the most important attributes for President–you can always make the policy wonks VP)

  64. piperTom:

    Do you have any video media for the event? If you have a link, I could redistribute the media via bittorrent and youtube. You’d be surprised how many people want to see this stuff but have no way of finding it.

  65. I still don’t understand why they selected Badnark over Russo.

    They wanted a candidate who would live thru the term?

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