Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If it looks like, smells like, and even tastes like a Libertarian, you still want to be careful about stepping in it

My good friend (and conscience) Waldo reminds me not to be taken in too easily by Bob Barr, as he points out the slickness of the LP Presidential candidate's approach to the gay press, which might be called "wooing the desperate by almost promising them something, but not quite."

This is good, because I need to balance a healthy skepticism about Barr, both as a supposedly recovering neo-con and mustachioed presidential candidate, because he keeps saying increasingly Libertarian things that will--if they ever get play in the press, make both Senators Obama and McCain increasingly uncomfortable.

Here's Barr in The Huffington Post declaring that the war on drugs has been a failure:

I'll admit it, just five years ago I was "Public Enemy Number 1" in the eyes of the Libertarian Party. In my 2002 congressional race for Georgia's Seventh District, the Libertarian Party ran scathing attack ads against my stand on Medical Marijuana.

Today, I am their presidential nominee and will represent libertarians at the top of the ticket on November 4th.


That's right, Bob Barr, formerly the War on Drugs loving, Wiccan mocking, Clinton impeaching Republican is the presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party.

Now, you may be asking how this happened and my answer is simple: "The libertarians won."

For more than three decades, the Libertarian Party and small "l" libertarians have done their part to prove to America that liberty is the answer to most of the problems that we face today. Over the past several years, I was one of the many people influenced by this small party.

Whether through the free market or by simply allowing families to make their own decisions regarding the education of their children, libertarians have taught us that liberty does truly work.

In stark contrast, when government attempts to solve our societal problems, it tends to create even more of them, often increasing the size and depth of the original problem. A perfect example of this is the federal War on Drugs.

For years, I served as a federal prosecutor and member of the House of Representatives defending the federal pursuit of the drug prohibition.

Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I'll even argue that America's drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, "War on Drugs," in 1972.

America's drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.

The result of spending all of those taxpayer's dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs. We are also now plagued with the meth labs that are popping up like poisonous mushrooms across the country.

While it is clear the War on Drugs has been a failure, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that reality. We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems.

Here's Barr on what should be US policy toward Iran:

Washington is filled with rumors of pending American or Israeli military action against Iran, says Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for President. But “an attack on Iran would be unnecessary, counterproductive, costly and dangerous,” he warns.

Our own intelligence services tell us that Iran is not actively working to build a nuclear bomb and is years away from having nuclear weapons capability. “There is no imminent threat, and only an imminent threat can ever justify a preemptive strike,” insists Barr. “The tragedy in Iraq demonstrates the counterproductive consequences of initiating war without any compelling justification.”

Although Sen. John McCain claims to want diplomacy to work, he has joked about attacking Iran, singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to the old Beach Boys’ tune Barbara Ann. Sen. Barack Obama has raised the issue of talking with hostile regimes essentially at any time and any place with any hostile regime, but nevertheless pointed to the possibility of military action when he spoke to AIPAC. “Neither Sen. McCain nor Sen. Obama can be trusted to keep the peace,” says Barr.

The potential consequences of war, Barr explains, “include attacks on our troops stationed in Iraq, threats to the Gulf oil trade, terrorist attacks around the world, subversion of friendly Arab and Muslim governments, destruction of the democracy movement within Iran, and enduring hostility towards America throughout much of the world.” To risk paying such a price without attempting to deal directly with the Iranian regime “would be counterproductive, costly, and dangerous. Even as our hand-picked and supported Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq talks with Iranian leaders, and even as the Olmert government in Israel talks with the Assad regime in Syria, the Bush Administration refuses to engage one of the largest and most important countries in that part of the world - Iran. This makes no sense.”

Moreover, notes Barr, a former House member, “the power to declare war on Iran lies with the Congress, not the president.” Unfortunately, presidents have routinely abused their role as commander-in-chief of the military. “The president is to direct any war, but the Constitution vests the power to decide if there will be a war in the legislative branch,” emphasizes Barr.

Defusing the confrontation with Iran will not be easy, notes Barr, “but any nonproliferation strategy must begin with diplomacy and include a willingness to address the other side.” In this way President George W. Bush has failed, and Sen. McCain is set to follow in his footsteps. Sen. Obama may be more inclined to try a new approach, but “he is a weather vane, pushed around by the lightest political breezes,” says Barr. “We need new leadership that is both strong and thoughtful to meet today’s many serious foreign policy challenges, such as Iran.”

I read these pronouncements and I am manifestly encouraged that somebody, anybody is inserting issues like this into the presidential campaign. As Waldo reminds me from his bathroom, however, Barr has a mustache (of course, so do I) and is known for both nuanced hedges and abrupt changes of course.

Still, he actually seems interested in running a Libertarian campaign for president, and he's actually now picking up more press coverage than Ralph Nader.

Now, if I could just figure out where Wayne Allyn Root is hiding. . . .

1 comment:

Brian Shields said...

Root's training for becoming vice president by hiding under his bed, shooting at targets with his friends' pictures on them, and snarling in a mirror.

Seriously, Barr's interview circuit has been quite impressive. He's properly building on the groundwork Paul built on getting the issues out there. Putting a recognizable, respectable face on Libertarian issues is going to do wonders for the party.