Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bob Barr makes his case in GQ interview

Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr gets thoroughly probed in a GQ interview that appears on the ABCNews site. Importantly, interviewer Wil S. Hylton presses Barr on his radically changed positions toward the PATRIOT Act, war in Iraq, drug policy and same-sex marriage. Barr plainly states that he was wrong in the past, that his views changed as the real-world impact of many policies became clear, and that he regrets some important congressional votes.
Are you worried about being accused of flip-flopping? One minute it's the Barr Amendment, the next you're on staff at the Marijuana Policy Project.
Well, it's a fact: My views have changed. If you recognize that a policy is not working and is based on an erroneous presumption, you have to change. There is no use spending billions of dollars just because we have to stay the course. It's the same situation in Iraq, only it's hundreds of billions. Being a good leader is being willing to change. I was very disappointed in 2004 when John Kerry allowed the Bush campaign to browbeat him on the PATRIOT Act. Early in the campaign, he said, "Look, I voted for the PATRIOT Act, but it's time for it to be changed." The Bush people called him a flip-flopper, and the whole discussion didn't come up again.

In fact, the act was renewed.
It was, and I spent a great deal of time working against it. There again: I had voted for the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, but after seeing how it was used and abused and expanded by the administration, I think it was the worst vote I cast in the Congress. Because it undercuts the whole system of checks and balances in our criminal-justice system. It stands for the proposition that the government can gather evidence against someone without any evidence whatsoever of criminal behavior. The simplistic and very misleading explanation that Bush and Ashcroft and Gonzales—all the apologists for this administration—make is "Well, we can spy on American citizens, because if they're talking to Al Qaeda, we want to know."
Overall, Barr comes off as a sincere, conservative-leaning, moderate libertarian with significant political savvy and experience. I think that positions him about as effectively as possible to have a major impact in this year's presidential election.

I say that even though I'm a radical libertarian myself. My own political wish list goes a lot further than Barr's platform in terms of reducing the size of the state, expanding the range of human activity not restricted by law and recognizing people's right to act with maximum freedom. But, frankly, my political views scare the hell out of most people. If you want to make major changes, you do it the Fabian way -- a little at a time, without taking people too far out of their comfort zone.

That the approach is working is clear from the relatively copious press coverage he's receiving even before he starts campaigning, and the fact that he's already being discussed as a "spoiler" in this year's election (pretty much the only context in which journalists are willing to discuss third-party candidates).

Barr manages to emphasize the value of freedom speaking as an established political figure who is familiar with existing policies, says they're unworkable and dangerous, and offers serious reforms that expand liberty without shocking the audience into disbelief.

When we get to where Barr wants to be, then I'll start arguing about how much further I want to go.



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