Libertarian Party History and Bob Barr

It might be time for the Libertarian Party to rewrite the page of their web site on their history. On a tip from The Rothenberg Political Report I found a curious item in their history. Among their claimed accomplishments for 2002 is this item:

The “Incumbent Killer” strategy was used to control elections the LP could not yet win. It led to the defeat of Republican Congressman Bob Barr and Democratic Senator Max Cleland. It was also credited with controlling the outcome of the governor’s races in Alabama, Wisconsin, and Oregon, and the US Senate race in South Dakota.

I’m not sure that anyone outside of the Libertarian Party has ever given them credit for defeating incumbents such as Bob Barr and Max Cleland. Besides the questionable validity of this claim, do they really want to brag about having defeated the person who they nominated as their presidential candidate this year?

Barr Now Realizes The War on Drugs Was a Failure

Hanging out with libertarians appears to be good for Bob Barr. Writing at The Huffington Post, he has admitted to his past errors:

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…

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.

Barr appears both more realistic and more concerned with liberty than he has in the past. For the most part this is good, but perhaps we might have to reassess how many votes a person with such beliefs will really take away from John McCain.

Hillary’s Brother Might Vote For Bob Barr

We’ve seen a lot of Clinton supporters swear they will vote for John McCain should Obama win the nomination. Among the Clinton supporters who threaten not to vote for Obama are Hillary’s brother, Tony Rodham. (Hat tip to Freedom Democrats). However he might not vote for McCain:

“I didn’t say that. It could be Bob Barr,” he said, referring to the Libertarian presidential candidate who, as a House member from Georgia, was a prime player in the impeachment of Rodham’s brother-in-law, Bill Clinton).

On the one hand, voting for Barr would be preferable to voting for McCain. On the other hand, the fact that Barr was involved in the impeachment of Bill Clinton is only one reason it is surprising that Rodham would consider voting for Barr. It is hard to see why a backer of Hillary Clinton, who is among the worst candidates on issues related to civil liberties and checks on government power, would prefer Barr over McCain, whose views are far closer to Clinton’s.

Will Wilkinson on Liberaltarianism

If you think of libertarianism in terms of the prominent political candidates this year, it looks like there is basically a choice between conservatives who are at very least friendly to racists and white supremacists (Ron Paul) and conservatives who reject white supremacists (Bob Barr). While there are some areas of common agreement on civil liberties and opposition to the Iraq war, for the most part the social conservatism of both makes their views quite distinct from liberalism.

If you think of libertarianism in terms of the prominent political candidates this year, you are also missing a considerable amount of libertarian thought which is much closer to liberalism, especially if we remember the origins of liberal thought. Several libertarians and liberals have written of a fusion of these views, with some reviewed in previous posts.Will Wilkinson has written a brief summary of liberaltarianism.

Wilkinson dispenses with some of the major libertarian disputes, such as those between the anarcho-capitalists who agreed with Murray Rothbard and the proponents of limited government who agreed with Ayn Rand and others. He notes:

Sadly, “libertarianism” has become identified rather strongly with this ideology — an ideology some of the thinkers most strongly identified with libertarianism, like Hayek and Friedman, never shared.

Wilkinson sees libertarianism as more in the tradition of Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, James M. Buchanan, resulting in differences of opinion with some other libertarians:

If I tell most highly-educated people that these are the thinkers whose views of desirable institutions are most like mine, they might infer that I am some kind of rabid libertarian ideologue. But when I actually defend something like the arguments for an economic safety net each of these giants of libertarian thought actually set forth, lots of libertarians accuse me of not really being libertarian at all. And many liberals act surprised, as if I’m being saucily iconoclastic by wandering so far off the reservation. I can tell them that Hayek was actually in favor of a guaranteed minimum income and that Friedman basically invented the idea behind the EITC, but they’ll still think I’m some kind of congenial squish. But what I am is a market liberal just like Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan — the same intellectual role models who make me a rabid libertarian ideologue. So, which is it?

Frankly, “liberaltarianism” and “progressive fusionism” don’t really amount to much beyond what Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan thought anyway. So the fusionism here isn’t really a fusion of anything. It’s just seeing our way back to a pre-existing economically literate political liberalism.

When Paul supporters are not propounding some bizarre conspiracy theory or providing arguments to justify racism and anti-Semitism, they can often be recognized for their cries that any government program is evil and their ridiculous accusations that those who don’t agree with them are socialists. Wilkinson sees the absurdity in such arguments:

The death of socialism as a viable competitor to the liberal-capitalist welfare state makes continued slippery-slope-to-socialism thinking look densely anachronistic. Other liberal welfare states, like the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, etc., have moved in a rather more market-liberal direction, becoming rather less of a soft-socialist middle-ground between the American model and full-on economic socialism. The question these days is whether the U.S. will have the good sense to adopt more rational market-based old-age pension policies, like Sweden or Australia, or lower corporate tax rates to a level more in line with the rest of the wealthy world. Slightly higher personal tax rates and slightly more redistribution is a possibility, but a slide into socialism just isn’t on the table. In this context, the negative income tax looks much less like a dangerous concession to the world-historical forces of evil.

The libertarians who have not allowed justifiable opposition to Communism warp their minds are increasingly seeing the mistake of aligning with the conservatives:

Meanwhile, with the obsolescence of the anti-communist alliance with conservatives, many libertarians have sloughed off much of their previously tactically useful sympathy for socially conservative initiatives. Freed to be full-on social liberals, many libertarians are left sensing a much deeper cultural affinity for the left than the right. And this leads naturally to seeing more clearly their ideological affinities with welfare liberals. And then you read thinkers like Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan, and you think: Oh, yes. This is extremely sensible. And now that the welfare-liberal elite has become rather more economically literate and is no longer sighing over five year plans, there is no reason to think they cannot find this sensible, too.

So that’s where I’m at. An old-fashioned market liberal who thinks Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan get it right, and who thinks Rawlsian welfare liberals should be able to recognize themselves in these thinkers.

Bob Barr Repudiates Racist Endorsement Showing Contrast with Ron Paul

Bob Barr might be seeking much of the support which Ron Paul received during the primaries, but at least he knows where to draw the line. While Ron Paul received considerable criticism, including from libertarians, for his associations with right wing extremists, Barr most likely realizes associating with the extreme right will prevent his campaign from being taken seriously. Reason notes that, ” One of the bigger media blunders the Ron Paul campaign made was its handling of endorsements from the bigots at Stormfront” and that, “White nationalists slithered around the fringes of the Paul movement.”

Barr received a racist endorsement yesterday, and this was promptly repudiated with this statement:

Tell the haters I said don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out!Barr consultant Steve Gordon sent me the statement and added: “We denounce anybody who doesn’t want to treat everybody equally under the law.”

The Barr campaign is not going to be a vehicle for every fringe and hate group to promote itself. We do not want and will not accept the support of haters. Anyone with love in their heart for our country and for every resident of our country regardless of race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation is welcome with open arms.

Barr consultant Steve Gordon sent the statement to Reason and added: “We denounce anybody who doesn’t want to treat everybody equally under the law.”

When I and other bloggers criticized Paul for his association with white supremacists his more fanatic supporters often claimed that this was “guilt by association” and sometimes rationalized this by arguing that support for Paul was a justified exercise of their rights by extremist groups. Barr demonstrates that a candidate can control who they are associated with, and that such endorsements can be repudiated without violating anyone’s right to freedom of expression.

Posted in Bob Barr, Ron Paul. Tags: , . No Comments »

Unity Among Democrats or Realignment?

Despite all the protests seen from the most rabid Clinton supporters, most likely after the final primaries are over Hillary Clinton will realize that further fighting is futile and will accept a dignified settlement from the Obama campaign and begin unifying the party.

To partisan Democrats that is the only rational outcome. To an independent such as myself, this is the most probable outcome. It is also the most realistic outcome to home for if the Democrats are going to defeat John McCain. As I hope to see the defeat of any supporter of the Iraq war (including both McCain and Clinton) as well as the defeat of any social conservative (again including both McCain and Clinton), unity between the diverse Democratic factions appears to be the desirable goal in the short run.

This isn’t the only possible result. I discount the claims of Clinton supporters that they will vote for McCain. The videos I posted earlier with such claims are a product of both the passions of the moment and of the tendency of both the media and internet to report the most controversial and extreme views. Still, the fact remains that both parties contain diverse groups which are unified more out of political expediency than common views. Congressional votes deliberately organized to fall along party lines often provides a false sense of two unified parties when candidates are evaluated based upon their voting records as opposed to core beliefs.

The divisions among the Republicans, ranging from near-libertarian to the religious right, are far more obvious, but similar divisions exist among the Democrats. This division is increased with the trend, started before the 2006 elections and greatly accelerated by support for Obama, for independents and moderate Republicans (such as the Starbucks Republicans) to vote Democratic. While older (and often bitter) Democrats have tried to cling to the New Deal coalition, losing election after election in the process, younger voters working in the information age have a different view of government. Many of us independents voting Democratic are more interested in matters such as government reform, changing our disastrous foreign policy, stopping both the Iraq war and the drug war, increasing civil liberties, and strengthening the wall of separation between church and state. We have no love for “tax and spend” liberalism of recent years. This is quite different from the big government, nanny state views of Clinton and her supporters.

The Obama campaign has walked a fine line to present policies which will most likely be backed by both factions of the Democratic Party. While Obama seeks a more inclusive party, the Clinton camp has written off the views of Obama’s supporters and declared us to be a band of elitists. In many ways the Clinton supporters would be much more at home with the party of George W. Bush, Richard Milhouse Nixon, and Sprio T. Agnew. While Barack Obama has been compared to John F. Kennedy, the Clinton supporters remind me more of Spiro Agnew who condemned liberals as an “effete corps of impudent snobs.” The Clintonists might have come up with such a line if not for their anti-intellectualism which prevents them from expressing their views as well as the right wing, even when their views coincide.

While I believe the most likely outcome, for better or for worse ,is that the Democrats will become reunited, Cernig has presented a plausible alternative:

It seems to me that the schizophrenic nature of the Democratic Party may finally resolve itself. There’s a good chance that the right wing of the party will follow the Clintons into GOP-land. They always were “compassionate conservatives” and that’s probably where they belong. The Dems could end up looking a lot more like a European social democrat party as a result and if so the GOP will most likely fracture in its turn too. The far right won’t be able to call the shots quite so much, with what will then be a massively enhanced left wing of the Republicans able to steamroller them, and they’ll head for the exits to form a new hard right bunch of God-bothering, xenophobic helicopter-chasers. That way lies their consignment to history as a part of a ruling coalition, although they’ll be able to exert pressure from the finges. It’s probably the most positive role they could possibly play. Likewise, on the other flank of the main two, I think we’ll come to see democratic socialists and greens providing pressure from smaller but still influential partries on specific issues. The GOP will be left looking far more like a European conservative party.

If we don’t see Clintonista defections in droves, then it will be because the Republican hard right is just too odious for them to contemplate making common cause with. That will have pretty much the same efect, since in that case the GOP leadership is going to have to engineer a move leftwards just to recapture that party’s electability. The same fallout would then ensue as the hard right will still decamp following such a move and the Dem tent now has so many holes in it that a lot of those further left than right of the Dem center are likely to look to other parties to support so that they don’t have to relive the feuds of this primary season. Their trust that the Clinton camp has roughly the same aims as they do has been seriously eroded.

Either way, then, I think change is coming. The US has been further Right than the international mean for decades now, mainly due to the interplay of power centers in both the main parties rather than any intrinsic rightwingedness in the nation as a whole – but the adjustment has to come sometime.

I’ve often stated that I do not vote for the Democratic Party when they nominate conservative populists such as Hillary Clinton and, if not for the fact that it would mean electoral defeat when the Democrats do have a liberal candidate such as Barack Obama, would not mind if they left the party. I have much more in common with the diminishing type of Republican who is moderate on social issues and stresses civil liberties as opposed to social conservatism and support for the war. There are both those such as myself who currently lean towards the Democrats as well as many disenchanted Republicans who would prefer a realignment in the parties. Such a desire is also expressed by Mark at Publius Endures:

The Clintonites now threaten to pick their ball up and go home if their candidate is not the nominee. Obama supporters should not have a problem with this- the Clintonites are as illiberal as could be and are an anchor that weighs down any claim that the Dem Party is a force for good in this country, as I explained here. Instead, the Obama campaign and the remnants of the Dem party should start looking at reforming their coalition- let the Republicans be the party of authoritarians. In the process, the Republicans will lose a pretty good number of their own members, who either vote for Bob Barr (like me) or for Obama, with whom they will have more in common than McCain and the Clintons.

Most likely the Democrats will reunite and the same divisions will persist. Our greatest hope is actually not that the party will fracture at this moment but that the new voters will change the nature of the Democratic Party for the better. Demographics favor this outcome as the views of the younger voters will have dominance over those of the older Democratic voters as long as they turn out to vote as they have in the primaries.

Remembering Mike Gravel

Mike Gravel has the dubious honor of having failed to win the nomination of not one but two political parties this year. After he failed to win the Democratic nomination he also ran for the Libertarian Party nomination. Some, including many Libertarian Party members and candidates, did find it strange that a non-libertarian was running for the nomination but Gravel was hardly the only non-libertarian to compete. While Gravel failed, another non-libertarian, Bob Barr, did manage to win the nomination.

It was difficult to take Gravel seriously as a candidate this year but before totally laughing him off it is worth remembering that in the past he was a Senator of some significance. The Caucus gives a quick run down of some highlights in his career:

Mr. Gravel, 78, spent 12 years in the United States Senate from Alaska, pursuing even then an anti-war agenda and railing against the military industrial complex. His tenure was marked by dramatic procedural actions criticizing the Vietnam War, but his claim to fame came when he tried to release the Pentagon Papers by reading them on the Senate floor. He also waged a one-man filibuster that ultimately led to a compromise to let the draft expire in 1973.

The Democrats could have done worse than to nominate Mike Gravel. Considering how close Hillary Clinton came to winning, in fact they almost did do worse.

Libertarian Party Provides McCain With Strong Conservative Opposition

As I reported yesterday Bob Barr overcame considerable opposition by some Libertarian Party members to the non-libertarian candidates running to win the nomination on the sixth ballot. Barr spent much of the convention apologizing for his past votes such as for the Patriot Act. He won the nomination on the sixth ballot after Wayne Allyn Root threw his support to Barr, receiving the vice presidential nomination in return.

By going with the conservatives, as opposed to second place Mary Ruwart, the Barr/Root ticket will have far more impact on the general election than virtually any other likely outcome and does have the potential to draw votes away from John McCain in conservative states. In contrast, Ruwart would receive much less conservative support and her nomination would have led some conservative libertarians to bolt the party and vote Republican.

There is a common misconception among those who have not followed the libertarian movement that the Libertarian Party and supporters of libertarianism are equivalent. The Libertarian Party was actually formed with considerable opposition from libertarians, many of whom feared that entering politics would make the Libertarian Party increasingly indistinguishable from the mainstream politicians. The party has often been more conservative than consistently libertarian, with influence in the party varying over the years.

Tim Lee presents the view of many libertarians in writing yesterday:

Today the Libertarian Party nominated Bob Barr as its presidential standard-bearer for 2008. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with the Libertarian Party. As a small-L libertarian, I typically find the major party options to be wretched, and this year’s options are especially bad. So it will be nice to have someone on the ticket who I can be reasonably sure will mostly take positions I generally agree with.

Unfortunately, the LP has a knack for picking candidates who are not just uninspiring, but often acutely embarrassing. The 2004 candidate, Michael Badnarik, was a low point. As I wrote at the time, despite billing himself as a “constitutional scholar,” he was completely clueless about American government. His speeches and interviews were chock full of assertions that could have been corrected with 30 seconds of fact-checking, and his overall message was that of a paranoid, government-hating crank.

And because presidential elections are virtually the only time a lot of people pay attention to politics, a lot of people wind up associating libertarianism, the ideology, with whomever the LP chooses to nominate every four years. And since the LP’s candidates are often clueless, politically tone-deaf, or otherwise unappealing, small-L libertarians get stuck trying to explain that, no, most libertarians aren’t for legalizing child pornography, and no, not all of us have turned our skin blue by drinking a “homemade antibiotic laced with silver.”

Bob Barr isn’t in the same category. He understands the basics of public policy and appears able to get through an interview without embarrassing himself. However, he seems to have a whole different category of baggage: questions about whether he’s actually a libertarian. During his tenure in Congress, Barr showed few libertarian tendencies, voting for the Defense of Marriage Act, opposing medical marijuana, and signing on to the Patriot Act. I saw him speak here in Missouri last year and he gave a pretty convincing Road to Damascus speech, but libertarians are justifiably suspicious.

Personally, I’m doubly wary of supporting the guy after the Ron Paul fiasco. Like Will Wilkinson, I gave money to Paul in 2007, before I learned of his continuing association with the bigots who sent out racist newsletters under Paul’s name. In retrospect, Paul’s anti-immigration rhetoric and his tendency toward conspiracy theories (“Wall Street bankers” are a staple villain in his stump speeches) should have been red flags that temperamentally, Paul was more a conservative nationalist than a libertarian even if he happened to have reached libertarian conclusions on a lot of policy issues.

The issue section of Barr’s campaign website makes me nervous that we’re in for a repeat of that fiasco. It’s incredibly thin—a dozen or so bullet points in total—and one of the four categories is “secure our borders,” which suggests Barr may harbor the same kind of borderline xenophobia that has infected both the Paul campaign and much of the modern conservative movement. That’s not the impression I want voters to get of libertarianism.

Ultimately, I wish the LP would just go away.

Barr’s history as a conservative Republican are already well known. His running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, does appear media savvy and I suspect he will help pull in conservative libertarian votes. Root’s web site is full of pictures of conservatives such as George Bush, Jeb Bush, Karl Rove, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and his “hero,” Ronald Reagan. As with far too many libertarians, while it appears Root personally supports abortion rights he calls it a State’s Rights issue. Such attitudes of conservative libertarians on State’s Rights have been a major reason why I do not consider them consistent defenders of individual liberty. Rights, if they are to mean anything, originate with the individual, not the state. Federalism, while often a major aspect of conservatism, is inconsistent with libertarianism as infringements upon individual liberty by state governments is no more acceptable than when done by the federal government. At times the federal government has even been instrumental in fighting infringements upon liberty emanating from the states.

In the past Libertarian Party candidates have had difficulty exceeding one percent of the vote. As a consequence of the publicity from the Ron Paul campaign and having a conservative ticket which can compete with John McCain for the support of conservative Republicans, they might do far better. Having a strong conservative opponent on the ballot might also prevent John McCain from moving as far towards the center as he would like during a general election campaign.

Bob Barr Projected to Win Libertarian Party Nomination on Sixth Ballot; On Update: Libertarian Party Nominates Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root

The vote at the Libertarian Party convention in Denver is going into a sixth ballot, with Bob Barr looking like the most likely winner. Although there has been vocal opposition to candidates with questionable libertarian beliefs winning the nomination, it appears that the conservatives at the convention do hold a slight majority. The candidate receiving the lowest number of votes on each ballot is eliminated. The fifth ballot results were:

Mary Ruwart – 229
Bob Barr – 223
Wayne Root – 165

Although Ruwart has a slight lead over Barr (with the two being very close all day) more of Wayne Root’s support is likely to go to Barr over Ruwart on the sixth ballot.

This can have ramifications in the general election race. Having Bob Barr on the ballot gives conservatives who are dissatisfied with John McCain another option, possibly preventing McCain from moving as far to the center as he would prefer in a general election race. Barr might manage to pull in 3% to 5% of the vote, greatly surpassing the Libertarian Party’s usual results which are closer to 1%. This could tip the balance away from McCain in some close states.

In contrast, should Ruwart (who represents the more radical libertarians) win the nomination she is unlikely to attract conservative support away from McCain as Barr would. Her nomination might also lead many of the more conservative libertarians to vote for McCain as opposed to Ruwart. At present the results come down to which direction the bulk of Root’s support goes, more of Root’s supporters likely to back Barr, especially in light of Root now endorsing Barr.

Update: It looks like all that time spent at the convention appologizing for his previous stands while in Congress worked for Bob Barr. He beat Ruwart 324 to 276 on the sixth ballot. C-SPAN has cut away so I don’t know what is going on with the VP vote. If Wayne Root succeeds in winning the nomination, as I suspect is likely after he endorsed Barr, many long time libertarians will see the ticket as more Republican than Libertarian.

While many libertarians will be disappointed, this is a ticket which might do better in terms of votes than a more consistently libertarian one. If he wins the vice presidential nomination, Root might also do a better job with the media than Barr, but I hope he’s smart enough not to repeatedly speak about his parents as reason to vote for him. It came off as bad as John Edwards talking about being the son of a mill worker. If Root must stick with family, he’s better off bringing along his daughter Dakota who gave his seconding speech earlier today.

For more, David Weigel is live-blogging the convention.

Update II: Bob Barr’s web site is streaming the convention live. The vice presidential vote is going to a second ballot. It is primarily a battle between the Wayne Allyn Root and Steve Kubby, who is receiving the support of the libertarians who oppose a more Republican like ticket of Barr/Root.

Update III: The second ballot for vice president has concluded. The Libertarian Party has its ticket: Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root. One early reaction I’m seeing is that many libertarians aren’t thrilled with such a Republican-leaning ticket, but are happy over the prospects that such a ticket might help keep John McCain out of the White House.

Mike Gravel and Bob Barr Considering Running as Libertarians

The Republican nomination is all wrapped up. The Democrats are still fighting but, as Chris Dodd said, “I think it’s very difficult to imagine how anyone can believe that Barack Obama can’t be the nominee of the party. I think that’s a foregone conclusion, in my view, at this juncture given where things are.” The Libertarian Party has a wide open race.

Besides a number of people only known to libertarian activists, there are two somewhat well known politicians who might seek the nomination–and neither one of them is Ron Paul. Mike Gravel has joined the Libertarian Party.

“I’m joining the Libertarian Party because it is a party that combines a commitment to freedom and peace that can’t be found in the two major parties that control the government and politics of America,” Gravel said in a statement. “My libertarian views, as well as my strong stance against war, the military industrial complex and American imperialism, seem not to be tolerated by Democratic Party elites who are out of touch with the average American.”

Some of his views, such as universal health care, might not go over very well among libertarians.

Bob Barr is also thinking of running. I noted last April that he had quit the Republican Party and joined the Libertarian Party. If Barr runs for the presidential nomination, he would also make opposition to the Iraq war a major issue:

“There’s been a tremendous expressed to me both directly and indirectly on the Internet. I take that support very seriously, and I think it also reflects a great deal of dissatisfaction with the current candidates and the current two-party system. So it is something, to be honest with you, that I’m looking very seriously at.”

Barr said a Libertarian candidacy would essentially be an extension of the Ron Paul campaign.

“Ron Paul tapped into a great deal of that dissatisfaction and that awareness. Unfortunately, working through the Republican party structure, it became impossible for him to really move forward with his movement. But we have to have ….a rallying point out there to harness that energy, that freedom in this election cycle,” Barr said.

On Iraq:

“What we’ve fallen into in recent years — not just since 9/11, but particularly since 9/11 — is this notion that, in order to protect ourselves, we have to preemptively go into and — in the case of Iraq — occupy another sovereign nation,” Barr said. “Simply saying, ‘Gee, it’s better to fight over in this other nation and destroy another nation, so we’re not potentially attacked here, is the height of arrogance.”

As for the Bush administration’s refusal to define waterboarding as torture, Barr referred to the practice as “sophistry of the worst and rankest order.”