Bob Barr on Why He Left GOP and The Impeachment of George Bush

In December I had a report on Bob Barr leaving the Republican Party to join the Libertarian Party. Salon interviewed Barr and asked him about his reasons for leaving the party:

You also recently announced that you were leaving the Republican Party and joining the Libertarian Party. What was your reason for doing that?

Several-fold. One, that the Libertarian Party, among all of the parties out there, is the only one that is true to my core philosophy of working to minimize government power and maximize individual liberty. None of the other parties, and especially the Republican Party any longer, is at all committed to that philosophy. And secondly, my great concern, manifested especially since 9/11, is the assaults on our fundamental civil liberties by this administration. [That’s] personified, for example, in the disregard for the rule of law as exhibited by the warrantless NSA [National Security Agency] electronic surveillance in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. More recently, [there were] documented abuses at the FBI in carrying out certain of the expanded powers granted in the Patriot Act, namely, national security letters. And in January of this year, the testimony by the attorney general that this administration does not believe that the fundamental right to a writ of habeas corpus is an important, fundamental, constitutional guarantee. So what we have is a party, the Republican Party, to which I was very proud to belong for many, many years, no longer being committed to a core conservative philosophy. The Libertarian Party is so committed, and I felt that at the time that it was necessary to make a change because of the seriousness of the assaults on our civil liberties.

Considering his role as a House manager during the Clinton impeachment, it seemed natural to also ask Barr about the impeachment of George Bush:

Speaking of that, Sen. Chuck Hagel [R-Neb.] recently speculated aloud about impeaching President Bush. Given your own experience, what do you think of impeachment when it comes to this president?

Some of the issues that we’ve looked at, and that have come to the public’s attention in recent years, I think are extremely serious and ought to be inquired into by the Congress. On the issue of warrantless electronic surveillance, Congress still does not have a full and accurate view of what has gone on and what continues to go on with regard to what seems to me to be a clear violation of the terms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the administration. That’s just one small area that I think Congress definitely needs to look into. Where they take it from there depends on what they find out, but it’s certainly something that needs to be looked at.

Barr Leaves GOP for Libertarian Party

With the end of an illusion of achieving a permanent majority, it is no surprise that the coalition between libertarians and social conservatives in the GOP might begin to fall apart. One sign of this is seen today with Bob Barr jumping ship to the Libertarian Party:

A former Georgia congressman who helped spark President Clinton’s impeachment has quit the Republican Party to become a Libertarian, saying he is disillusioned with the GOP on issues such as spending and privacy.

Bob Barr, who served eight years as a Republican congressman before losing his seat in 2002, announced Friday that he is now a “proud, card-carrying Libertarian.” And he encouraged others to join him.

“It’s something that’s been bothering me for quite some time, the direction in which the party has been going more and more toward big government and disregard toward privacy and civil liberties,” said Barr, 58, a lawyer and consultant living in Atlanta. “In terms of where the country needs to be going to get back to our constitutional roots … I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to do that is to work with a party that practices what it preaches, and that is the Libertarian Party.”

Barr said he has no plans to run for office. In his new role as the Libertarian Party’s regional representative for the South, he will help promote the party’s message and recruit candidates, he said.

By itself this is of limited significance. Those who desire to both run for office and win are less likely to join a third party. Good Will Hinton questions how well Barr will fit in as a Libertarian, noting, “The LP is well known for requiring that its leaders tow the party line, yet Mr. Barr generally votes for restricting abortion and has been an advocate of the war on drugs.” Still, this might highlight the differences in the Republican Party and get more to consider either working to change the party or looking elsewhere.