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.”

“Mr. Conservative” Became a Liberal Compared to Today’s Conservatives

In several previous posts, including at the time of the release of the documentary Mr. Conservative, I’ve noted the irony that the modern conservative movement has moved so far to the right that Barry Goldwater ultimately considered himself a liberal. As Barry Goldwater was mentioned in a recent post, and the conversion of the conservative movement to an authoritarian mind set became a major topic in the comments, I noted with interest that another blogger was discussing Goldwater. Jim Lippard viewed Mr. Conservative and had some observations similar to those in my previous posts on Goldwater:

In his later life, he was outspoken in his support for a woman’s right to abortion, for gays to serve in the military, and for the religious right to stop pushing their religious views into politics. The film reveals that he supported his daughter obtaining an abortion before Roe v. Wade, and that he has a gay grandson. Several of the more liberal interviewees say that they thought Goldwater became liberal later in life (and some in the audience seemed to have a similar view), but Goldwater himself is shown making a statement that preempts this claim, back in 1963–that he is a conservative, but that at some time in the future people will call his views liberal.

He was a supporter of individual liberty who wanted the government’s role in private life minimized across the board, on both economic and social issues–it wasn’t he who changed, but the political environment that changed.

Unfortunately there are very few modern conservatives who defend liberty as Goldwater did but a handful remain. In April I quoted from Vic Gold, author of Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP. John Dean has written extensively on how the actions of Bush are Worse Than Watergate. Bruce Fein has been discussing impeachment of George Bush. Bob Barr has left the Republican Party and has also discussed impeachment. Bruce Bartlett, author of Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy has supported putting pressure on both parties to move in a more libertarian direction. Unfortunately the Republican who has spoken out the strongest against the influence of religion in politics is a fictional character, as seen in this clip of Arnold Vinick from The West Wing.

Many of these conservatives might also be wind up considering themselves liberals in their later years as Goldwater did. There has been a considerable change in definition of liberal versus conservative in recent years. Social issues and views on Iraq have largely replaced economic issues in separating liberals versus conservatives. Goldwater would clearly be on the liberal side on social issues. Without having him around to ask directly we can only speculate where the old cold warrior would stand in Iraq. My bet is that his response to Bush for invading Iraq following 9/11 would be, “You idiot, you attacked the wrong country.”

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.

Politics and the Justice Department Extends to Tobacco Suits

The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration exerted political pressure on prosecutors to weaken their case against the tobacco industry:

The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government’s racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’s office began micromanaging the team’s strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government’s claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

“The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said,” Eubanks said. “And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public.”

Eubanks, who served for 22 years as a lawyer at Justice, said three political appointees were responsible for the last-minute shifts in the government’s tobacco case in June 2005: then-Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, then-Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and Keisler’s deputy at the time, Dan Meron.

The politicization of the Justice Department is coming under increasing attack, even from Republicans. Think Progress has video and a transcript from an interview in which Bob Barr charges that, “the integrity of the Department of Justice is being used as a political football.” Watching the White House fight subpoenas for officials including Karl Rove to testify is reminiscent of the Watergate era. They even top Rose Mary Wood and the 18½-minute gap with an 18-day gap in the emails released.

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.

Warrantless Wiretaps–A Felony Regardless of Precautions

Conservative bloggers are all hot and excited over the report yesterday that Bush’s hand picked lap dogs approved of his warrantless wiretaps. This was hardly a surprise. The panel consisted of four Republicans and one neoconservative Democrat with a history of bashing Democrats–sort of a Joe Lieberman without the prestige of a Senate seat. The panel found adequate safe guards to protect civil liberties, but that is hardly surprising. With such a biased panel, which lacked subpoena power, it is no surprise that they found nothing wrong. We could just as easily chose a panel of four liberal Democrats and one Repubican such as Congressman Bob Barr which would come to the opposite conclusion.

Even if there were adequate precautions in place to protect the civil liberties of Americans, this is not the point. The simple point here is that Congress specifically made such conduct a felony, and the Executive Branch is not above the law. The founding fathers established the separation of powers for good reason. Even if a President is currently breaking the law is not violating the civil liberties of Americans, there is no assurance the next President won’t. This is not a matter of being a Bush supporter or opponent, but of a basic respect for the rule of law.

Republicans Attempt Retroactive Legalization of Warrantless Wiretapping

Republicans plan to spend the fall trying to use 9/11 for political gain, including to pass legislation retroactively permitting Bush’s warrantless wiretapping. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on S.2453, the “National Security Surveillance Act” written by Dick Cheney and Arlen Specter. The House Judiciary Committee is also expected to consider a companion bill, H.R. 5825. The bills would gut the civil liberties protections present in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Fourth Amendment. The bills:

  • Allow the NSA to examine international phone conversations and e-mails of American residents and businesses, without any judicial approval and without any evidence the target is conspiring with al Qaeda
  • Authorize warrantless physical searches of Americans’ homes and businesses without any judicial check
  • Allow for the electronic surveillance of Americans without the warrants needed to protect the individual rights of people in the US.

As Bush’s activities have come under attack from the courts, and some Republicans as well as Democrats, the Republican leadership hopes to push through these acts to legalize actions which likely were illegal when committed.

In recent years the United States has gone through crises including World War II and the Cold War while managing to maintain the rule of law. Even when their were some abuses, these were limited to a specific time frame. It is more important that we preserve the rule of law in the face of what can become a perpetual state of war against terrorism. This is a war which has no clear end point and which would provide a never ending justification for suspension of civil liberties if we allow this. I recently cited one article which predicted that we will achieve victory “three or four decades into the future.” If we give up our liberties for such a period, it is doubtful they will ever be restored.

Previous posts on the warrantless wiretaps under the fold.

(more…)

Joe Scarborough Interviewed in Salon

Since he asked Is Bush an Idiot? Joe Scarborough has been all over the liberal media, from Huffington Post to an interview today in Salon. Here’s a portion of a couple of his answers:

That brings up another question I wanted to ask you — you’ve been tough on liberals in the past, and you continue to be tough on them now. With your recent shift in viewpoint, have your feelings on liberalism, and the liberal critics of the administration, changed at all?

Obviously since the things they were predicting about Iraq have been proven to be accurate, or at least more accurate than what the administration was saying back in 2003, you certainly have to tip your hat to them.

Your criticism of the president has been about more than just the Iraq war — you’ve criticized the NSA eavesdropping program, you’ve criticized the bank records program, you’ve criticized government spending. What’s prompted that criticism, and that direction on your show, generally?

You know, it started back in 2004. I wrote a book called “Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day,” which three people read, because when you write books now you either have to be on the left calling the president a liar or be on the right calling people treasonous. I actually took Republicans and Democrats to task and was harshly critical of the president and my Republican colleagues for being so hypocritical … No tough choices are being made in Washington. You want to have a war? OK, we’ll pay for it. You want tax cuts? OK, we’ll pay for it. You want a $7 trillion Medicare drug benefit plan? OK, we’ll pay for it…

Here’s the kicker — since 2004, I have been attacked by Republicans, by conservatives, well, actually, more by Republican loyalists than conservatives, by basically the Republican establishment in Washington, for saying the exact same thing that we were all saying in 1995, ’96, ’97, ’98, ’99. We were always attacking Bill Clinton’s spending levels. Dick Armey called him a Marxist, called Hillary Clinton a Marxist. As I point out in speeches these days, government spending grew by 3.4 percent annually under Bill Clinton the Marxist. Spending has grown by 10.5 percent under George Bush the fiscal conservative. I always say: Give me that choice, I’ll take the Marxist at 3.4 percent any day of the week. And so I started in 2004, and when you talk about NSA wiretapping, when you talk about the bank records, my criticisms — I’m saying the exact same thing now that Bob Barr and David Vitter and myself were saying on the Judiciary Committee in 1999 and in 2000, when Janet Reno was trying to get roving wiretaps without coming to Congress first.