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.

Democrats Plan Investigations

We will finally have restoration of check and balances in the federal government in January. The Washington Post reports on plans among Congressional Democrats to begin “hearings and investigations early next year to build the case for their call for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and for possible action against defense contractors found to have wasted billions in federal funds.” Some examples:

Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, plans to investigate “documentation of waste and fraud and abuse in the contracting areas.”

John Murtha, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee plans to investigate the Iraq war, holding “two hearings a day for the first three or four months . . . to find out exactly what happened and who’s been responsible for these mistakes.”

Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judiciary Committee promises “real oversight” of the FBI and the Justice Department and to investigate “the abuse of billions of taxpayers’ dollars sent as development aid to Iraq.”

Ike Skelton, House Armed Services Committee Chairman, also plans to investigate teh war. “His big priorities are support for our troops and their families; readiness, especially in the Army and Marine Corps; oversight; and Afghanistan, which he feels is the forgotten war,” said his spokeswoman, Loren Dealy. “His concerns have been the lack of oversight in general. He feels it has not been adequate.”

Soldiers Protest Iraq War

We have yet another similarity between Vietnam and Iraq. In 1969 1,300 active-duty military personnel signed an open letter in the New York Times opposing the war in Vietnam. The Nation reports on a similar effort by military personnel to oppose the Iraq war. Seven weeks ago Appeal for Redress was formed to send the following message to Congress:

As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases fromIraq . Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.

They have now achieved almost 1000 signatures. Receiving this degree of support is perhaps more unexpected than the opposition to the Vietnam war considering that we currently have a volunteer army as opposed to the draft during Vietnam. The Nation interviewed several signers. Here’s one example of what they were told:

“Sgt. Gary”–21 years old. US Army. Deployed with 20th Infantry Regiment, near Mosul, Iraq:

I joined up in 2001, still a junior in high school. I felt very patriotic at the end of my US History class. My idea of the Army was that you signed up, they gave you a rifle and you ran off into battle like in some 1950s war movie. The whole idea of boot camp never really entered my head.

I supported the war in the beginning. I bought everything Bush said about how Saddam had WMDs, how he was working with Al Qaeda, how he was a threat to America. Of course, this all turned out to be false.

This is my second tour, and as of a few days ago it’s half-over. Before I deployed with my unit for the second time I already had feelings of not wanting to go. When in late September a buddy in my platoon died from a bullet in the head, I really took a long hard look at this war, this Administration, and the reasons why.

After months of research on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that this war was based on lies and deception. I started to break free of all the propaganda that the Bush Administration and the Army puts out on a daily basis.

So far in three years we have succeeded in toppling a dictator and replacing him with puppets. Outlawing the old government and its standing army and replacing them with an unreliable and poorly trained crew of paycheck collectors. The well is so poisoned by what we have done here that nothing can fix it.

Maureen Dowd on the Dense Prince

Maureen Dowd comments again on Bush’s decision stay the course and ignore the advice of those who recommend otherwise:

The Rummy hoopla was a way for W. to signal his decision to shred the Baker-Hamilton study, after reportedly denouncing it as a flaming cowpie. Condi Rice signaled the same, telling The Washington Post that she did not want to negotiate with Syria and Iran, as the Iraq Study Group had proposed, because “the compensation” might be too high.

The Democrats thought that when they won the election, they won the debate on the war and they had W. cornered. But the president is leaning toward surging over the Democrats, voters, Baker and the Bush 41 crowd, and some of his own commanders.

W. seems gratified by the idea that rather than having his ears boxed by his father’s best friend, he’s going to go down swinging, or double down, in the metaphor du jour, on his macho bet in Iraq. He’s reading about Harry Truman and casting himself as a feisty Truman, but he’s heading toward late L.B.J. The White House budget office is studying how much it will cost to finance The Surge, an infusion of 20,000 to 50,000 troops into Baghdad to make one last try at “victory.” The policy would devolve from “We stand down as they stand up” to “We stand up more and maybe someday they will, too.”

Some serving commanders are not in favor of The Surge because they fret that it will infantilize Iraqis even more about assuming responsibility for their own security. They also fear that the insurgents, who have nowhere to go, will outwait our troops.

But W. would rather take a risk in Iraq than risk being a wimp. So he continued to wrap himself in muscular delusions, asserting that on Rummy’s watch, “the United States military helped the Iraqi people establish a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a watershed event in the story of freedom.”

Dick Cheney offered this praise to his friend: “On the professional side, I would not be where I am today but for the confidence that Don first placed in me those many years ago.”

Alas, we wouldn’t be where we are today, either.