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Bob Barr and the PATRIOT Act

by James Plummer

My colleague Tim Lee, blogging over at The Atlantic, raises the oft-repeated canard that Bob Barr's record on the USA PATRIOT Act is evidence of a longstanding unlibertarian track record, rendering his libertarian "conversion" suspect. What Lee and others fail to understand is that Congressman Barr was in fact the White House's chief legislative roadblock in their barreling PATRIOT through Congress. And that for his trouble, Barr earned the wrath of White House operatives like Karl Rove, which is what ultimately cast Barr from the Congress. (Thanks to Democrat gerrymandering in Georgia, Barr had to run against another incumbent Republican Congressman in the GOP primary, one who hadn't earned the ire of Rove's powerful machine.)

In 2001, Barr was the lead figure in the GOP-controlled House in pushing back against the PATRIOT Act, and ultimately suceeded in deleteing some text and forcing sunset clauses on the bill's worst provisions. Brad Jansen explains much of the background at American Spectator. More here. So when Barr started lobbying against PATRIOT Act abuses soon after leaving Congress, it was a continuation of his previous activities, not a reversal.

And those who remember politics before Bush may recall Bill Clinton's own "9/11", the Oklahoma City bombing. Just as after 9/11, a wish list of Justice Department powers was pulled off the shelf and given to the Congress to pass as an "anti-terror" bill. Freshman Congressman Barr then, too, cut back and limiited as much of the bill as he could from his seat on the Judiciary Committee. If you don't remember this from following the news at the time, you can read Barr's book and check his wikipedia entry for references.

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I am an ardent and longtime libertarian.
I hold an official seat in our chapter and was an editor of our Party Newsmagazine. I ran for public office under the Libertarian ticket.

That said, I have been tired and impatient with the presidential nominees that the LP has traditionally endorsed; typified by the last one, where we had a true libertarian who had name recognition and a campaign infrastructure, an extroverted personality with a proven track record to get things done, and instead we chose a self-taught constitutionl lecturer who lived out of his car.

OK, I say, Bob Barr is not a fully transformed libertarian, yet. But he publicly declares to be, has washed himself down with the Libertarian moniker, has made publicly self-effacing apologies for his past anti-libertarian conduct and stances.
He has real name recognition in the real world outside of our insular camp, he has real world experience in prosecuting a political campaign, and he is just what I think the LP needs for purely practical reasons.
If he proves to be not the Libertarian he says he is, then he will be drummed out of his position in short order.
I say, although it is not the purest avenue, let's give Barr a chance to pull us out of our hovel, and parlay Ron Paul's popularity with the public's dissatisfaction with both of the Big Parties.
see my article at:

# posted at by Gary Treistman

He did write DOMA, although he recanted at the convention.

We shall see. He may be just a spoiler - the House will be telling. This would be the time to get really aggressive about running LP House candidates, since the GOP brand name seems a bit damaged. We might even recruit a few Republicans.

Yes, but he un-recanted on DOMA on CNN Monday morning.

wow, nice article.

# posted at by keith gardner

He claims to be for an end to the drug war, an impressive claim for a former drug warrior (as drug policy coordinator for the Southern region 1986-1990 and USA attorney for the Northern (military occupation) district of Georgia, 1986-1990) but then he tells Fox News two weeks before his nomination that he would never make drugs legal. Which is it? Are we to trust someone who blows with the wind?

He still voted FOR the patriot act.

There were plenty of civil libertarian minded people who didn't vote for it.

# posted at by Dan

Jim, he told Hannity that he suported ending the federal war on drugs and turning it back to the states. Hannity threw a fit and Barr then said he would not vote to "legalize" heroin state level. So, maybe's he's not he ideal LP candidate for state legislature? Are you being disingenuous, or are you really just stupid enough to fall for a rhetorical trap laid by Sean frickin Hannity?

# posted at by literati

I will give Barr a fair hearing, but he needs to remain consistent regarding his newly Libertarian stances on marriage equality and drugs.

The question is, will he and the party recruit enough libertarian congressional candidates to make this worth our while.

He only needs to win a few states to possibly deprive either other candidate of an electoral college victory. If this happens, he needs a backup plan. With many otherwise GOP districts going Democrat in special elections this year, cleary the Republican brand name is broken. If the Party runs a full slate of candidates it will offer voters an alternative which they may take, especially in a three way race. All it takes is 26 states. If the LP picks up a few of the mountain west single seat states - enough so that the GOP cannot win, as well as a significant number of seats in multiple seat states, it may be able to get the remaining GOP members to convert and vote for Barr. Even without a majority of the members, Barr could win with a majority of the state delegations voting for him.

Anyone want to run in Virginia's 8th?