Archive for ‘Bob Barr’

August 8, 2009

Tom Knapp is a friend . . .

. . . and therefore I will accept his criticism as sincere, even if I think his analysis of the 2008 Libertarian Party campaign is flawed:

And what, pray tell, did we get out of the [Bob] Barr nomination? . . . [T]he fourth-best results (as a percentage of the vote total) of the Libertarian Party’s ten presidential outings. Our reward for taking a flier and running a conservative instead of a libertarian was middle-of-the-pack performance at the polls and incalculable damage to our reputation as a party with principles we weren’t willing to sell for a mess of . . . well, let’s just note that it was a mess and leave it at that.

One might attack Tom’s argument from several directions, but I think the most important point is one which Tom ignores altogether. One of the reasons that the Barr campaign got so much national media attention in Spring 2008 was the widespread belief that, given the strength of the Ron Paul GOP campaign — especially in terms of online fundraising — and furthermore considering an established personal friendship between Barr and Paul, if the LP nominated Barr, he would bring much of Paul’s financial and grassroots support with him.

While this envisioned scenario did not actually develop after the “Dogfight in Denver” (in which Barr fought for six ballots to gain the LP nomination) this does not mean the original hope of Team Barr was misguided.

There has been a good deal of behind-the-scenes finger-pointing among Libertarians as to what went wrong after the LP convention in May, but a falling-out between Paul and Barr (which seems to have happened in June) could not have been anticipated when Team Barr organized its nomination campaign.

Tom and I met as part of the vanload of “smelly libertarians” who made the road trip to the Denver LP convention. Tom represents a sizeable faction in the Libertarian Party who hate and despise anything “conservative” or Republican. And, of course, there are any number of Republican conservatives who use “libertarian” as an epithet.

This is unfortunate, especially since most Republicans I know are, to some degree, libertarians (with a small “l”). And most Libertarians I know have been involved in primary campaigns for libertarian-leaning Republicans like Ron Paul.

Eric Dondero attempts to bridge this chasm by styling himself a Libertarian Republican. My friend Stephen Gordon has been an operative in both the GOP and LP. Personally, I have attempted to describe “Libertarian Populism” as a potential locus for opposition to both Democratic Party progressive statism and the Progressive Lite go-along-to-get-along approach of GOP “moderates,” by offering freedom as the basic answer to populist grievances.

What is at stake in all this is something much more important than divergent estimates of individual candidates or disagreements about campaign strategy. What is at stake is nothing less than liberty itself.

If our nation’s future is to be entrusted to Nancy Pelosi and her ilk, then the disagreements between Tom Knapp and myself are moot, no more relevant to contemporary politics than an historical discussion of how the Whigs self-destructed after 1844.

In the present crisis, friends of liberty must prioritize their efforts and focus on practical activism to stop ObamaCare, Waxman-Markey and EFCA — the Big Three legislative initiatives being pushed through Congress with every resource that can be mustered by the special interests who control the Democratic Party.

The passage of any one of these Big Three initiatives would inflict a damaging blow, perhaps even a fatal wound, to the cause of American liberty. I assume that Tom Knapp fully supports the “angry mob” effort to prevent passage of those initiatives, and therefore do not wish to waste time debating the past.

Let us act now to secure the future of freedom, Tom. We’ll leave the historical debates for some occasion when we can sit down together with cold beverages and each tell the other to his face how completely full of crap he is.

August 6, 2009

Libertarian Skinny-Dipping in Daytona: Hayekian Facts vs. ‘Journalism Ethics’

To the commenter who accused me of committing a “travesty of journalistic ethics”:

  • Your comment was rejected. If you want to run me down, do it on your own blog. Flame wars are good for traffic, but you do not have permission to use my bandwidth to malign me.
  • Ethics, shmethics. Truth may not be a journalist’s only duty, but it’s massively more important than whatever’s second most important. If I accurately report the facts, I’ve done my job — and just getting the facts right is hard enough.
I learned this as a sports writer. Simple question: If I’m covering a high-school baseball game, does accepting free food from the booster moms at the concession stand constitute a breach of “journalistic ethics”?

If so, then I kissed ethics good-bye in 1986. But I always got the final score right and you could probably count on one hand the times I committed the true “travesty” in small-town journalism: Misspelling a kid’s name. (Hey, when a kid’s mom calls you up to cuss you out, you remember a thing like that.)

Get the facts right, and how many free hot dogs you eat is your own business. Nobody cares about your opinion of the Calhoun High starting backfield — if this year is like most years, they’re a tad on the slow side — but you’ve got to accurately report the total rushing yardage. (Which, if this year is like most years, won’t be much.)

Because most journalists are Democrats, the political journalist who is not a Democrat tends to be viewed with disdain by the rest of the profession. I’m fine with that. But my political opinions — “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Bob Barr!” — are not a license for other people to give me lectures on “ethics.”

You Can Quote Me On That
“Ethics, schmethics,” as I told Bob Barr while we walked to the Fish On Fire seafood restaurant from the crappy fleabag hotel (“International Conference Center,” my foot) where the Libertarian Party held its March 2007 national conference of state party chairs.

Certainly, I was no less ethical than Dave Weigel, my co-panelist in the “How to Deal With Media” discussion, which was the purpose (or pretext, if you prefer) of our expense-paid junket to Orlando.

Our publications (Dave was then at Reason magazine) got exclusive coverage without having to pay for our travel, which is a pretty cool deal. Of course, under such an arrangement, you’re not going to do a rip-the-lid-off exposé — “Fear and Loathing in Orlando: A Savage and Decadent Saga of Libertarian Depravity” — but neither are you required to do a total puff piece.

In a universe of facts, not every fact can be reported, and what happens in Orlando stays in Orlando. That’s what I tried to explain to Bob Barr, afterI excused myself from dinner with the LP brain trust, went back to my hotel and returned with a stack of towels.

“You were serious?” said the former member of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Serious as a heart attack, Bob,” I answered, reiterating the plan I’d been discussing with the LP brain trust. “Look, it’s almost 10 o’clock now and it’s about an hour drive to Daytona Beach. We could stop by a fireworks store along the way, head to the beach, go skinny-dipping in the ocean, shoot off about $200 worth of fireworks — have some real fun!”

Did I mention that it was March? Spring break in Daytona, skinny-dipping in the Atlantic with the first member of Congress to bring charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors” against Bill Clinton — and that was before Lewinsky — man, what a story!

However, as I promised Bob, the Daytona expedition would remain strictly off-the-record. If the first three rules of journalism are “Accuracy, accuracy and accuracy,” then the fourth rule is: A good reporter never burns his sources.

So I can’t tell you whether or not the Libertarian Party brain trust took me up on that Daytona road-trip suggestion. (Don’t worry, Mrs. Barr. Bob was accompanied by a professional journalist the entire time. And I’ve got family values.)

However, I remind you of an important corollary to the Fourth Rule of Journalism: A good source never burns a reporter. When I call Bob Barr on his personal cell phone, he takes the call. IYKWIMAITYD.

Hayekian Journalism
This is the kind of keen journalistic insight necessary to advance from being a $4.50-an-hour staff writer for a 6,000-circulation weekly to become a top Hayekian public intellectual.

In a universe of facts, not every fact is sufficiently important to merit inclusion in a 700-word news story. Political news consumers in March 2007 were interested in the Libertarian Party’s prospects for . . . well, anything, really. When the Libertarians have nerds like George Phillies, stoners like Steve Kubby and fanatical purists like Mary Ruwart seeking the presidential nomination, and when the party’s 2008 convention requires six ballots to decide Barr is the better candidate, you can’t be blamed for wondering if they’re really serious about politics.

However remote the chance that the LP could influence the outcome of the 2008 election, serious political news consumers were interested in that stuff. Certainly, those readers had no interest in the trivial matter of whether, shortly after 11:30 p.m. on the evening of Saturday, March 17, 2007, Bob Barr and the Libertarian brain trust were cavorting nude with a half-dozen Purdue University coeds in the Atlantic surf of Daytona Beach.

That’s the kind of sleazy, sensational tabloid stuff that no serious political journalist would be interested in reporting. For less than $10,000.

Neither Confirm Nor Deny, Bob
Hey, I write for money — that’s what it means to be a professional, as opposed to an amateur clown like Dennis “Bozo” Zaki, who actually lied about being a CNN stringer. In the Hayekian universe of facts, a reporter must exercise judgment about which facts are important enough to include in a news story, but I wouldn’t knowingly publish a lie for any sum you could name.

Speculation about the sex lives of Republicans seems to be a full-time career for some people, but until there’s actual proof — a court document, an arrest report, a flight to Argentina — such gossip is no more newsworthy than baseless innuendo about whether Barr and the LP brain trust took me up on that Daytona road-trip plan.

If some “source” ever tells you over beers that, shortly before dawn on Sunday, March 18, 2007, Bob Barr was passed out nude in the back seat of a rented Chevy SUV, while the other members of the LP brain trust were so hopelessly hammered that they’d taken the desperate measure of agreeing to let me drive back to Orlando — well, in a circumstance like that, you’d be obligated to let Bob have a chance to give you an official denial before you’d even dream of reporting such potentially defamatory gossip.

(“No comment,” Bob. Neither confirm nor deny. This will be the most priceless “no comment” in the history of political journalism. And a good source never burns a reporter.)

Likewise with Todd and Sarah Palin. As far as I’m concerned, their love life is not news. But it gets mighty cold in Wasilla sometimes, and there’s a Phantom Fireworks Superstore a block south of Silver Beach Avenue in Daytona, so if the Palins ever want to get some advice from a savvy media professional . . .

Well, should anybody feel the urge to hit the tip jar, don’t fight the feeling. I’m a professional. I write for money. Photography? That’s just a hobby. IYKWIMAITYD.

February 4, 2009

Loyalty to losers

Be a political operative or be a journalist, but when you try to be both, don’t think we don’t notice:

NYT: Ex-Journalists New Jobs Fuel Debate on Favoritism

To which Jules Crittenden replies: “There’s a debate?” (Via Instapundit.) This is a subject dear to the hearts of conservatives and, indeed, is quite nearly the raison d’etre of the conservative blogosphere. As Rush Limbaugh says, the problem with talking about liberal bias in the media is that he could do 15 hours a week and not even begin to scratch the surface.

I complained during the campaign season about certain conservative pundits who worked for various GOP primary contenders, and/or for the McCain campaign, knowing (a) what the benefit was to them for having gone through that revolving door, (b) that they would return to punditry pretending that no transaction had taken place, and (c) that upon their return, most of their readers would discount the possibility that they might make another such transaction.

If you’ve watched this kind of revolving-door thing as closely as I have for as long as I have, you start keeping handy a supply of salt, since everything that most political journalists and pundits write must be viewed in light of the possibility that they’re angling for a campaign job, a speechwriter’s gig, or some other career perk from the politicians they cover.

One of the reasons I’m always throwing elbows and raising hell is to make it clear that I have no such ambitions — although if Bob Barr had won the White House, the Senate confirmation hearings for the ambassador-designate to Argentina would be the wildest thing ever broadcast on C-SPAN. (“Senator, I’m sorry, but I must once again assert my Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”) There were only 68.9 million votes and the threat of a bipartisan filibuster standing between me and $145K a year.

Am I objective about Bob Barr? Absolutely. Am I going to tell you everything I know about Bob Barr? Absolutely not. Why? Because nobody will pay me enough to screw Bob over like that. See, that’s the thing: The big money in the 30-pieces-of-silver racket is signing up with the winners, then screwing them over by selling to a book publisher the “insider exclusive” about a job the taxpayers already paid you to do once. Public service for private advantage. Nice work if you can get it.

I write for money, and loyalty to losers doesn’t pay anything, while betraying a winner can be very lucrative indeed. Betraying a loser — the vicious stuff that “McCain campaign officials” did to Sarah Palin — is an act so lowdown and cowardly that the only thing you might get in return is a politcal analyst job at CBS News. The “smart” thing to do as a political journalist is to keep your cards close to your chest until you think you’ve spotted the winner, then ass-kiss your way into a staff gig. But I’m too stupid to play that game, so the only politicians who ever want to hang out with me are the guaranteed sure-fire losers.

That probably explains why I so underestimated Michael Steele’s chances to win the RNC chairmanship, because he never seemed to mind hanging out with me. So if he is not going to say anything about that December 2006 meeting where I explained my brilliant plan for him to win the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary, then I am certainly willing to pretend that conversation never happened. And if somebody asks me if I’m just joking, well . . . what’s it worth to them

Nobody trusts a guy who kids around like that (ROTFLMAO!) which is just the way I like it. Far be it from me to act all serious and responsible while I talk my way into a White House job, then sign a fat contract with a division of Simon & Schuster to backstab the guy who trusted me with that serious responsibility.

No, I’m very proud to be regarded as an irresponsible clown, a loose cannon on the deck who might start randomly firing off truth at any moment. Just a greedy capitalist who’s only in it for the money, but because I’m honest about that — and there is nothing more honest than pure capitalism — I don’t worry much about silly stuff like “conflicts of interest.” I mean, there’s no way in hell that anything I ever say is going to be quoted anonymously in the New York Times with an attribution to “a senior administration official,” right?

It’s kind of funny how two-faced backstabbers get paid big bucks to sell out their patrons, while an honest capitalist has to scrap for every dime. It’s easier to be honest, if somewhat less lucrative, when you make it clear up front that you’re completely untrustworthy. No “smart” person would play it that way, but when I come home at night, my wife doesn’t ask, “So, honey, who did you sell out today?”

Better to be a valuable friend and a dangerous enemy than the other way around.

Indiscreet? Sometimes. But if I slip up and accidentally say the wrong thing to the wrong person, my friends can always say, “Aww, that guy’s crazy,” and nobody’s going to argue otherwise, least of all me. (Who knows when the insanity defense might come in handy? If only G. Gordon Liddy had thought of that possibility . . .) So my friends are guaranteed “plausible deniability” up front. Suppose, hypothetically, I were to say that the Libertarian Party National Convention reminded me of a Cheech & Chong movie, nobody could possibly take that kind of remark seriously, could they?

“Senator, on the advice of counsel, I regret that I must once against assert my Fifth Amendment right . . .”.

Damn. Buenos Aires is lovely this time of year.

November 4, 2008

Don’t Blame Me!

I voted for Bob Barr. Avoid the rush: Get your T-shirt now!

Also: Hoodies, tank tops, coffee mugs and more.

September 30, 2008

Libertarian populism (the column)

Monday’s blog post becomes Tuesday’s full-length column at The American Spectator:

Nobody seemed to notice when Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr adopted as his campaign slogan “Send Them a Message!” — the same outsider theme that animated George C. Wallace’s populist third-party run in 1968.
Leaving aside the vast political and historical distance between the late Alabama Democrat and the former Georgia Republican, Barr’s slogan clearly seeks to tap into an enduring populist conception of the government in Washington as a corrupt insider racket controlled by special interests, in which both Democrats and Republicans are out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans.
The defeat of the Wall Street bailout deal in the House yesterday was an amazing convergence between libertarian ideals and a resurgent populist sentiment. . . .

Please read the whole thing.

UPDATE: The column is linked today by Eric Dondero at Libertarian Republican, Tom Knapp (one of the “smelly libertarians” on the famous van ride to the LP convention in Denver) and the fabulously bewhiskered James Poulos.

September 29, 2008

Libertarian populism

I attended Friday’s event at Reason magazine’s DC office where Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr “debated” John McCain and Barack Obama. Barr viciously mocked the proposed bailout as a boondoggle: “The bailout plan, anyway you slice it, is a bad idea for America.” In doing so, Barr aligned himself with the firestorm of grassroots opposition to the bill — congressional staffers report that their phones are ringing off the hook and practically all the calls are from bailout opponents.

FreedomWorks — the free-market think tank led by Barr’s former GOP House colleague Dick Armey — has a list of “Ten Reasons to Oppose the Wall Street Bailout.” With Big Government coming to the rescue of Big Business, the bailout presents one of those rare occasions when libertarians find themselves handed an issue with widespread populist appeal.

Here’s video of Friday post-debate Q&A with Reason editor Matt Welch, in which Barr addresses foreign policy, the bailout and Ron Paul’s recent endorsement of Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin:

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

September 23, 2008

Ron Paul endorses . . . who?

This is odd news. Ron Paul decides to catch the last train to kookville. Why? Apparently in revenge because Bob Barr snubbed Paul’s recent “anybody-but-McCain-or-Obama” press conference.

What’s more discouraging than Paul’s fit of pique is the idiotic anti-political behavior of Paul’s supporters. Back when the Barr campaign for the Libertarian nomination was taking flight, it seemed logical to expect that the Paulistas would climb aboard the Barr bandwagon. There were lots of rumors to that effect in May, and indeed many former Paul supporters did join the Barr campaign.

Paul basically pulled the plug on his GOP campaign in February, but kept Barr at arm’s length, apparently because Paul wanted to satisfy his more rabid supporters, who seemed chiefly interested in making a protest at the Republican convention. (I suspect it may be relevant to all this that Barr refused to associate himself with the anti-Semitic kook fringe types who had embarrassed Paul.)

If Paul had endorsed Barr in May, when the media was all over the Libertarian threat, it would have made all the difference in the world. Paul’s endorsement of Chuck Baldwin in late September — when the media is fully absorbed in the Obama-McCain battle — is barely a pebble in a pond.

This is a sad way for Paul to end a campaign that once inspired a lot of young libertarians and anti-war conservatives. Last fall, I went with an intern to cover a Ron Paul event at the Boulevard Wood Grill in Arlington, and that room was on fire with enthusiasm from 20-something and 30-something activists. Seeing it all come down to a fizzle like this — well, it’s just sad.

August 18, 2008

Bob, was this necessary?

Bob Barr:

“The most difficult thing about politics is dealing with people with really bad breath.”

Look, man, why don’t you come right out and say it? Just because I haven’t given you any good coverage lately, did you have to get all personal like that? In the Washington Post?

There are pictures, Bob. Pictures. Maybe a little of that PAC money for some dental work would help with the halitosis, OK? Bill it as “issues research,” and you’ll get a nice policy paper: “Free Market Approaches to Dental Care: Extortion as Insurance.”

Gee, you try to help a guy and this is the thanks you get . . .

August 15, 2008

Barring Barr in Boston

Jim Antle chronicles how Massachusetts Libertarian Party chairman George Phillies — who placed fifth in the “Dogfight in Denver” — appears to be conniving to keep LP presidential nominee Bob Barr off the ballot in the Bay State:

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit last week to help get Barr a place on the ballot. Unfortunately, the intransigence of state election officials has been compounded by mixed messaging by some supporters of the ACLU lawsuit – especially Phillies himself.
Almost immediately after Barr secured the nomination, Phillies told Reason magazine that the Massachusetts Libertarians might hold a state convention to nominate a separate candidate. “Nominating this man,” he is quoted as saying of Barr, “is the equivalent of nominating an Imperial Wizard of the KKK to lead a party of African-Americans.” He repeated a variation of this statement on the state party’s website shortly afterward.

Phillies and certain other hard-core LP activists basically resent the effort of Barr’s supporters to expand the Libertarian Party beyond its current status as a philosophical debating society and make it a party of major political significance.

This has been an internal tension within the LP almost from the outset, as Brian Doherty explained in Radicals for Capitalism. The “libertarian” label has, unfortunately, attracted a number of fringe flakes who don’t seem much interested in mainstream free-market ideology — deregulation, low taxes, reduction of government bureaucracy — but who are passionate about, inter alia, gay rights and drug legalization.

This drift has resulted in the party becoming a sort of Geek Club whose members take turns nominating each other for state and local offices they don’t stand a chance of winning, and then staging quadrennial “More Libertarian Than Thou” contests for their national conventions.

At a time when the Republican Party appears to have forsaken its Goldwater/Reagan message of limited government, one might expect the LP to be scooping up huge contributions and winning over voters disgusted by the GOP’s abandonment of principle. Yet as the situation with Barr illustrates, when disillusioned Republicans approach the LP, they inevitably find themselves confronted by the Geek Club contingent, whose worst fear is that their private debating society will be taken over by people who aim to actually win elections.

July 29, 2008

Barr slams Obama’s plan to make taxpayers fund health care for illegals

“Free” health care for 12 million illegals? Obama has promised to “give health insurance to 47 million Americans who are now without coverage,” Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr says:

Of course, “Sen. Obama doesn’t plan on giving them coverage. He plans on making the taxpayers give them coverage. There’s a big difference,” notes Barr.
But there’s an even more fundamental issue. Approximately one-quarter of those persons who are uninsured are in America illegally.
“It’s not fair to expect U.S. taxpayers to pay for health insurance for the citizens of another nation. America’s bloated welfare state is expensive enough, and even after recent reforms it still creates a disincentive to work. Handing out insurance to people who have come to America illegally will encourage even greater illegal immigration,” Barr explains. “And that, in turn, will push up government health care expenditures, creating a vicious cycle of more and more spending and more and more illegal immigration.”
Barr argues that the federal government “should move in the other direction. It must stop requiring hospital emergency rooms to provide free care for illegal aliens and the courts must stop forcing states to provide free schooling for the children of illegal aliens. This means changing the law and perhaps even the Constitution, but until we do so the government will continue to create a taxpayer-funded draw for illegal immigration,” says Barr.

Wonder if John McCain agrees with Barr or with Obama? Somebody should ask Juan Hernandez to tell McCain what his opinon is on this issue.