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Posted by on May 13, 2008 in Politics | 1 comment

The GOP and that “whacky” Bob Barr

A new column from the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank provides a glimpse into the reception upstart Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr can expect from the Republican party. He points out a number of the highlights of previous Barr appearances which will provide rich fodder for the candidate’s opponents, the media and late night television. These include:

    – Licking whipped cream off the breasts of two women at a charity event
    – Accidentally firing a .38-caliber pistol through a glass door at a fundraiser
    – A humiliating appearance in the film “Borat”

These will likely be taken as major gaffes in a season when politicians are being excoriated for things such as comments made by their former pastor, “misremembering” a landing in Kosovo more than a decade earlier, or mixing up their Shiites and Sunnis during a speech on Iraq. Barr added more fuel to the comedy fire during his election announcement by performing some linguistic gymnastics fit to make George W. Bush proud.

He listed his grievances: government eavesdropping, suspending habeas corpus, runaway spending. Americans “deserve better,” he said. “I believe they deserve better. And the Libertarian Party deserves they believe better.”

Deserves they believe better?

Still, Barr has his supporters, potentially including many of the GOP faithful who feel (as does Mr. Barr) that Senator McCain simply is not a true conservative.

He ridiculed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which, he said, means McCain “cannot ever lay legitimate claim, at least with a straight face, to . . . being labeled as a conservative.”

If this makes Barr a spoiler, he doesn’t seem to mind. “I daresay that those people who would be inclined . . . to vote for Bob Barr as president would not likely fall into the category of people who would be enthused about voting for John McCain — if such exists,” he said with relish.

While jokes will doubtless be made in an attempt to portray Barr as not being a serious candidate, some Republicans have taken the threat to heart, pleading with Barr not to run.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told The Times yesterday that “Bob Barr will make it marginally easier for Barack Obama to become president. That outcome threatens every libertarian value Barr professes to champion.”

Barr’s hard core, small government, fiscal conservative record, combined with his unwavering pro-life positions may well attract some disenchanted conservatives, many of whom still dismissively refer to the presumptive GOP nominee as “Juan McCain” in private. Of course, his position on the Iraq war may well scare off a number of those supporters, while attracting the more Libertarian inclined Ron Paul supporters in the fall. Will he have an impact? It may be tempting to say no, at least until we remember the effect Ross Perot had on the GOP in 1992. There is also the lesson of Ralph Nader who scored roughly 100,000 votes in Florida during the 2000 election, where George W. Bush was awarded the state with a 577 vote margin of victory.

Stay tuned. The 2008 political season has just had a bit more sauce poured on the goose.

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