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From St. Paul to Ron Paul

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September 11, 2008

The first time I ever voted in a Presidential election was when I decided to vote for the Libertarian candidate, Roger MacBride.  I agreed with the principles of the Libertarian Party.  They had good writers, putting their message together in a way that could gain the enthusiasm of those not electrified by “Oatmeal Man” Gerald Ford, or by the tranquil Jimmy Carter.  Although they have not managed to get many charismatic candidates to act as their standard-bearers, the Libertarians finally have one this year.  Bob Barr served in Congress as the Representative for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District from 1995 to 2003.  In Congress, he served as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, as a member of the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs.  Although he was a harshly partisan antagonist of Bill Clinton during the impeachment promotion, he subsequently took on a relaxed, charming demeanor, winning over the usually “cold room” for conservatives on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.  In 2004, he left the Republican Party to join the Libertarian Party.

Bob Barr is now running for President, as the candidate of the Libertarian Party.  In 1988, Ron Paul was the Libertarian Party’s Presidential candidate.  You may remember Ron Paul from the 2008 Republican primaries, occasionally beating Rudy Giuliani and the other “also-rans” of this past spring.

On September 10, Barr’s campaign manager, Bob Varney, issued a press release, disclosing that Bob Barr has invited GOP Congressman Ron Paul to be his running mate in the upcoming Presidential election.  The press release disclosed that:

In a letter sent to Paul, Barr called Paul one of the “few American patriots” who exist in today’s society, and asked him to “seriously consider this final offer as an opportunity to show true, lasting leadership beyond party politics”.

Wayne Allyn Root, who has been Barr’s running mate in this election, was quoted in the press release as expressing support for the selection of Ron Paul as Barr’s new running mate:

Understanding Dr. Ron Paul’s reputation and name recognition in the freedom movement, I am willing to step aside as Libertarian vice presidential candidate if he would be willing to take my place.  I will pledge to work day and night, just as I have as the vice presidential nominee, to support Dr. Paul.  I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for the Libertarian and freedom movements.  I encourage Dr. Paul to accept Congressman Barr’s offer.

Many might consider this entire idea as the daydream of some “fringe” political group.  Nevertheless, you may want to look down the road (as the Libertarians obviously are) to a scenario wherein Sarah Palin, for whatever reason, alienates the centrist Republicans and independents, who may have otherwise voted for McCain.  These people might then vote for Bob Barr.  Add to the mix, those not currently enthusiastic about a McCain Presidency, who just can’t get motivated to vote for Barack Obama (for whatever reason).  With Ron Paul on his ticket, Barr has the possibility of winning enough electoral votes to prevent McCain or Obama from winning a majority of Electors as a result of the general election, in the event that “wild card” Palin turns out to be a disaster.  If that happens and no single candidate has a majority of Electors in the Electoral College, the Twelfth Amendment requires that the Presidential election shall be decided in the House of Representatives.  Since Bob Barr and Ron Paul both served in the House, unlike Barack Obama, there is a chance that Barr could win the Presidency.  The mere fact that the Democrats have a majority in the House is of no consequence.   The Twelfth Amendment requires that each State shall vote in the House as a single delegation, with each State having only one vote.  That vote would be determined by the majority of a State’s Representatives voting for a particular candidate.  He who has 26 States, wins.  (The Vice-President is elected by the Senate, making a  McCain/Paul administration  possible.)  With Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate, a Barr/Paul Libertarian ticket could get some breathing room.  If there is enough breath to carry that ticket out of the Electoral College, we could be in for some wild times.

Night Of The Glow Stick

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The hour is quickly approaching when Barack Obama will announce his running mate.  Most political commentators expect John McCain to take his time in making his own decision, since the Republican Convention takes place after the Democratic event.  Some believe that Obama’s choice might impact the decision McCain will make in selecting his own, would-be VP.  My theory is that McCain’s primary concern is to avoid selecting anyone taller than himself.  The McCain camp has made a point of limiting his traveling companions to Senator Lindsey Graham and Joe “The Tool” Lieberman.  Both of these men stand at approximately the same height as McCain.  Since “The Tool” is not really a Republican and, worse yet, was Al Gore’s “kiss of death” running mate, I have my money riding on South Carolina Seantor Graham.

As for Obama’s choice, the rumors have it that the Democratic candidate has narrowed the field down to a final three:  Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and Delaware Senator Joe “Glow Stick” Biden.  Early enthusiasm about Governor Kaine began to fade, as critics focused on a “lack of national security experience”.  Once the attention turned to Evan Bayh, there was an outpouring of disgust that a co-sponsor of the Joint Resolution for the Use of Military Force in Iraq would be considered as a viable choice for the VP slot.  Activist Steve Clemons was one of those leading the charge against the selection of Bayh, with his plea that those opposed to Bayh should communicate their opinions to the Obama campaign.  Clemons now reports from his blog, The Washington Note, that his sources from within the Obama campaign have informed him that the “surge of concern” expressed on the Internet about Bayh, has pushed the Indiana Senator out of contention.  As a result, the last of those three, still believed to be standing, is “Glow Stick” Biden.

You may recall Biden’s earlier efforts in the current Presidential campaign.  Immediately after his one-percent showing in the Iowa caucuses, he dropped out of the race and allowed his hair plugs to return to their naturally-white color.  His January 31, 2007 remark, characterizing Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” became a celebrated gaffe.  That remark confirmed the longstanding diagnosis of his Cerebral Flatulence Disorder  — too many “brain farts”.  This disorder had become apparent during his 1988 bid for the Presidency, when he claimed, in a speech, that his father had worked as a coal miner.  Reporters easily refuted this claim with uncontroverted evidence that, in fact, his father had managed a car dealership.

In 2002, Biden introduced the controversial Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act, also known as the “RAVE Act”.  A notable aspect of this failed piece of legislation was its provision outlawing the use of “glow sticks” which had become popular at “rave” parties and nightclubs.  Perhaps Biden’s sense of cause-and-effect had become altered to the point where he believed that the use of glow sticks was actually causing young people to use the drug, known as “Ecstasy”, at these events.  The absurdity of this proposal motivated Glenn Reynolds from (of all places) Fox News to write an article called “Raving Lunacy” on July 25, 2002.  It is indeed difficult to understand how an individual, who had served as an adjunct professor of Constitutional Law at Widener University Law School, would see no First Amendment problem with this incursion on the rights of glow stick aficionados to express themselves.  I was reminded of that fiasco while watching the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics on August 8.  I could not overlook the irony that in the Communist police state, we saw approximately eighty per cent of the 90,000 people sitting in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, waving glow sticks in accordance with the program created by director Zhang Yimou.  I could not help but wonder what Joe Biden thought of this.  If only China had its own counterpart for him – perhaps a Security Enforcer named Cho Bai Den, storming through the Olympic stadium yelling: “No grow stick!”  .  .  .

With Senator Biden on his way to Tbilisi, Georgia, as Obama’s surrogate to offset the efforts of McCain’s Lieberman-Graham duo, we see him emerging as an apparent choice for an important cabinet position in an Obama Administration.  Should he find himself standing before the crowd in Denver’s Pepsi Center as Obama’s Vice-Presidential nominee on August 27 – there could be only one appropriate way for the audience to celebrate:  by waving glow sticks.

Bob Barr Gets It Going

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July 24, 2008

Libertarian Party Presidential candidate, Bob Barr, turned some heads when the July 6 Zogby Poll had him capturing 6% of the nationwide popular vote.  Given the fact that Barr has received almost no national media attention, some commentators began to take notice of this interesting candidacy.   Of particular concern is Barr’s impact on the races in those “battleground” states that draw attention in polls.  Conservative blogger, Kevin Tracy, has complained that the poll results listed on RealClearPolitics.com, do not disclose Barr’s numbers.  As for the “battleground” states, Zogby has Barr with 8% of the vote in Colorado, 7% of the vote in Ohio, 7% of the vote in McCain’s home state of Arizona, and 6% of the vote in Florida.  A July 22 Rasmussen Poll had Barr getting 5% of the vote in Georgia, in contrast with the July 8 Zogby result of 8% for Georgia.  MSNBC’s polling expert, Chuck Todd, reported that the July 23 MSNBC/Wall Street Journal poll results showing Barr with only 2% have a much greater margin of error than the results for a two-way race because only a “half-sample” was used for the four-way race that included Barr and Ralph Nader.  He suspected that a full sample would likely indicate a larger number for Barr.

So far, Barr is on the ballot in 31 states.  He has a fight underway to get on the ballot in West Virginia.  In Ohio, Federal Judge Edmund Sargus, Jr. held that the Ohio state Legislature failed to revise ballot rules after they were struck down as unconstitutional in 2006 by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner (a Democrat) is seeking an expedited appeal.  Of course, the court hearing her appeal will again be the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, so a victory for Barr seems likely there, as well.

Barr has an interesting background that makes him well-suited for the Presidency at this time.  To start with, in 1966, he graduated from High School in Tehran, Iran.  In 1970 he received his Bachelor’s Degree, cum laude, from the University of Southern California.  He received a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from George Washington University in 1972.  He received his law degree from Georgetown in 1977.  During that time (1971 – 1978) Barr was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency.  Barr served in Congress as the Representative for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District from 1995 to 2003.  In Congress, he served as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, as a member of the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs.

Despite the lack of media attention, he is running a clever campaign.  On July 19, he made a surprise appearance at the Netroots Nation blogger conference, stealing a bit of attention from the “surprise” visit by Al Gore.  On July 22, while John McCain was visiting Manchester, New Hampshire, he drew a bit of attention away from McCain’s visit to that city by appearing there himself.  Mark Hayward of the New Hampshire Union Leader, reported on July 23 that Barr spent a good deal of time at a stop in Manchester, “explaining his disappointments with the way the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act turned out.”   Barr voted in favor of both the Patriot Act and the Joint Resolution for the Use of Military Force in Iraq.  Although Barr is not yet on the ballot in New Hampshire, the Zogby Poll has him at 10 percent in that state.

As the campaign progresses, it will be interesting to observe where Barr gets his support.  MSNBC’s Chuck Todd pointed out that there is a component of “anti-Obama” voters among Barr’s supporters.  Whether this comes from racism, belief in the “secret Muslim” rumors, or a perceived lack of experience, will make for an interesting study.  It would also be interesting to ascertain whether any Obama supporters shifted their allegiance to Barr as a result of Obama’s vote in favor of the FISA “wiretap” bill.  Polls taken in the wake of that vote (July 11 Newsweek and July 13 Rasmussen) showed Obama’s support among independent voters dropping significantly.  Did they see Obama’s compromise on this issue as a lack of authenticity?

For now, Barr’s candidacy is perceived primarily as a threat to John McCain.  As Faye Fiore reported in the July 23 Los Angeles Times:

Barr is regularly compared to Ralph Nader, the Green Party spoiler who drew crucial votes from Democrat Al Gore in 2000.  Worried McCain supporters have begged Barr to drop out. The renegade responds with his famous bespectacled glare, referring to himself in the third person, as is his habit:  “The GOP has no agenda, no platform and a candidate who generates no excitement.  That’s not Bob Barr’s fault.”

When confronted about being a McCain “spoiler” during the July 6 edition of CNN Newsroom, Barr responded:

This is precisely the problem with the two-party system that we have here. They are always looking for someone to blame, other than themselves.

.  .  .  This preemptive blaming doesn’t do either party very well.   It’s an awfully weak position for the McCain campaign and the Republicans to be in months out from the election, already blaming me for their loss.

It will be interesting to watch what the pollsters can learn from Barr’s candidacy.  As Barr gets more publicity, his popularity is likely to increase.  If he can make it to 10 percent in a nationwide poll, he will be invited to participate in some of the debates.  That would be very interesting.