Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Pre-Congressional Campaign Bob Barr Interview

Bob Barr is running in the Republican Primary for U.S. Congress in Georgia's 11th Congressional District.  Below is a transcript of an interview Proof Negative and I did with Barr on August 7, 2012, on The Proof Negative Show at The interview covers several topics: Barr's endorsement of Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary in 2012, the trouble with 3rd Party political campaigns generally and Gary Johnson's campaign as the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in specific, and some other ancillary issues like Iran, UN Arms Trade Treaty, the Patriot Act, the NDAA, and domestic drone use. You can learn more about Barr's Congressional run here

Some may look at Barr's run for president in 2008 under the Libertarian Party's banner and presume Barr must be 'Liberty'. This interview will likely shock those people. Those who've been paying attention, however, will not be surprised when Barr touts people like Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels and Rob Portman as possible VP nominees, or when Barr explains why he favors Iran sanctions.

Barr does manage to propose some big ideas about suing the TSA to disclose some of its operations and protecting habeas corpus by ending some FISA court abuses. Where I think Barr fails is in his belief that regular Republican Party Establishment insiders have the political will to defend civil liberties. Most don't.

The Proof Negative Show, even though it's a news show, is more hyperbolic than my old radio show. I hope no one faults Barr for going along with Proof's more conspiratorial line of questioning. I thought Barr handled it professionally. I also thought Barr made a salient point about the purpose of political parties: to win elections and change policies, not just debate.

It became obvious to me while transcribing this year-old interview with Barr that even long-serving political leaders don't understand how to answer questions to appeal to a growing base of liberty-minded people. If you plan to have a future career in politics you need to understand what the liberty-minded expect to hear you say. If you don't know what that is, you will struggle. If you need help because, for reasons of principle, you truly want to attract that demographic, I am willing to help you.


[00:21:25]Proof Negative [Proof]: And of course, as everybody knows, he was the 2008 Libertarian Party candidate for president, former federal prosecutor, he spent a lot of time at the House of Representatives in Georgia... well, Bob Barr, it's a pleasure to meet you.

[00:21:40] Bob Barr [BB]: It's a pleasure being with you. I'm sorry I had a little bit of trouble calling in there, but good to be with you and your listeners.

Proof: You made it. You made it.

BB: Yep.

Proof: So I wanted to ask you here, first off, I wanted to get your opinion of the UN small arms treaty, because I know that you, you serve on the board for the NRA, and I just feel as though part of what stalled the UN small arms treaty was that they don't want states to decide that their rights supersede the United Nations'.

[00:22:12]BB: The small arms treaty, or as its officially known the ATT, the Arms Trade Treaty, is something that Americans should never accept and should be very, very wary of whatever they call it because it would, as you've indicated, it would in very large measure deal not so much with international transfers of illicit firearms, which is what they advertise as the primary purpose of it, but it would lead to various registries and restrictions on internal, that is domestic, transfers and registration of firearms. We were lucky that we sort of dodged the bullet so to speak last month when they could not reach agreement, but the UN never gives up on these sorts of things, and they will keep trying and trying and trying to get it through. So it will come up again as soon, perhaps, as the general assembly meeting September in New York.

Proof: Right. So let me ask you, Bob, is the goal to get... obviously the goal is to disarm all American citizens, but is this an incremental process or is it just one day we're gun owners, the second day it doesn't matter what kind of gun you own it's going to be illegal?

[00:23:37]BB: No. They understand the realities of the world the Chuck Schumers and the Carolyn McCarthies and the other... Diane Feinsteins in the Senate and the U.S. Congress the same way they understand if they went out and they said, "OK, we're going to ban firearms or ban ammunition," they know that they would lose. They've learned over the years that the best way to do is to do it very carefully, very incrementally, and couch what you're doing not in terms of gun ban or gun control or ammunition control but something very different. 

They seized, as you'll recall 12 years ago, on this notion of assault weapons, so-called assault weapons. They'll use terms like that and what the UN uses is the term the illicit trafficking in firearms, the illicit international trafficking in firearms. But of course they know and many Americans do not realize that in order to control the illicit trafficking in firearms, which, in my view, is not the job of the UN in the first place. In order to do that you have to necessarily set up some system of domestic, national registration. They will do it very carefully, incrementally.

Proof: All right now, Valerie, I know you were screening a call a second ago, so we were discussing the small arms treaty just to keep you up to date. [silence] Oh, I thought you were here. Ok.

Valerie Sargent Martin [VSM]: I'm sorry about that, Proof.

Proof: There you are.

VSM: The switchboard's slow tonight, yeah. Thank you, Bob Barr, for joining us tonight. I really appreciate that. Exciting to have you on the show. You've been on a lot of important projects both as a Republican and as a Libertarian. I wanted to kind of get your thoughts on the current presidential race and maybe have you handicap it for us and tell us what you think about what you've seen so far in the election cycle.

[00:25:49]BB: I'd be glad to but I'd also be glad to hear what you and your listeners think about it. I mean, you're certainly in touch with many, many thousands of listeners and people across the country.

My view is that ultimately on Election Day Obama will lose very decisively. I don't think that the recent polls that indicate that the election is very close, sort of going back and forth by a couple of percentage points, to me that doesn't mean anything because the vast majority of Americans, contrary to those of us on this call and your listeners who pay attention all the time to these things, the vast majority of Americans don't. And they won't focus on the election truly until the last few or several weeks before the November elections. So these early polls don't mean anything.

But the way I look at it President Obama… he, he will keep the core liberal democrat vote. The problem is I don't think he will excite his base and I don't think that he will gain the independent vote that he gained last time. The big question mark is to what extent will Romney be able to pick up that independent vote. Romney does not so far indicate or illustrate an ability to excite the independents, but when push comes to shove in the fall I think the majority of the voting public will recognize that this president has failed utterly to fulfill his promises that he made four years ago, that he has not done what he says he would do, and at least be willing to give Romney a chance. So I think Romney will win almost despite himself.

Proof: Right. So let me ask you then, do you feel as though the Romney vote is more of an anti-Obama vote, or is this a pro-Romney vote?

BB: I think it's a little bit of both, but probably more an anti-Obama vote than anything else because this President has done such a miserable job following through on his promises. Now in many respects I'm certainly glad he hasn't followed through on his promises because his promises are all Big Government. But for his base, for the Democrats out there, they are very disappointed and that will show up on election day with him.

Proof: And what do you think is a good, attainable goal for your 'brethren in crime' there? Well, maybe not 'crime,' but anyway, Libertarian [Party presidential nominee] Gary Johnson. What would be a good goal for him?

[00:28:40]BB: I like Gary very much. I first met Gary back in the mid-1990s when I first served in the Congress. We were at that time on different sides of the drug issue, but I always enjoyed debating him, I enjoyed talking with him, he's a very decent human being, he knows what he's talking about, he marshals the facts, he's a very, very solid candidate. And Judge Gray, who is his running mate, is as well. The Libertarians have a very solid ticket this time in Johnson/Gray.

The problem of course, the primary problem, remains for Gary and Judge Johnson [sic] same as for myself and Wayne Allen Root four years ago is money and organization. It is extremely difficult to buck the tide the way the laws nationally and the various states have been set up that make it much, much easier for the Democrats and the Republicans to organize themselves and raise money than for Libertarians. The real problem that Gary will face is simply having the resources to get his message out. But I think he'll run a very solid race. It will be very difficult to get into the debates because they simply, 'they' being the two major parties and the media, they like to keep it an exclusive club with just the two parties. Unfortunately I don't think he'll get into the debates which would really make for an interesting race.

VSM: Yeah. Can we talk about that for just a minute? Because supposedly if Gary polls 15% as the Libertarian candidate, or third party candidate, then the two major parties are supposed to be willing to participate in major national debates. It seems like Rasmussen and some of the other polling companies refuse to include Gary in their polling questions, so it's not really possible for him to get that 15%. What do you think about that?

[00:30:57]BB: It's very unfortunately and it's extremely unfair and the American people ought to demand that if they're going to set an arbitrary figure like 15%, which I think is unrealistically high given the lock on electoral politics that the Democrats and the Republicans have, but whatever that number is it needs to be a number that can be arrived at fairly and it's not.

The two major parties and the media basically decide who they're going to poll, when they're going to poll them, so they don't include Bob Barr, or, in this election cycle, Gary Johnson, and many of the polling questions so of course they're not going to… he's not going to poll well enough. It's something the America people ought not to stand for.

Proof: Right. And I'm sure you ran into that buzz saw yourself four years ago. Were you close to getting into any of those debates on TV?

[00:32:07]BB: No. We really weren't. Early on in the '08 campaign, shortly after the Libertarian National Convention -- which four years ago was held in Denver -- some polls indicated that we were doing 10, I think maybe even 12% in a couple of states, but we simply didn't have the financial horsepower to sustain that. I hope that Gary will have better resources so that maybe he can. But here again the only person in recent decades that has been able to meet the criteria that is established by the two major parties, and that is this arbitrary 15% polling, was Ross Perot and that was due largely to the fact that he had a large amount of his personal wealth that he was willing to put into that race. I certainly don't have that, and did not have that wealth, and Gary doesn't either. So, you know, third parties really operate at a distinct disadvantage in terms of both money, and the way the system is gamed against any third party.

VSM: So, Bob, with that in mind, is that your pragmatism about his chances? Is that why you didn't come out and endorse Gary and instead chose to endorse Mitt Romney?