Statements made by political parties, especially around the time of their nominating conventions are, necessarily, suspect.
So what should we make of the Libertarian Party’s latest pronouncement?
Noting the nomination of former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr as the party’s 2008 presidential candidate, the Libertarians declare: “Republicans and Democrats have good reason to fear a candidate like Barr, who refuses to accept the ‘business-as-usual’ attitude of the current political establishment.”
Republicans, especially, fear Barr.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a fellow Georgian who never got on with Barr, says, “Bob Barr will make it marginally easier for Barack Obama to become president. That outcome threatens every libertarian value Barr professes to champion.”
The conservative Washington Times goes further, suggesting that, “Republicans, both publicly and behind the scenes, are saying that a Barr run could… sink Mr. McCain’s Republican candidacy in the general election.”
This may be the case.
But the key word here is “may.”
The extent to which Barr poses a real threat will depend on the sort of campaign he mounts. At this point, even Libertarians remain unsure of what to expect from their new nominee — and relatively new party member. (It was only after the 2006 elections that Barr officially left the GOP for the Libertarian fold.)
To be sure, a former congressman with a fiery speaking style, some maverick credentials and the ability to attract a crowd is a catch for a small party that has struggled in recent years to gain the attention and presidential votes that it seemed to be better at winning a quarter century ago. (The party’s record-high national vote up to this point came in 1980, when nominee Ed Clark took almost a million votes and more than one percent of the total turnout.)
Barr is more prominent than recent Libertarian nominees. In fact, he is a good deal better known as he accepts the party’s designation this year than the previous Republican congressman turned Libertarian nominee, a fellow named Ron Paul, was at the time of his 1988 run on the Libertarian line.
Barr is not without some libertarian — or, at the least, constitutional — credentials. Toward the end of his tenure in the House, when he joined California Democrat Maxine Waters in challenging the worst excesses of the Patriot Act, Barr showed a willingness to break with both big parties on some important civil liberties issues.