Bob Barr Insists He's Seen the Light

Libertarian candidate for President Bob Barr has written his first post at Huffington Post. He says he was wrong about the war on drugs. He now realizes it has been a failure.

I'll admit it, just five years ago I was "Public Enemy Number 1" in the eyes of the Libertarian Party. In my 2002 congressional race for Georgia's Seventh District, the Libertarian Party ran scathing attack ads against my stand on Medical Marijuana.

....For years, I served as a federal prosecutor and member of the House of Representatives defending the federal pursuit of the drug prohibition.

Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I'll even argue that America's drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, "War on Drugs," in 1972.


The result of spending all of those taxpayer's dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs. We are also now plagued with the meth labs that are popping up like poisonous mushrooms across the country.

His solution?

We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems.

Taking a page from the WWF, he says wellness programs are the answer:

...rehabilitation, testing and even anonymous help lines

Barr also endorses employee drug testing.

While there may be some employees of the organization who may not like random drug tests or being thrown on a treadmill for an EKG, they have the choice of finding a new employer.

Still the same strident Bob Barr. And, while he sounds like he's reformed as to the punishment for drug users, what about those that sell drugs? He used to support the death penalty for drug traffickers. Is he now opposed to the mandatory minimums and double-digit to life sentences he used to support for them?

Here's Barr in 2000 on the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity:

The substances are, in fact, very different, and my experience both as a former U.S. attorney working very closely with federal, state and local law enforcement officers and staying in very close contact with them as a member of the Judiciary Committee is that these officers have no racial ax to grind. They go where the drugs are and they prosecute them without regard to race, and you cannot show anything other than these bald statistics to support your proposition.

Then he denies there is a racial disparity in sentencing in America:

KING: You're not saying -- Bob Barr, you're not saying the playing field is level, are you, in this country?

BARR: I'm saying the playing field is level. What we're getting...

KING: It is?

BARR: Yes, it is. What we are getting off on here is a bogus distinction or a bogus impression that we are talking about the same substance. These substances are very different, Larry.

KING: So it is -- but, no, the essence of crime though, Bob, is you're saying that if a black man and a white man walk into a courtroom they are treated identically in America?

BARR: In my experience as a U.S. attorney and a member of the Judiciary Committee -- and we hear from all sorts of people, including mothers in the inner city of all different races.

KING: And the treatment is identical? In other words, you see one and the other, you're colorblind?

BARR: Absolutely.

KING: And the law is colorblind? BARR: Absolutely, it is, Larry, and in particular with federal law, where you have sentencing guidelines that ensure that it is colorblind.

Here's Barr exactly one year ago still pushing more U.S. funds to fight the drug war in Colombia:

Recognizing Colombia's essential role in our country's campaign against illicit trafficking in cocaine, the Bush administration and prior Congresses have responded to Mr. Uribe's efforts by funding "Plan Colombia" to the tune over its seven-year lifespan of more than $5.0 billion. While critics interpret the fact that Colombian-processed cocaine stills arrives in our country as evidence Plan Colombia should be defunded or dramatically reduced, in reality this support for Colombia's efforts will continue as an essential component of our anti-drug program. If Congress truly wants the plan work better, the solution would be not to dry up funding but to provide more flexibility for its implementation.

Here's what I wrote about Bob Barr in 2002. I wish I could say he's convinced me he's changed, but I can't trust that he has. Not after a record like this:

  • Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons. (Jun 2000)
  • Voted YES on more prosecution and sentencing for juvenile crime. (Jun 1999)
  • Voted NO on maintaining right of habeas corpus in Death Penalty Appeals. (Mar 1996)
  • Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder. (Feb 1995)
  • More prisons, more enforcement, effective death penalty. (Sep 1994)

Question for Mr. Barr: What should the penalty be for someone involved with a meth lab? What about a second or third time offender? What if he's from Mexico? Would you support life in prison or the death penalty in any of these instances, and if not, why not?

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  • Display: Sort:
    Bob Barr, Tammy Baldwin, and me (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:25:44 PM EST
    In the Fall of 2000, I was working to kill Censorship and "Secret Search Warrant" provisions of the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act which had unanimously cleared the Senate, and was pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

    I first persuaded my Rep, Tammy Baldwin, a Committee member to remove the Bill from the Consent Calendar, putting it on the non-expedited review track.

    Next stops were the Libertarian and Firearms boards, where I pointed out that the Secret Search provisions would impact firearms as well as drug investigations, and the censorship provisions provided a structure which, under a future Democratic Congress, could be applied to restrict discussion of firearms.

    A week later, Tammy was back in Madison, and asked "Ben, How did you get Bob Barr to call me?" It seems that thru the first 3 years of their service on the Judiciary Committee, he'd rebuffed all her efforts to engage him outside formal session, going so far as to turn his back when she'd try to approach him in the hallway, due to her sexual orientation.

    The objectionable provisions were stripped, the bill passed without them. Baldwin and Barr became friends, joined in a not very successful rearguard effort to amend Patriot.

    That's a good story (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:34:57 PM EST
    I'm from GA (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by jb64 on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:01:29 PM EST
    He will not put a dent in McCain's vote totals here.

    maybe this is nominee bounce? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Josey on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:26:00 PM EST
    Rasmussen, GA, 6/4
    Likely voters. MoE 4% (5/6 results)

    McCain (R) 51 (53)
    Obama (D) 41 (39)
    Other 6 (11)


    might be (none / 0) (#16)
    by jb64 on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:29:52 PM EST
    i suspect that'll be pretty close to the final tally, and it doesn't have much to do with Barr.

    Nothing wrong with a little optimism though


    I am too (none / 0) (#23)
    by Claw on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:56:26 PM EST
    And I think he will...remember how much people seem to love Ron Paul?  Still?  I think Barr will be a great thorn in McCain's side, especially because he'll force McCain, at every turn, to defend the war.  

    Yeah but.. (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by jb64 on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 08:11:30 PM EST
    He won't put GA in play.

    As a Georgian, I hope & think you're wrong. (none / 0) (#40)
    by halstoon on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 11:16:10 AM EST
    Georgia has 500,000 unregistered black voters. Barack Obama will register as many of those as he can during his national registration drives and as part of his 50 state strategy.

    In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by < 600k votes. So just from a turnout standpoint, Obama could get really close if he sets the records he's expected to, especially considering Christian Conservative angst with McCain.

    Michael Bednarik got almost 20,000 votes in '04 for the Libertarian Party in Georgia, and that was with absolutely no attention paid to his campaign. If Barr can push that 1% to 3% and Obama can mobilize his base, I think we have a chance here since we already used our gay card the last time around and McCain doesn't have a big issue to lean on this time.

    Barr has been writing a regular column for the AJC for some time, and he is working hard to soften the more militant edges he had when he represented NW GA, which is where I am from. We all know him as the same militant harda$$ Jeralyn decries, but he is really trying to change his image.

    I think Barr can do just enough to help Obama lower his own hurdle to a clearable height, but we'll see.


    i wouldn't vote for bob barr (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by cpinva on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:25:54 PM EST
    for city dung collector. the guy is and has always been, batsh*t crazy.

    i'd sooner wake up, my hair stapled to the floor, on fire, and only an ax to put it out with, than see him in any kind of public office, ever again.

    i'm sure he has seen the light, but he was most likely brain-dead at the time.

    I like the first part (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by jccamp on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:52:29 PM EST
    that the war on drugs is a failure...but the rest?

    "We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems."

    What the *&$# does that mean?

    I think this fellow is, well, nuts. Which might speak volumes if even a head case like this one recognizes failures of the drug statutes.

    Someone told me just today "I think I want to be a Libertarian. I'm gonna go home and see what that means." So Barr may get one vote.

    Hmmm, he's over the drug war? (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by arky on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 08:50:24 PM EST
    Medical marijuana? Methinks he must have partaken/partook(?) of the herbal remedy. LOL!

    He's a wingnut (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Baal on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 09:17:40 PM EST
    and just because he's found religion now is no reason to lose control of your faculties.

    no he didn't become a user (none / 0) (#37)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:05:07 PM EST
    he became a realist after his position cost him his House seat.

    this guy (none / 0) (#1)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:00:12 PM EST
    could influence the race if he runs.
    this is the most open race in my memory for a solid third party.

    I wouldnt vote for him (none / 0) (#2)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:01:13 PM EST
    (just to be clear)
    but many would IMO.

    I would love (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by LoisInCo on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:03:43 PM EST
    to see his and Cynthia McKinney in the debates. Weeee the fun it would be.

    Oh God (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Claw on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:58:05 PM EST
    Yes.  That would be great.

    Two Georgia spoillers (none / 0) (#30)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 08:15:59 PM EST
    And interestingly, they both got into the House as a result of stoopid map drawing in 1992.

    I like Cynthia McKinney. (none / 0) (#35)
    by thereyougo on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 09:27:05 PM EST
    but she's been maligned by the congressional dems for speaking her mind.

    imagine that, she still believes in that.


    I find some of the things she says (none / 0) (#36)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 09:29:52 PM EST
    to be outrageous and offensive. I'm glad she's out of Congress.

    Yes, there is a group that would (none / 0) (#5)
    by JavaCityPal on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:13:03 PM EST
    Not sure if it has a demographic definition, though.

    His non-stop hateful TV appearances during the Clinton scandals painted a pretty clear picture of the judgmental manner this man lives in. He's far from presidential material.


    Just so long as he's taking votes (none / 0) (#4)
    by scribe on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:06:06 PM EST
    from the McCain side of the ledger, he can say whatever the heck he wants.

    As far as I'm concerned, he tore it with the Clinton impeachment and his yammering on drugs - both before he hit the Road to Damascus and after, he claims, the scales fell from his eyes - merely amped up the tear.

    He reminds me of no one so much as George Wallace, who'd pretty much say anything (when it came to race relations or just about anything else) so long as it got him elected.  Wallace, one is constrained to remember, started a segregationist of the most intransigent sort, and by the end of his career was the opposite.

    Barr, and the rest of the Clinton impeachment managers for that matter, has not had nearly as much of a career post-impeachment as might have been expected, given the depth of feeling the Repugs had for the impeachment.  This libertarianism is, until proven otherwise, just a new schtick.

    Actually, I don't think it is a schtick with Barr (none / 0) (#13)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:12:59 PM EST
    For many years now, I've had to watch a lot of political yakker TV shows for my job (excruciating during the impeachment battle), and I've seen Barr morph rather rapidly after his defeat into a guy who, while not an ideological libertarian, I don't think, someone who has lightened up substantially from his one-time ideological beliefs.

    I LOATHED him during impeachment, but I think the "new" Bob Barr is actually quite genuine.  What pushed him in that direction isn't clear, but he does seem to have experienced some sort of breakthrough.

    I wouldn't vote for him for dogcatcher over George W. Bush, but I do think his conversion is quite real.

    I haven't heard anybody ask him what he thinks of his impeachment performance in hindsight, so have no idea whether he's seen the light on that travesty.


    Georgia Republicans threw him under the bus (none / 0) (#17)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:32:25 PM EST
    when he was drawn together with John Linder by the Democrats in 2002.

    Not very libertarian of him (none / 0) (#6)
    by catfish on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:23:03 PM EST
    Employer drug testing?

    It is plenty libertarian of him... (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Jay Elias on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 08:15:39 PM EST
    ...the sort of libertarians in the LP are absolutely for the freedom of private entities such as corporations to enter into relationships with their employees which are utterly unacceptable when the government engages in like behavior.

    And fire people for any reason whatsoever (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 08:16:34 PM EST
    He strikes me as a hateful person (none / 0) (#8)
    by bjorn on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:32:43 PM EST
    and not likeable. I don't think he is a serious candidate. But the race between Obama and McCain is close enough that Barr could hurt McCain's chances.

    Bob Barr was not alone in his support of killing (none / 0) (#10)
    by halstoon on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:45:51 PM EST
    drug kingpins. Bill Clinton signed that bill, and bragged about that very portion of the bill. So in all fairness, it was not a Bob Barr/GOP thing only.

    Thanks to Bob Barr, Barack Obama has a real chance to win Georgia. If he can increase turnout among African Americans and young people, combined with Christian Coalition apathy towards McCain and some people's admiration of Barr, Obama might just come close to turning GA blue. It's a longshot, but thanks to Barr, it's not as long as it would otherwise be. The same could be true across the South.

    If you live in the South and don't like Obama, please consider a vote for Barr over McCain. You still get to vote against Obama and the DNC, you help the Libertarians get closer to federal ballot access, and you keep McCain out of the White House. It's a win-win-win.

    He seems to be morphing into something descent. (none / 0) (#11)
    by The Realist on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 06:53:13 PM EST
    He has come out against the Defense of Marriage Act he he pushed so hard to pass.


    As long (none / 0) (#27)
    by shoulin4 on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 08:10:21 PM EST
    as he takes away votes from McCain, I don't care what he says. In fact, he and Bush need to get together and just throw a huge party for McCain and express how much McCain will be like the last 7+ years as far as policies go. I'd love to just watch McCain sweat ;-)

    Bob Barr and Bruce Fein (none / 0) (#32)
    by santarita on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 08:43:15 PM EST
    didn't they come up with a pledge that they wanted the candidates to sign stating that they would uphold Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  And didn't Bob Barr become a member of the board of the ACLU?  Hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    no, she's been maligned (none / 0) (#38)
    by cpinva on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:45:21 PM EST
    but she's been maligned by the congressional dems for speaking her mind.

    for being an idiot. the two aren't, by definition, mutually inclusive, but she sure made an effort.

    i think she started to actually believe her PR, losing sight of the fact that she was a junior nobody. not a good way to get anything of substance accomplished for your constituents.

    What the *&$# does that mean?

    it means "let's outsource it to the low bidder, unless i have a friend/donor who wants it."

    this represents, in a nutshell, the essential falacy of libertarian theory: it seeks to put everything in the hands of private enterprise. the entire libertarian movement is dedicated to the proposition that everyone should fend for themselves, with no gov't "interference". at heart, it is a recipe for anarchy, the complete destruction of any kind of stable society.

    but, they make it sound so reasonable.

    As much as his past.... (none / 0) (#39)
    by kdog on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 08:12:53 AM EST
    stance on drugs personally sickens me....it's not all that different from the D and R party lines.

    I'd bite the bullet and vote for him if there is no other 3rd party option on my ballot.  For the good of the nation, the two party duopoly must be stopped...even if it means I'm still under the threat of arrest everyday, or need to piss in a cup for a job under a Barr admin.

    I first pissed in a cup under Clinton, fwiw.  I long for the day when men are judged on the content of their character, not the contents of their bodily waste.