Monday, May 12, 2008

Barr's line in the sand

The Boston Globe seems to be the only MSM outfit featuring this gem from Bob Barr's presidential campaign announcement press conference today (hat tip to Crazy for Liberty):

In a news conference, Barr said "only a fool" would specify a date and timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. But he said it's "extremely important" and in the best interest of national defense to draw down dramatically the US troop presence in Iraq and decrease the military and political footprint in Iraq.

There are only two reasonably likely outcomes in Iraq: An orderly withdrawal on an announced timetable, or a "last helicopter out of Saigon as the embassy is overrun" scenario. Barr has now publicly positioned himself -- and, if he receives its presidential nomination, the Libertarian Party -- in support of the latter.

As for the third possible outcome, "victory" in Iraq, well, I don't think that is possible ... but just to accommodate any hawkish readers, if it is, it won't be achieved by Barr's proposal to "draw down dramatically the US troop presence in Iraq." It would require a much larger, and much longer, "surge." So Barr's not appealing to the "victory" crowd either.

I just don't see what voter bloc Barr thinks he can appeal to with a "don't withdraw, but draw down" Iraq plank. The hawks aren't going to buy it; and neither are the majority of Americans who favor withdrawal; nor especially are the Ron Paul voters who will be looking for a candidate to support after the GOP's national convention. Whom, exactly, does a weak-sister version of McCain's "100 years in Iraq" nonsense make Barr look good to?

I started off reserving judgment, and willing to be enthusiastic about a Barr candidacy if at all possible. But as the negatives -- especially the conflict of interest inherent in his continuing financial support of Republican candidates, including the loathsome chickenhawk Saxby Chambliss, while sitting on the Libertarian National Committee -- mounted, so did my skepticism.

Still, until today I held out hope that if he announced, Barr would hit hard with a strong Libertarian policy platform -- a "road to Damascus" turnaround story that would position him, and the party, as a real alternative this November.

Instead, he came out with yet another round of timid, milquetoast policy pronouncements guaranteed to enthuse nobody who hasn't already bought in to his candidacy on the basis of his personal stature. With apologies to Aaron Tippin: Instead of standing for something, Barr seems to be betting that the Libertarian Party will fall for anything.

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