Thursday, September 11, 2008

That swirling sound you hear ...

... is Bob Barr's presidential campaign circling the drain of history.

Brief recap:

Barr was scheduled to appear with Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader at a press conference yesterday to endorse a joint four-point issues statement on which all these candidates (and Boston Tea Party candidate Charles Jay) agree.

At the last minute, Barr canceled, with campaign manager Russ Verney allegedly giving as the excuse "it just isn't worth it." When a Campaign For Liberty official, Don Rasmussen, asked Barr campaign deputy director Shane Cory what was up with that, he alleges that Cory's reply was "go f**k yourself." Barr then held his own press conference, grandstanding on Paul's name with an offer of the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential slot, while Verney, the campaign, and LPHQ spun like mad about how this "demonstrates Barr's leadership" and how Barr would be lowered by appearing on stage with someone "like" Cynthia McKinney. Over the last 24 hours, the Barr campaign has continued to run smack on Paul.

Now for a brief digression, just to make things crystal clear: Nobody with two or more functioning neurons is going to accuse me of being a Paul sycophant. I opposed his GOP presidential campaign and believe it did significant damage to the libertarian movement (the newsletter scandal, the pork-mongering, the anti-gay and anti-immigrant BS, etc.). If you don't believe me, Google "Ron Paul" and this blog's URL.

But that doesn't matter, for three reasons:

- One of the major premises and promises of the Barr campaign -- from well before his announcement that he was considering running, going at least back to his sponsorship of a motion on the Libertarian National Committee asking Paul to seek the LP's nomination -- was that Barr would appeal to the Paul voter and supporter bloc. No need to belabor that. Read the history. It's all there in the search engines.

Hint: You don't deliver a voter bloc by monkeywrenching that bloc's hero's event, trying to upstage him, telling his supporters to "go f**k themselves," claiming you're too big and important to appear on a stage with him and other presidential candidates, then talking about him like he's a fool and a knave out of one side of your mouth while offering him the second fiddle position in your own failing effort out of the other, all the while blowing about how this bundle of nonsense constitutes "leadership."

- Secondly, Barr's delusions of grandeur and absurd strategies aside, Barr isn't just a presidential candidate, he's the presidential candidate of a party, the Libertarian Party. That party has longstanding ties to Ron Paul, who was its 1988 presidential nominee. At one point, polling indicated that more than seven of every 10 LP members wanted to run Paul on the LP ticket again this year. Whether I liked it or not -- and often I didn't -- Libertarians across the country put gallons of sweat into building bridges with the Paul movement over the last 18 months. I don't know if Barr has succeeded in burning those bridges with his antics yet or not ... but make no mistake about it, he's poured gasoline on those bridges and he's capering around them with a Zippo® in one hand, a can of accelerant in the other, and a deranged grin on his face.

- Thirdly, the Paul press conference was a no-brainer. It was a major media opportunity with no down side. It was a cake walk. All Barr had to do was stand on a stage with four other people, at least two of whom are more famous and well-thought-of by the public than he'll ever be, smile and say nice things about an issues statement that every last freedom-loving American can wholeheartedly sign on to, and watch the money and votes roll in. It was seemingly impossible to screw this up. But -- wouldn't you know it? -- the Barr campaign found a way to turn a cake walk into a fiasco, just like his old party seems to do every time.

The Barr campaign broke its promise to try to deliver the Paul voter bloc yesterday. The Barr campaign created a major schism between the Libertarian Party on one hand, and a major ally of the LP and his supporters on the other, yesterday. And the Barr campaign demonstrated the most mind-blowingly blind level of incompetence and inability to discern opportunities to even promote its own candidate yesterday.

And they don't seem inclined to even try to stop the bleeding.

The Libertarian National Committee needs to issue an abject, no-exceptions, no-excuses apology to Ron Paul and the Campaign for Liberty for its presidential candidate's misbehavior, repudiate that misbehavior, and dissociate itself from that misbehavior. Actually, it needed to do that yesterday afternoon, and the clock is ticking. That's what it owes to Paul, to Paul's supporters, to the Campaign for Liberty, and to the LP members who resemble all those descriptions. And, for that matter, that's what it owes to the Barr campaign. Sometimes supporting the presidential campaign, as it is the LNC's obligation to do, entails at least trying to clean up the presidential campaign's messes.

The Libertarian National Committee also needs to take up the question -- i.e. get a motion made, seconded, and in play -- to remove Barr as its presidential candidate. Barr has arguably attacked the party's interests multiple times -- in terms of publicly espousing positions that conflict with the party's Statement of Principles, and in terms of running a campaign that embarrasses, misrepresents, and diminishes the credibility of, the party. If the LNC doesn't take official notice of that and deal with it by considering its options under the party's bylaws, then the LNC is a dead stick and should stop wasting the members' money on the pretense that it is a real board overseeing the real operations of a real political party.

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