Barr has the best academic pedigree of the candidates listed so far, earning two graduate degrees while working as a CIA analyst. He was a federal attorney before entering Congress in the "Contract With America" election of 1994. As an attorney he prosecuted a Republican congressman who ended up in prison for a year.
He seems to see himself as a civil libertarian, but his record is mixed. He has consistent reservations about government power, securing amendments to both the "Patriot Act" and Clinton-era anti-terror legislation to limit their scope or duration. He was greatly concerned about government overreach in the case of the Branch Davidians, but was opposed to the military recognizing Wicca. As a congressman he opposed same-sex marriage and legal use of medical marijuana. Now, as the Libertarian Party candidate for President, he has recanted those positions, just as he regretted his vote for the Patriot Act some time before.
Barr is a past board member of the National Rifle Association and a present member of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Conservative Union. He won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination on the sixth ballot last May. His running mate is Wayne Allyn Root, an entrepreneur and former financial news broadcaster.
On Iraq, Barr says: " While I support an exit from Iraq as quickly as possible, I would not publicly announce a timetable to our adversaries. However, as President, I would begin to immediately and significantly begin to reduce both the military and the economic security blanket we are providing the government. " More generally, he notes that "By maintaining a military presence in more than 130 nations around the world in more than 700 installations, with hundreds of thousands of troops deployed overseas, the U.S. spends more to protect the soil of other nations than our own." He proposes that "Bringing these soldiers home would better protect America while saving lives and money. The U.S. requires a military strong enough to defend this nation, not to support and defend much of the rest of the world. "
Barr will relieve American dependence on foreign energy by drilling all over America. Opposed to "special privileges," he'll end federal subsidies for ethanol production. Ultimately, his energy policy is faith-based. As he testifies: "The free market, driven by consumer choice and reflecting the real cost of resources, should be the foundation of America’s energy policy." This comes close to being a meaningless statement.
On taxes, Barr is less rigid than other independent candidates. He isn't wedded to one alternative to the existing system. While convinced that most Americans pay too much, he believes the solution will follow a national debate involving such alternatives as the FairTax, a flat income tax, and "good alternatives for tax reform that have not yet been proposed."
With tax cuts come spending cuts: "Every area of federal spending can and should be cut. Entitlements must be reformed and welfare should be cut, including subsidies for business sometimes called corporate welfare. Military outlays should be reduced and pork barrel spending eliminated. Needless, duplicative, and wasteful programs, most of which have no constitutional basis, should be terminated. "
Unfortunately, more dogma follows: "We should seek to establish a wall of separation between government and the economy. The legitimate economic functions of government are to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. The government should stop attempting to “manage” the free market. Capitalism is the only economic system that rewards risk, protects individual liberty, and furthers economic freedom. America will be most prosperous and free when the government stops interfering with private economic decision-making. "
On a related note: "Government should stop acting as the welfare agency of first resort under the guise of providing social insurance. In general, private charity should be the first resort for anyone in need. The process of welfare reform begun by Congress in 1996 should be continued to reduce even further people’s dependence on Washington." In other words, Barr prefers that people in distress become dependent on private individuals or institutions rather than relying upon one another in the form of a democratic republican government.
Barr has an extensive website with soundbite-size position papers, from which I've taken all of his quotes for this article. There's a link to his YouTube channel, which collects his various interviews, including his ABC appearance from July 6, which I can finally present below without commercial garnish.
Like Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader, Bob Barr has sufficient stature as a public figure to be treated as equals to Senators McCain and Obama. Failure to treat at least these three accordingly only serves to entrench the American Bipolarchy more deeply, which is the same as endorsing an unconstitutional usurpation of power by the Democratic and Republican parties. Barr's economic views may be fantastically naive, but as President his more extreme initiatives would likely be checked by cooler heads in Congress. That leaves a relatively unobjectionable foreign policy combined with an only occasionally hypocritical dedication to civil liberties. On that score, he's most likely no worse than the two leading candidates. As I write, the cable news reports poll results that show Barr having a real spoiler effect on McCain. The Republican should have the courage to debate Barr, not suppress him, if he wants to prevail.