Monday, June 23, 2008

Forget Ralph Nader: GOP Is Worried About Libertarian Bob Barr Hurting McCain

Right-Wing Former GOP Congressman From Georgia, Who Doggedly Pursued Bill Clinton's Impeachment in '99, Is the Libertarian Party's Presidential Nominee -- and Could Siphon Off Hard-Line Conservative Voters Who Still Distrust McCain

PLUS: On Gay Pride Week, What California's Legalization of Same-Gender Marriage Means for the Rest of the Country

Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr addresses attendees ...

Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr addresses attendees at a campaign stop on June 14 in Fort Worth, Texas. Barr, a conservative former Republican congressman from Georgia, said at the Libertarian Party of Texas convention that he is asking citizens: "Have you had enough? ... I think this year, in this cycle, in this election, the answer will be yes." (Photo: Tony Gutierrez/AP)

By Shannon McCaffrey
The Associated Press

A fiery former GOP congressman who gained national prominence for doggedly pursuing impeachment of President Bill Clinton has some Republicans worried he'll play spoiler in a tight presidential contest.

Bob Barr's Libertarian Party bid for the White House is the longest of long shots, but political experts say he may be able to exploit the unease some die-hard conservatives still feel about Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee-elect.

Combined with the dramatic surge in voter turnout among Democrats during the primaries and a difficult political climate for Republicans, they see what could be a recipe for trouble for the GOP.

"Bob could be the Ralph Nader of 2008," said Dan Schnur, a GOP consultant in California who worked on McCain's 2000 campaign but is not involved in this year's contest. Consumer advocate Nader is the third-party candidate many Democrats blame for helping George W. Bush narrowly win in 2000.

[Nader, the nominee of the Green Party eight years ago, is running for the White House again this year, this time as an independent.]

Representative John Linder (R-Georgia), who defeated Barr in 2002 after Georgia's Democratic-controlled Legislature redrew congressional boundaries to put the two lawmakers in the same district, said he didn't think Barr would top four percent of the vote in November. "But in some states that may be enough," Linder said.

Democrats seem gleeful at the prospect. Tad Devine, a Washington-based Democratic strategist, said Republicans "are crazy if they aren't worried about Barr."

"Undoubtedly any votes he gets come out of McCain's votes," Devine said. "He hurts them."

Barr an Arch-Nemesis of Bill Clinton in Lewinsky Scandal

Barr, a former federal prosecutor, was swept into Congress with more than 70 other House GOP freshmen in 1994. An articulate, sometimes outspoken orator, he gained attention as the first lawmaker to call for Clinton's resignation over the Monica Lewinsky scandal and was one of the 13 House prosecutors who pressed the impeachment case in the Senate.

Barr also was known during his four terms in the House for his opposition to softening drug laws, including the medical use of marijuana, and his support for gun rights. He tried unsuccessfully to bar military bases from according adherents of Wicca -- an ancient religion also known as witchcraft -- the same accommodations as other religious worshippers.

Even after Clinton left office, Barr continued to pursue him. He asked congressional investigators to study the extent of White House damage done by departing Clinton staffers and tried to build a "Counter Clinton Library" in the former president's hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas.

He filed a $30 million lawsuit against Clinton, adviser James Carville and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt for causing him "emotional distress" in retaliation for the impeachment proceedings.

Gingrich Says GOP's 'Not Worried' -- But Efforts to Keep Barr Off Ballot Likely

Some Republicans aren't worried about Barr's candidacy. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said voting for Barr is the same as voting for Democrat Barack Obama, and said he's confident most GOP voters will understand that. "No reasonable conservative is going to vote for anyone except McCain," Gingrich said.

Even so, Barr campaign manager Russell Verney said he expects Republicans to mount challenges to keep Barr off the ballot in a number of states, as Democrats did to Nader in 2004.

Verney was campaign manager for billionaire H. Ross Perot, who rocked the political establishment with his 1992 independent presidential bid that drew 19 percent of the vote -- a record high for a third-party candidate.

The Libertarian Party has never drawn even one percent of the national popular vote in a presidential race. But it bills itself as the third-largest political party and is already on the ballot in 30 states, with petition drives this summer aiming at 20 others.

The toughest obstacles are likely to be in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Illinois and Washington, D.C., where ballot access rules are prohibitive, said Libertarian Party political director Sean Haugh. Democrats also have had success knocking third-party candidates of the ballot in Pennsylvania, considered a swing state.

But Barr may have the most impact in his home state of Georgia, where he is still well known.

Barr a Fierce Critic of Bush White House

In recent years, Barr has earned a reputation as an iconoclast. A National Rifle Association board member, Barr has joined with the liberal American Civil Liberties Union against the Bush administration-backed Patriot Act and reversed himself on medical marijuana use, now lobbying in favor of it.

He said it is the unchecked growth of government that led him to abandon the GOP two years ago. In the coming weeks, Barr plans to open a campaign headquarters in Atlanta.

"I think John McCain is going to have to battle for Georgia, a state that was a gimme for George Bush [in 2000 and 2004]," said Matt Towery, a former Republican state lawmaker in Georgia who runs a political media company.

Georgia and its 15 electoral votes have been expected to go Republican on election night, and McCain spokesman Jeffrey Sadosky said he remained confident they still would. Still, the enthusiasm Obama has generated among Georgia's large black population continues to worry McCain strategists. Far from writing off Georgia, Obama has a campaign team registering voters and is airing a TV ad in the state.

Barr scoffs at talk that he will play spoiler, saying he is in the race to win it and it won't be his fault if McCain loses. "If Senator McCain is not successful, it will be because his message and his vision did not resonate with a plurality of the voters," Barr said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Barr also hopes to tap into the zealous grass-roots network of Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), who only recently dropped his bid for the GOP presidential nomination and pledged to support "Libertarian-leaning Republicans."

Paul, a Texas Republican who ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988, drew hefty campaign contributions online, but did not win any primaries. Many of Paul's supporters said they're giving Barr a look.

Some are skeptical.

"We're waiting to see if he's deliberately moving toward Ron Paul's principles to be politically popular," said Marlane O'Neill, a Paul supporter in Atlanta.

On the Net: Bob Barr for President Web site:

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The Reverend Dr. Jane Spahr, center, a Presbyterian minister, ...

The Reverend Dr. Jane Spahr (center), a Presbyterian minister, performs a same-gender marriage ceremony for Sherrie Holmes (left) and Sara Taylor at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, California, a suburb north of San Francisco. In a direct challenge to church doctrine, Spahr, a retired minister who avoided a sanction earlier this year after she officiated at the weddings of two other lesbian couples, chose to perform Friday's ceremony now that such marriages are legal in California. The action by Spahr comes as the legislative body of the Presbyterian Church USA convenes its biennial meeting in San Francisco, where it will consider the denomination's stand on same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. (Photo: Eric Risberg/AP)

By Skeeter Sanders

The month of June is best known to most Americans as the month of weddings, high-school graduations and, of course, Father's Day.

But for the estimated 15 million Americans who are gay, June is also Gay Pride Month, the annual commemoration of a 1969 riot resulting from a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village that is generally acknowledged as the beginning of the gay liberation movement.

In many places, both large and small, gay pride events occur throughout the month. But by far the greatest number of what are now celebrations of gay culture are taking place around the world this week, culminating this weekend in the massive rainbow-flag-bedecked parades in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle and hundreds of other cities that draw millions of spectators.

And this year's celebrations in California are sure to be larger and more festive than ever -- with many gay and lesbian couples planning to ring wedding bells -- thanks to a landmark ruling by the California Supreme Court that declared that they have a constitutional right to marry.

Decision Based on 1948 Ruling on Interracial Marriages

Unlike a similar ruling by its counterpart in Massachusetts in 2004, the California Supreme Court's decision is much more far-reaching and is almost certain to have a lasting impact on the rest of the nation -- just as many other trend-setting social changes in the past half-century have originated in the Golden State.

For starters, the California court based its ruling on a landmark decision it handed down 60 years earlier that declared unconstitutional a law that banned interracial marriages.

In that 1948 decision, the California court declared that the right of two consenting adults who love one another to marry each other regardless of their race is a right guaranteed by the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment.

Nineteen years later, in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously applied that ruling nationwide in Loving v. Virginia, declaring that Virginia's anti-miscegenation law -- and similar statutes in 16 other states, mostly in the Deep South -- also violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Although the California court invoked the state constitution in striking down a voter-approved ban on same-gender marriages known as Proposition 22 -- which could be reversed if voters approve a proposed state constitutional amendment in November -- the fact that the court relied on its 1948 interracial-marriage ruling gives supporters of same-gender marriage powerful legal ammunition.

Amendment to Bar Same-Gender Marriages, if Passed, May Not Survive Federal Court Challenge

In the event that the proposed California amendment to bar same-gender marriage passes in November, gay-rights advocates could then sue in federal court to have the amendment struck down under the equal-protection clause of the federal Constitution -- as they successfully did in 1996 against a voter-approved state constitutional amendment in Colorado.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision (Romer v. Evans), declared that Colorado's Amendment 2 -- which struck down all state and local laws banning discrimination against gays and barred the legislature and local governments from passing similar laws in the future -- violated gay Coloradoans' Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws and their First Amendment right to petition the state for redress of grievances, respectively.

Did High Court's 2003 'Lawrence' Decision Make Same-Gender Marriage Inevitable?

Moreover, a landmark 2003 ruling by the high court (Lawrence v. Texas) struck down the last remaining anti-sodomy laws that criminalized certain sexual relations between consenting adults, even in the privacy of their homes.

The justices, by a 6-3 majority, held that consenting same-gender adult couples have as much right under the Fourth Amendment to conduct their relationships freely in the privacy of their homes as consenting opposite-gender adult couples have.

The practical effect of the Lawrence decision -- which conservative Justice Antonin Scalia noted in a bitter dissent -- was to remove the last legal justification to bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying, putting the federal Defense of Marriage Act and 32 similar state laws banning same-gender marriage in constitutional jeopardy.

Scalia may very well be right.

Unlike Massachusetts, California has no residency requirement for marrying couples. So any gay or lesbian couple from the 48 other states could travel to California to marry, then sue to force their home state to recognize their marriage under the full faith and credit clause (Article IV) of the U.S. Constitution.

So it's no longer a question of if gay and lesbian Americans throughout the nation can marry, but when. And the answer to that latter question may already be now.

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Volume III, Number 39
Special Report Copyright 2008, The Associated Press.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.



Liberator_Rev said...

Great analysis, Skeeter, re:High Court's 2003 'Lawrence' Decision making Same-Gender Marriage Inevitable.
Although I'm a Christian clergyman and straight father of 10, I was a champion of gay equality even before I learned that our second last child was gay. See my http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/homosexuality.html page(s).

pastormike said...

Barr should put Paul on his ticket and drop the root. I signed the petition. All paul supporters should. If the RNC is worried about Barr they will start a smear site soon just like they did to Obama. his smear site is

Eric Sanders said...

A vote for Barr is not a vote for Obama. I am fed up with the Republican party and am leaning strongly toward Barr. People need to get out of the mind set that there are only two political parties in this country. With the Republicans' spines growing weaker to reach the people on the fence, it's really hard to distinguish between democrats and republicans sometimes. I am obligated to vote for the person who will be best for our country, not the person who may be "more electable".