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Politics as Unusual

Sunday, April 6, 2008
From The Atlantic's Reihan Salam:

"Former Rep. Bob Barr, once an ardent Republican and one of the architects of the effort to impeach President Clinton, is on the verge of entering the presidential race as a Libertarian"

"Once known for his zealous opposition to medical marijuana, he has reversed his old stand on the Drug War, and he is almost as passionate in damning the invasion of Iraq as Paul himself. Can Barr become the Ralph Nader of 2008 -- spoiling the election for Republican conservatives, or perhaps for anti-war Democrats? Almost certainly not. All the same, this year's most interesting presidential debate will likely happen within Bob Barr's Libertarian Party."

"Meanwhile, Mike Gravel, the erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate, has also thrown his hat into the ring for the Libertarian nomination. For all his strident anti-imperialism, Gravel never developed a real constituency on the left. But his politics offer an intriguing way forward for Libertarians. His plan for overhauling the welfare state, devised by the far-from-insane Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff, promises to put entitlements on a sound footing and deliver healthcare to all Americans, all while sparking an investment-led economic boom. This isn't the kind of platform that normally appeals to flinty individualists, but the case can be made that the plan is in some important sense freedom-friendly. Provided you found the right messenger -- namely, someone slightly less loopy than Gravel -- it might even resonate with the public."

I don't think the term "loopy" really describes Senator Gravel. Having met the man and having listened to him speak at length, I can say that he struck me as an intensely passionate man, a thoughtful and intelligent person, and a strikingly candid politician, but not loopy. Dennis Kucinich is loopy. Ross Perot is loopy. Mike Gravel is, well, driven--and I imagine his passion is what some folks misinterpret as loopy behavior. Seriously, he's done a tremendous amount of good for this country, reading the Pentagon Papers, helping stop the draft for the Vietnam War, and injecting a healthy dose of reality into the Democratic debates--precisely the sort of behavior that one would not describe as loopy.

I look forward to the Libertarian debates. If Bob Barr does decide to throw his hat into the ring, that would make a tremendous race. As it stands now, Vegas oddsmaker Wayne Allyn Root remains the leading Libertarian candidate, but George Phillies, Christine Smith, Michael Jingozian, Mary J. Ruwart, and Senator Gravel promise to make for a hotly contested nomination battle. What will be really nice about the LP debates is that Sen. Gravel will be allowed time to speak--something he was systematically denied during the Democratic debates. You will recall that second- and third-tier candidates like Gravel, Dodd, Biden, and Kucinich were allotted considerably less talk time than top-tier candidates like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and, to a significantly lesser extent, Bill Richardson. It's too bad America's third-largest party does not have the clout of the big two and, consequently, lacks the ad revenue potential required to land prime time television coverage, because I am certain these debates will be much more probing than the predictable GOP and Democratic debates we've been subjected to over the past ten months...

And speaking of Libertarians: George Phillies says "Libertarians are not Conservatives."

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