Friday, May 30, 2008

MSM idiocy on Ron Paul and Bob Barr

I've been covering Bob Barr's Libertarian Party campaign since Feb. 11, and because of my continuing coverage (e.g., April 14, May 20, May 23, May 25, May 27) I've been invited to appear on several radio talk shows to discuss the campaign. I've also closely followed the MSM coverage of Barr. Over and over, I keep running into various feeble-minded confusions over the relationship between Barr's LP effort and the Ron Paul GOP primary campaign.

The essence of this confusion is typically expressed by radio hosts as a question along the lines of, "Is Ron Paul going to endorse Bob Barr?" However it is worded, the question signifies a profound misunderstanding of who Ron Paul is, what his campaign has done, how political movements and coalitions are structured, and how the Barr campaign hopes to capitalize on the Paul phenomenon.

To get an idea of what I'm talking about, here is Newsweek's know-it-all novice Andrew Romano (folks, I've got T-shirts older than this kid) who expresses his confusion not as a question, but in pseudo-informed declarative sentences:
Barr's goal is snag the support of 15 percent or more of registered voters and participate in this fall's presidential debates. That's unlikely to happen. One big reason: Ron Paul. With his cult-hero bid for the White House, Paul has done more this year than any of his predecessors to popularize Libertarian ideas. . . . But the trouble is, he ran (and is still running) as a Republican, and shows no signs of abandoning his party. If Paul continues his campaign through the GOP convention, as he's already promised, he'll monopolize much of the newly-unleashed Libertarian energy -- the record-breaking donations, the clever online organizing, the passionate activism -- at least through September. At that point, he could (belatedly) pass the torch the torch to Barr. But Paul has shown little enthusiasm for his ostensible heir, and it's unlikely that his followers . . . will abandon their guy for a relative unknown. . . . No matter what happens with Paul, Barr's going to have a tough time attracting the grass-roots and financial support necessary to reach double digits in the polls.
This kind of nonsense on stilts will take a while to deconstruct, so pull up a chair and get comfortable.

First, look at Romano's statement that "it's unlikely that [Paul's] followers . . . will abandon their guy for a relative unknown." Wrong. Many of them already have. Were you paying attention? I repeat:
Many Ron Paul supporters already have been active in the Bob Barr LP campaign for weeks.
This is what Romano and other MSM people don't get. Campaign contributors, operatives and volunteer activists -- to say nothing of ordinary voters -- are not required to devote their support exclusively to one campaign, one party or one candidate. There is considerable overlap between LP activists and the anti-war conservatives who backed Paul in the GOP primaries.

I know these people personally. I talked to them at the Libertarian convention in Denver. There were lots and lots of veterans of the Paul campaign among the delegates, some of them still proudly wearing their "Revolution" T-shirts and Ron Paul buttons. In fact, some of the Georgia LP delegates with whom I traveled 1,400 miles to the convention ("a bunch of smelly Libertarians," to quote delegate Lance Lamberton) had actively campaigned for Paul.

To cite just one example of this phenomenon, Barr's online team is headed by Martin Avila of Terra Eclipse, who also did Ron Paul's Web design. A few more examples with which I am personally familiar:
  • Austin Wilkes -- Featured in Paul's "Supporter Spotlight," helped organize Paul effort in Alabama GOP straw poll; now coordinating meetup groups for Barr.
  • Bradley Jansen -- Former Paul congressional staffer and presidential campaign activist; recently came to the defense of Barr's LP candidacy.
  • Shana Kluck -- Former "Homeschoolers for Paul" coordinator; now serves similar function with Barr campaign.
  • Stephen Gordon -- Former LP political director, served as media coordinator of Paul's Alabama campaign; now working for Barr campaign.
Such examples could be cited almost endlessly. But just try this: Go to the Barr for President Facebook group, and see how many members are also members of the Ron Paul group.

The MSM types don't get this. They keep acting as if what Ron Paul does personally -- whether he endorses or supports or gives money to the Barr campaign -- will have a determining influence over Barr's success. Not true. As one LP convention delegate explained it me, "The Ron Paul movement wasn't about Ron Paul, it was about a movement."

Now, with that in mind, go back and read the Romano article, where he says, "Barr's going to have a tough time attracting the grass-roots and financial support necessary to reach double digits in the polls." Wanna put money on that proposition, kid?

Barr hit 6% in the first national poll that included his name in the survey -- a poll taken just one week after Barr officially announced his candidacy. Since then, Barr's appeared on C-SPAN's "Morning Journal," CNN's "American Morning," Neil Cavuto's Fox News show and Bloomberg News, while Barr appeared with his running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, on Fox Business News.

Most laughable of Romano's misconceptions is his description of Barr as "a relative unknown." Barr was a high-profile figure in the 1994 "Republican Revolution" Congress, helping lead the impeachment of President Clinton. Barr was a prominent conservative leader back when Andrew Romano was still an elementary school kid who'd never even heard of Ron Paul.

And, hey -- Barr was in "Borat." How many movies has Ron Paul starred in? This coming week, Barr will show up on Glenn Beck's CNN show and on "The Colbert Report."

Keep in mind, now, that Barr only officially declared his candidacy on May 12. As "tough" as it may be for Barr "to reach double digits in the polls" (though, remember, he's starting at 6%) does all this media attention look like the campaign of "a relative unknown"?

Over and over, radio interviewers have asked me what I think of Barr's chances in November. I say two things:
  • First, I don't have a crystal ball. Who knows what can happen? We're more than five months away from Election Day. Five months is a long time in politics. Five months ago, Hillary Clinton was still the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination.
  • Second, people close to the Barr campaign keep using the phrase "perfect storm." Congressional approval is at 19%, and 79% of Americans say the country's headed in the wrong direction. Gasoline is at $4 a gallon, and no major-party candidate -- neither Obama, Clinton nor McCain -- is over 47% in head-to-head polls. Such omens of deep discontent in the electorate certainly could indicate the kind of political environment in which a third-party campaign might catch fire.
No crystal ball, like I said, but anyone who parrots the MSM conventional wisdom and underestimates the potential of the Barr campaign does so at his own peril.


  1. You won't say what the chances are, and I don't blame you. The only honest answer is, "Not a chance in hades."

    That is, if Barr is really "in it to win it."

    Talk to me when Barr polls over 33% and is on all 50 state ballots.

    6%? Please, even setting aside that third party spoilers always over poll...

  2. Have you noticed that Bob Barr's and Ron Paul's campaign sites have been both designed by Terra Eclipse?
    Apart from that, I have spotted you on the "Bloggers for Barr" item in Barr's site sidebar.

  3. I'm a Ron Paul supporter, and I generally support the LP, but I'm not all that excited about Barr to be honest. If I can't vote for Ron Paul, then I would like vote for Barr I guess. But the fact that he went after Clinton over the blow job just makes me really cringe.

    Is this a guy who really has the important things in mind? I'm no Clinton supporter, but anyone who has ever been caught cheating in their life knows denial is generally the first response.

    With all the bad things and unconstitutional things Clinton did, couldn't he have lead a charge for something that was worth it? Rather than status quo BS politics?

    I just don't consider leading the way on a blow job scandal as a credible reason to vote for someone.

    He doesn't seem very libertarian to me.

    Of course, still better than the other 3. I might vote for him, but don't see myself putting the support behind him that I did for Ron Paul.

  4. This would be the time for a 3rd party win if ever there was one. Not just total loss of confidence by the voters; for some reason both R and D have appointed their standard "sacrificial lamb" candidates, the type of candidate they use as place-fillers when they know the opposite party will win. We have the Old Warrior vs the Egghead Radical, Bob Dole vs Adlai Stevenson. Against that background, the fairly well-known Barr just might take a meaningful number of electors, if not a win.

  5. To "ilovetheconstitution":

    If it helps at all, Barr began his impeachment effort before the Monica Lewinsky scandal even broke.

    Frankly, I wish we had a Barr twin in the House right now, to get things going for Bush and Cheney.

  6. Is it true Bob Barr use to work for the CIA?? I seen a video that said he did. It also said he voted for the patriot act? Heres the link. Does any one know if this is true?

  7. Because Barr has a high-profile history and he is widely viewed as pulling support from McCain, if he's able to demonstrate some success he will have an easier time grabbing and keeping media attention than a true unknown candidate. The trick is how to demonstrate success. A Ron Paul-style moneybomb? Polling enough in Georgia or another red state to put McCain behind Obama?

    to charles lawless - Barr was an outspoken Patriot Act opponent along with Paul, but voted for it so he could sit on the House-Senate conference committee (you have to have voted for legislation to do so) so he could insert the 5-year sunset for the worst provisions.

  8. Robert, what you miss is that numerous Libertarians who couldn't bring themselves to support Ron Paul, due to his Anti-Defense views, are now supporting Barr. You have countless libertarian Republicans out there, who are "PJ O'Rourkians" fiscally conservative, socially tolerant yet Strong on Defense. Paul really turned this constituency off.

    But Barr has been careful to not offend Pro-Defense Libertarians.

    Thus, his potential support is even larger than for Paul.

    Eric Dondero, Publisher
    Libertarian Republican blog

  9. I remember 92 quite well. Perot got 19% of the vote (25% in my state) even after he dropped out of the race of a few weeks. The situation in the country is worse today than it was back then. The housing market (where most Americans have their savings) has collapsed. Gas is $4 a gallon. Food prices are rising. We’re still bogged down a no win, nonsensical war in Iraq, and the administration keeps beating the drums about invading Iran.

    Bush has increased government spending more than any administration since LBJ. A lot of conservatives are really angry. They don’t like McCain either.

    Unfortunately for Obama, the Democrats are still racially divided and big sections of blue collar whites in the key industrial Midwest states don’t seem to be inclined to vote for him. Are they going to support McCain? Some will, but many won’t.

    The stars seem to be aligning for a third party to make a major showing. Fortunately, the LP was smart enough not to nominate someone whose answers always start with: “In a libertarian society…”

    My predications:

    1.) This will be the first time in 28 years that the LP makes any progress at the Presidential level.

    2.) It is unlikely, but possible that Barr could do as well as Perot did in 92. Yes Perot spent $40 million of his own money, Ron Paul showed that it is possible to raise close to this from small donations on the Internet.

    3.) Barr won’t win any electoral votes because his support won’t be as geographical focused as was Wallace’s (the last third party candidate to win any electoral votes)

  10. It is the perfect storm also because the liberal media is behind the idea of GOP spoiler.

    Colbert and Glenn Beck? When was the last time an LP candidate got that kind of coverage. He was front page and on CNN when he got nominated too.

    Fox News has largely been silent since the nomination except to appear on Fox Business where he has some support. They know the perform storm is brewing.

  11. Gee, I don't even know if I want to leave a comment on the same page that Eric Dondero did (disgruntled former staffer of Ron Paul's with a huge, ugly axe to grind).

    I'll just say that the majority of Ron Paul supporters DESPISE Bob Barr, so don't even try to claim otherwise. They realize his background of being in the CIA and current pro-War on Drugs stance, among other anti-liberty actions goes against everything good and true and real about Ron Paul.

    As far as I'm concerned, the Libertarian Party has sold out, allowed itself to be infiltrated by this creep and his pro-War Root buddy and is now DEAD.

    It's Ron Paul all the way for us, so don't even try to spin it any other way.

  12. So is or isnt Ron Paul endorse endorsing the barr root ticket? Ive looked everywhere but i cant find what Paul has said or is saying about Bob Barr, other than they are friends? Has anyone heard rumors that Paul might be thinking about bumping Root and trying to get the veep spot? I read an article posted on suggesting this might be the case?
    Also what qualifies wayne root to be Vice on the Libertarian ticket. I read a bio description on wayne root that said he was a tv host and in the gaming industry? Thats strange credentials for a Veep. I read the Bio on Curious what everyone thinks.