Glenn talks with Bob Barr

Bob Bar 2008

GLENN: From Radio City in Midtown Manhattan, third most listened to show in all of America. Bob Barr used to be a Republican. Now he’s a libertarian and he’s running for President of the United States with the libertarian party. But the convention is happening this weekend, right, Bob?

BARR: That’s correct, Glenn. We’ll have our nominee decided on by Sunday.

GLENN: What are the odds that you’re going to be the —

BARR: Very good. We don’t take it for granted. The libertarian party is very diverse, it’s very active. There are other candidates, but we’ve got a great team here and we’re very confident that we’ll get the nomination come Sunday.

GLENN: Okay. Now, Bob, I spent about a half hour with you on television and I’d like to have you back for an hour on television at some point if you do get the nomination because you seem like a fairly reasonable guy, but you have some things that I just, I just don’t understand and I’d like to get into some of those here today because I think Americans are just so disenfranchised, they are so done with the Republicans, they are so done with the Democrats that they would like somebody to deal with issues. So let’s deal with some of the issues right off the top of the bat. What’s the problem with oil right now? Congress asked the oil executives yesterday, why are we paying so much for gas. If you’re President of the United States, why are we paying so much for gas and what are we going to do about it?

BARR: Well, we’ll paying for gas primarily because it’s a very precious limited resource. It’s very difficult with the logistics of getting it out of the ground, refining it, shipping it halfway around the world and then distributing it in a way that is cheap. It’s not going to happen. It is a very expensive commodity. What we need to be doing, and there’s no short-term solution to this. There have been — you know, we’ve had decades of government regulation that have gotten us to this point where we have a failing refining capacity, diminishing refining capacity. We’re not developing new sources. What we need to do is we need to free up businesses, free up free enterprise so they can get out there and start tapping into the huge offshore reserves that we know are there. The reserves in Alaska, the reserves in the western mountain states with shale oil, and we have to start removing the impediments to oil companies increasing refining capacity.

GLENN: The governor of Alaska is saying that she’s going to fight the designation of the polar bear as threatened on the endangered species list. Would you back that fight?

BARR: Absolutely. I mean, this is perhaps the most recent example of government nonsense. It’s like they’re operating in a Alice in Wonderland world. Every piece of evidence indicates that the polar bears have made a remarkable recovery over the last two decades. Their numbers are way up and yet what is the federal government do in the light of that? They say, well, gee, maybe they are an endangered species; we’re going to completely ignore the scientific evidence, we’re going to completely ignore common sense and put it on the endangered species list. And what that does, of course, that opens the door to more government restrictions to make it even more difficult to get at the oil in those areas where somebody thinks that there might be a polar bear lurking around.

GLENN: Do you believe in manmade global warming and to what extent will you try to correct it, if you do believe in manmade global warming?

BARR: Mankind has done a lot of good in the world. They have done a lot of bad as well, but change in the climate is not one of them. I’ve seen no legitimate scientific evidence that indicates that the cyclical — and they are very much cyclical — you know, increases and drops in global temperatures over the decades and over the centuries is the result of, you know, mankind.

GLENN: So how would you explain? Why the big push for global warming and cap and trade and everything else with both parties?

BARR: Two things. Because much public policy in America these days and even in the Western world generally is based on notions that sound good. It sounds good to people that there’s something wrong out there and we can do something about it. It becomes a rallying cry and you have the Hollywood elites that have bought into this, you have the political elites like Al Gore that make money in this. You have it being pushed and rammed down our throats by the United Nations, you know, which, they may make really nice Christmas cards but that’s about all the good they do in the world. But they’re pushing this, forcing this down our throats. And I tell you, Glenn, the cleverest people in all this are the Chinese. They exempt themselves from things like the Kyoto protocol which would saddle U.S. and European governments and businesses with trillions of dollars of costs and drive down the ability of the Western world to increase and change its economy. Meanwhile the Chinese are surging and they are not bound by these same regulations that the international bodies are trying to force on us.

GLENN: Tell me about the role of the Fed and the depreciation of the dollar and what you would do about all of this.

BARR: If I could wave a magic wand and the Federal Reserve Bank would disappear tomorrow, I would do so. It’s a group of unelected governors that are not answerable to or accountable to the people of this country and yet they wield considerable influence over the economy by basically setting rates at which banks and other financial institutions can loan money. And they have built up, you know, huge reserves themselves that they can then dole out as they’re doing — as they did recently with Bear Stearns to prop up as failing, what they see as failing investment houses, for example.

What we’re on the verge of right now, Glenn, through this federal government monkeying around with the mortgage business, both directly and indirectly, is to have the federal government now set a "One size fits all" mortgage criteria for the country. That would be disastrous. It would stifle risk-taking, it would stifle the independence of small mortgage houses and mortgage banks and would simply create further problems down the road. What we need to be doing is tackling government spending. That is the root of all evil, so to speak. We need to get a handle on federal spending, we need to start reducing the economic footprint and, you know, all the other footprints of the federal government if we want to talk about them, and get the federal government out of running our economy. It was never intended to be the job of the federal government to run the economy.

GLENN: Speaking of evil, will you call the philosophy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad evil and can you explain the role that the theology of the 12th Imam plays in his foreign policy and his kind of thinking?

BARR: Anybody, whether it’s Ahmadinejad or other leaders who call for the extinction of any country or any people or who call, as he very clearly has done for the murder of many thousands, if not millions of law-abiding citizens of other countries clearly is evil. No doubt about it. That does not mean that we go and invade the country, though. There is a lot more to it than that. But any movement that has, as its avowed goal, the destruction of the United States or attacks on the United States is certainly one that ought to be very, very high on our radar list. We ought to be prepared to defend ourselves as aggressively as we need to against steps that they might take against us.

BARR: Bob, you were the guy — and I was cheering for you in congress when you said — when we got on the PATRIOT Act, it’s got to have sunsets. I don’t want my government to have any power without a sunset on it, especially the kinds of things that we’re talking about the PATRIOT Act, and you’re the guy who got the sunsets attached to it, which to me makes the PATRIOT Act okay. If it didn’t have a sunset, I would have a real problem with it.

BARR: The problem that I have with it, Glenn, and thanks for remembering that and recalling that for your listeners. The real problem in the PATRIOT Act was — well, there were several problems. But along the line of sunset, the problem was that we weren’t able to secure an overall sunset. There were only about a dozen and a half specific provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act that we were able to get sunsetted. That at least, though, did give us an opportunity in 2005 and 2006 to have a real national debate in which I engaged with groups from across the etiological spectrum, from the American conservative union to the ACLU to the NRA, the eagle forum and so forth. That at least gave us that opportunity. At the close of the day in early 2006 unfortunately, those provisions that were sunsetted were re-upped. But at least we opened the eyes of the American people and continue to do so with other information that’s come out and to the abuses in the PATRIOT Act that’s being used far more aggressively than congress intended or that it should be to go after — to conduct investigations and prosecutions of matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

GLENN: Tell me the places in the PATRIOT Act, because every time it comes up for review, we look for it. Tell me the cases where people’s rights have been trampled.

BARR: It’s very difficult to point to specific cases because it’s done in secret. There have been court cases, Glenn, where institutions and individuals have tried to bring cases and the courts won’t allow it because they won’t allow them to get the information to prove their case. There have been some. We had the case, for example, of Brandon Mayfield, the attorney out in, I think it was Portland, Oregon, who was arrested and detained incommunicado for weeks in, I think it was either 2004 or 2005 because he was completely erroneously linked to some suspects in the Madrid train bombing. Taking somebody, a U.S. citizen and holding them incommunicado without charges being brought against them on the flimsiest of evidence, evidence that in that particular case was told to the FBI by the Spanish authorities was wrong is in itself a very clear abuse of not just the PATRIOT Act but the fundamental constitutional liberties in this country.

GLENN: Wasn’t it corrected?

BARR: Well, it was corrected later on, but —

GLENN: Okay, not —

BARR: But I dare say — and the federal government wound up having to pay him a couple of million dollars because they abused his rights.

GLENN: Here’s what I’m asking. There’s no — there is absolutely no institution, there’s nothing that is perfect that will never make a mistake. And are you telling me that — I mean, the mistake that you just — I asked you for an example. The one you just gave me was corrected and he received damages. That doesn’t make it right by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not an abuse that just was swept under the rug and nothing ever happened and he died in prison. What I’m asking you is, if it makes us safer, isn’t there some — isn’t there some way to make the PATRIOT Act have the sunsets that we need, make sure there are some checks and balances? There is no system — people who are against the PATRIOT Act to me, it always makes me feel like, well, okay, there are people on death row that shouldn’t be on death row. "Well, then we should just stop the court system." No, we should refine it. We should do everything we can to make sure it works the best it can knowing that it will never be perfect. But make it the best we can.

BARR: And that’s certainly my goal, also. I start, however, Glenn, from the premise that when you look at the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we had on the books at that time already over 4,000 federal criminal laws, to say nothing of all of our state laws. We had opportunity to have stopped those terrorists at every step of the way.

GLENN: Yes.

BARR: Everything they did was already illegal. We didn’t need more laws, more invasive laws. I have no problem at all with the government taking legitimate evidence that somebody is committing or might commit or is about to commit a terrorist act and investigating them to the full extent possible. But when you have, as we now have in the USA PATRIOT Act enshrined now in U.S. law the power of the federal government to initiate an investigation and gain private records on any person in this country without any evidence whatsoever that they have done anything wrong, that to me is going too far. And that’s the problem that we see in a number of the provisions in the PATRIOT Act.

GLENN: But wait a minute. I believe that’s a mischaracterization. They can do that, but they have to then go back to a judge to be able to show their cause after the fact. They were trying to speed it up. So they have to go to the judge. And if the judge says, what the hell are you doing, then they’re in trouble.

BARR: No, a lot of this is done, Glenn, through what are called national security letters which, many of which never find their way to a judge. These are documents that are signed off on by an FBI field agent or a supervisor at an FBI field office and don’t go before a judge.

GLENN: After you left — well, first of all, why did you leave the Republican party?

BARR: I left the Republican party for the same reason that President Reagan decades before me left the Democrat party. It left him. The Republican party has veered, Glenn, so sharply from its individual liberty roots and government policies that there’s no relation to the party that I proudly served with for so many years.

GLENN: And I agree with you. The Republicans have left the Republicans and the Democratic party have left the Democrats. And that’s why I would consider you. But there’s a couple of things that interest me. After you left congress, you went to work for the ACLU which I think is the biggest leftist affront organization I’ve ever seen. I mean, the only thing that has done more damage to the United States of America than the ACLU is the McCain/Feingold bill.

BARR: You hit that nail on the head, that’s for sure. The ACLU and I had many disagreements. I was in battle with them when I went to congress, before I went to congress and I continue to have serious disagreements with them but look at just one issue that we were just talking about and that is the USA PATRIOT Act. They have been out there arguing the exact same things that you and I are supportive of here with regard to the PATRIOT Act since it was enacted and if it weren’t for their work really leading the effort along with a number of other conservative organizations to bring to bear the light of, you know, public awareness on the abuses of the PATRIOT Act, it wouldn’t have happened.

GLENN: So why not go to work for one of those conservative organizations as opposed to one that will —

BARR: I do — I do.

GLENN: Wait a minute, one that will fight for footbaths for Muslim prayer rituals in public buildings but will fight against anything to do with Christianity in a public building? Why not, why not — why go to work for them at all?

BARR: Well, first of all, I didn’t work for them. I wasn’t a member of it. I mean, I did consulting work for them, but I did work for the American conservative union at the same time. Basically what I was doing, and I would do it again today, is to work with any of these legitimate organizations that have an interest in protecting our fundamental right to privacy in this instance. We’ll disagree on all sorts of other things but if we don’t pull together all of these different groups from the right, the left and the middle to work with those fundamental constitutional liberties that we agree with, then the government is simply going to be able to continue to divide and conquer and we won’t get anywhere.

GLENN: We’re talking to Bob Barr. He is the libertarian candidate. Their convention is happening this weekend, for President of the United States. Bob, if you don’t mind holding on for just a few minutes. We’ll come back. I want to talk about the borders, I want to talk about Jack Bauer, I want to talk a little bit about the war on terror, I want to talk about income tax. We’ll do those with Bob Barr coming up in just a second.