Leopard. Spots. Changed.

Andrew Sullivan once scribed:

“The sophisticated form of anthrax delivered to Tom Daschle’s office forces us to ask a simple question. What are these people trying to do? I think they’re testing the waters. They want to know how we will respond to what is still a minor biological threat, as a softener to a major biological threat in the coming weeks. ...At this point, it seems to me that a refusal to extend the war to Iraq is not even an option. We have to extend it to Iraq. It is by far the most likely source of this weapon; it is clearly willing to use such weapons in the future; and no war against terrorism of this kind can be won without dealing decisively with the Iraqi threat. We no longer have any choice in the matter. Slowly, incrementally, a Rubicon has been crossed.”

Later, he reversed his position with:

“After 9/11, I was clearly blinded by fear of al Qaeda and deluded by the overwhelming military superiority of the US and the ease of democratic transitions in Eastern Europe into thinking we could simply fight our way to victory against Islamist terror. I wasn’t alone. But I was surely wrong.”

A couple of days ago, Sullivan took an oblique shot at “contradictions” in Bob Barr’s “libertarian credentials” by linking to this blog posting:

The man responsible for the most homophobic law ever passed by Congress is weighing a run for president as a Libertarian, despite that party’s longtime claim to being strongly supportive of gay rights.

When Bob Barr was a Republican congressman from Georgia, he authored and was the chief sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks any federal recognition of gay couples married by the states, as well as allowing each state to refuse to recognizes marriage licenses issued to gay couples by other states.

It’s important to note that I’ve twice heard Barr state (once at a public event in Nashville and once at a private event in DC) that he’d be happy to push reasonable legislation to repeal DOMA. What I heard is very similar to what has been reported by lesbian Libertarian activist Ruth Bennett:

While I have had some reservations about Mr. Barr as a Libertarian, I have to say that I am increasingly impressed. He has said that if legislation is introduced in Congress to repeal DOMA that he will lobby to get DOMA tossed. Now it’s up to the Democrats to step up and introduce such legislation!

I asked Barr about this topic the other day. My understanding of his understanding is that Outright Libertarians are supposed to be crafting potential legislation toward this end—not the Democrats. After all, I expect that Democratic legislators support individual (whether gay or straight) rights about as much as they support eliminating funding for the Iraq War.

If the Republican turned Libertarian has worked with MPP to defeat the Barr Amendment, why is it surprising to others that he’s also willing to work to reverse other actions of his past?

Like Sullivan, Barr is now firmly opposed the Patriot Act and U.S. intervention in Iraq. Of all people, Sullivan should be the first to know that an intelligent and principled leopard is indeed capable of changing his spots.

16 Responses to “Leopard. Spots. Changed.”

  1. hueylong Says:

    An excellent piece but maybe you should give Sullivan a bit of a break here. let’s be honest, Barr has a history of some rather anti-Libertarian viewpoints. The key is to educate and convince others that he has in fact changed his spots. Having said that he is still by far your best potential presidential candidate.

  2. Dave Williams Says:

    Open letter to the jackass that stole my LP yard sign today…YOU SUCK!!

  3. disinter Says:

    I am not so sure the Outright Liber-nazi’s legislation would be any better. This is the same group of idiots that supports government mandated “equality”.

  4. Dave Williams Says:

    Yes disinter I agree, reminds me of my friends kid who played soccer down at the YMCA…there were no ‘losers’ and no ‘winners’ at the end of regulation time…that equality crap has poisoned this society.

  5. NewFederalist Says:

    Just remember… it may have been an elephant who stole your sign!

  6. Brent Burk Says:

    Hrm… so the bill, the bill recognized something called federalism?

    Here’s an idea. Government out of marriage! At least, the federal government.

    Let states decide, or not decide. The term “marriage” is a religious one, why have government involved?

    But no, people want papers that have recognition from the government that says “we are married”. I never understood that. Maybe because of the welfare that is attached to it.

  7. disinter Says:

    Brent – I agree.

  8. LifeMember Says:

    Gordo, Andrew Sullivan is one of my favorite writers out there, but I’ve got to admit that he deserved your well-written smackdown.

    Sullivan, if you read this comment I’ll suggest you call Barr’s office. They take my irritating calls so I know they will take yours. I’ve read your stuff for years and love you, bro—but you are dead wrong on this one. From what you have written in the past, Barr should be your closest political ally—unless you are taking a paycheck from Obama or McCain at the moment.

  9. Laura Says:

    I agree with Brent too!

  10. Alexander S. Peak Says:

    I am very impressed by Mr. Barr’s born-again libertarianism, and very happy to see him changing his spots. Although I will not support Barr pre-nom as long as Ruwart, Phillies, and Kubby are in the race, I will vote for him post-nom if he gets the nomination.

    Mr. disinter:

    Where has Outright Libertarians ever supported government-mandated “equality”? It was my impression that Outright Libertarians was strictly against such things.

    All:

    What I think Mr. Burk is trying to say is that the position of the federal government toward marriage ought to be that marriage is a state issue, not to be touched by the federal government; and that the position of the state government toward marriage ought to be that marriage is a private issue, not to be touched, regulated, or defined. I would agree.

    For those interested, I’ve created this short list of works dealing with marriage from a libertarian perspective.

    Cheers,
    Alex Peak

  11. Eric Says:

    There is nothing the slightest bit contradictory about being a Libertarian and supporting a law “which blocks any federal recognition of gay couples married by the states, as well as allowing each state to refuse to recognizes marriage licenses issued to gay couples by other states.” Perhaps the only problem a libertarian ought to have with that is the notion that a law should ever be necessary for it. Gay activists who see the strong arm of the federal government as a tool to be used to put some sort of governmental blessing on gay marriage and to force my state to recognize gay marriages performed in another state are not libertarians. Any libertarians who do advocate such use of the federal government must be completely mesmerized by their own opposition to the religious right to do so. DOMA may not be perfect, and it may not be necessary, but the idea it embodies of protecting states’ rights coheres just fine with libertarian values.

  12. Alexander S. Peak Says:

    The Constitution does not allow the federal government to pass laws that allow itself to recognise any marriages, straight or otherwise.

    The Constitution also does not allow the federal government to pass laws informing states whether or not they are permitted to ignore the licenses offered by other states.

    And, if the fourteenth amendment extends the bill of rights to the states, then it could be argued that no state has the authority to issue marriage licenses to anyone. On the other hand, it could also be argued that even with the fourteenth amendment in place, no state is required to abide by the first amendment because of its stipulation of reference to Congress.

    But as long as libertarians fall somewhere between anarchism at the most extreme and constitutionalism at the most moderate, DOMA is unlibertarian.

    Mr. Eric write,

    Gay activists who see the strong arm of the federal government as a tool to be used to put some sort of governmental blessing on gay marriage and to force my state to recognize gay marriages performed in another state are not libertarians.

    Moreover, any person who uses the guns of the federal government to force any state, church, business, organisation, or individual to recognise any marriage is not a libertarian.

    DOMA may not be perfect, and it may not be necessary, but the idea it embodies of protecting states’ rights coheres just fine with libertarian values.

    I do not see DOMA as protecting states’ powers (the tenth amendment says nothing about rights), but I understand how some of its proponents might see it as such, even though I do not. A federal government powerful enough to pass DOMA is powerful enough to force states to recognise heterosexual marriages performed in other states. The federal government ought never be that powerful.

    Sincerely,
    Alex Peak

  13. Rob Power Says:

    To be clear, Mr. Barr has said he’d support a partial DOMA repeal only once we (Outright Libertarians) can tell him a bill number.

    To get a bill number, we first have to find a sponsor. We tried to get Kucinich to be that sponsor, since he’s introduced it twice before, but he is too wrapped up in his Congressional campaign. We’re still looking for a sponsor. If anyone has a suggestion, we’d love to hear it.

    We could always pull a DownsizeDC and push for legislation that nobody is willing to sponsor, but we were under the impression that Mr. Barr would not lend his name to that sort of effort. Of course, if he decides to run for President, we’ll of course ask him to take that extra step and advocate for the repeal even before there’s a Congressional sponsor.

  14. Brian Miller Says:

    I spoke with Bob Barr at length about this issue during the LP-sponsored Conservative Leadership Conference in Reno last November.

    Barr is supportive of a repeal of the section of DOMA that imposes a federal definition of marriage on the federal government (and the states), a position that Hillary Clinton has since also adopted.

    The key problem, as Rob has already noted, is that since we don’t have any Libertarians in Congress to introduce the legislation, we’re at a bit of a standstill. I am hoping that part of Barr’s campaign efforts (along with other prominent recent Libertarians such as Mike Gravel) will be working to draw attention to this issue and encourage voters to send Libertarians to Washington who will make sure this bill indeed gets a number.

    I’d also add that those defending the status quo, especially defending unequal treatment by government in this issue, would probably be better off in another party. Presently, the LP is the only party that’s staked serious political capital on ensuring that the government’s unequal treatment of gay people ends.

  15. Susan Hogarth Says:

    Barr is supportive of a repeal of the section of DOMA that imposes a federal definition of marriage on the federal government (and the states)

    Perhaps someone familiar with the issue could draft a resolution for Barr to introduce at an LNC meeting.

  16. Ayn R. Key Says:

    Now if only he would address his failed attempt to forbid Wicca in the military.

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