Bob and Isaiah voiced concerns last week over the codification of President Bush’s abuses of executive power, and the erosion of our constitutional system of checks and balances. Bob called for a “grand inquest into the powers that he has claimed” by the House, “registering a formal objection to them” to avoid continued congressional “inaction [which] can alter the Constitutional division of powers by establishing the president’s claims as authority that the Congress or the courts may not infringe.” Isaiah called for last-ditch effort to derail “immunity for telecommunication companies that broke the law to bend to Bush administration demands for surveillance activity.”
As I noted, it is difficult to get these issues elevated to prominence with voters when so many are suffering from the ailing economy. But a surprising acknowledgment from a conservative presidential candidate may turn some heads.
Not Sen. John McCain. Former Republican congressman and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr,
Barr recently talked with FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher on Bloggingheads.tv (where I regularly appear). Jane posed a simple question to the former manager of the Clinton impeachment team, “Bill Clinton or George Bush?” Here’s the response, video and transcript:
BARR: What George W. Bush has done to the fabric of our constitutional government — to separation of powers, to a government of limited powers, to destroy the notion that we are a nation of laws not men — is something that is absolutely unforgivable, irresponsible, and terribly, terribly destructive of our notion of government.
President Clinton, I certainly had my problems with him. But what he did in terms of perjury and obstruction was bad, but it was not destructive of the very systemic foundations of our country.
HAMSHER: That was good Bob. I think I need a cigarette now.
BARR: I’ll have a cigar.
This exchange is notable on a couple of levels. The most obvious is how Bush’s abuses of power have eroded the Republican Party’s standing with some conservatives, to the point where he is a bigger target than Bill Clinton was in the eyes of some.
But it’s also notable that elements of the progressive blogosphere — which has long flashed a libertarian streak — are receptive to Barr’s message.
It would be short-sighted to assume that bloggers want to spotlight Barr only to siphon votes from McCain. Barr could just as easily siphon off votes for Obama if anger over the FISA/telecom immunity bill continues to simmer, even though so much of the Libertarian agenda conflicts with the progressive vision of active government and public investment on issues from health care to energy to jobs.
These constitutional issues may only be percolating on the edges of the political discourse, while the economy remains front and center to most voters.
But votes are votes. In a close race, anything can matter.
If the Barr campaign catches on, other candidates may be compelled to more seriously address how they would prevent Bush’s damage to our Constitution from becoming permanent, and restore checks and balances back to our system of government.