There was a time, not so long ago, when Bob Barr commanded the attention of millions. From his perch on the House Judiciary Committee, the Georgia congressman launched the impeachment of Bill Clinton and presided over its daily march, grilling witnesses, orchestrating events, and doing everything in his considerable power to bring down a sitting president.
There was time when it looked like Barr might succeed, when it looked like he might change American history.
That time has passed.
Today, standing in line at a Manhattan Starbucks in a wrinkled suit, his eyes puffy, the 59-year-old looks older and weary, just another corporate flunky waiting to wake up. He shuffles to the counter, gives the barista a pleading look. "Five shots of espresso," he says. "In a cup. With milk." Then, turning sheepishly: "I only do this three times a day."
Since losing his reelection in 2002, Barr has lost not only his power but also many of his friends. It doesn't help that after alienating nearly every Democrat with impeachment, he spent the next five years alienating his fellow Republicans —railing against the invasion of Iraq, the PATRIOT Act, and the Bush administration in general. If Barr were still in the Congress, it is safe to say he would be one of the few members willing to launch a second impeachment.
Instead, he's taking the outside track—joining the Libertarian Party and, in May, becoming its nominee for president. With just 2 to 3 percent in the polls—mostly coming from disillusioned conservatives—he spends most of his time on the trail answering questions like "Why are you doing this to John McCain?" Yet Barr is more than a wannabe Nader; he's a man of opinions and ideas—even if they do seem to change quite often. It seems only fair to hear him out, especially since, as a third-party candidate, he doesn't give a rat's ass whom he offends.
You have opposed the Bush administration on a number of issues, including the war, but what is your policy for Iraq going forward?
Bob Barr: To me, it is utterly irresponsible to continue the course that we've embarked upon. If our goal was to get rid of Saddam Hussein, we liberated the people from Saddam Hussein. But now we're five and a half years later, and we're still over there, and it's very costly to us. I don't think the American taxpayers focus on how much the occupation is draining resources.
Four-hundred-plus million dollars every single day. You talk to some Republicans and they say, "The Iraqis love us." Well, maybe so. But who wouldn't? We're propping up their economy, we're protecting their borders, we're providing security. Of course they love us.
Is there any difference between your plan for Iraq and Obama's?
It's hard to say, because I don't know that he's laid out a plan with any great specificity. It's my view that we need an immediate and very significant drawdown of our military and economic presence in Iraq. We are not going to assume responsibility for another country.
Do you think if McCain becomes president, we'll be stuck in the same position for another four years?