The 44th President of the United States

Will almost certainly not be Bob Barr. Nor do I actually plan to vote for the man. Nevertheless, should he actually win the endorsement of the Libertarian Party later this month (as I understand is expected), I expect he’ll pop into the position of my “Backup Candidate,” i.e., the person I’ll vote for if Barack Obama spontaneously combusts/is abducted by aliens/massacres a kindergarten full of adorable baby seals and gorges on their blubber live on national television. If it comes to that point, I’ll vote for Bob Barr before I vote for John McCain. Of course, if it comes to that point, we’re probably all in trouble in other, disturbing ways. But let’s not worry about that now.

Note that admitting I’d vote for Barr before McCain is a fairly serious statement on my part, because when Barr was actually in Congress, he was a conservative Republican and a bit of a prick. He impinged on my consciousness primarily as one of Newt Gingrich’s bilious felch monkeys; the one who led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton, and then got all blotchy and red when it became clear that neither Clinton nor most of America were in the least concerned about the trial. However, since Barr left Congress, he’s done lots of stuff I respect, like regret his vote on the Patriot Act and work to reverse its damages to our constitutional rights, leave the GOP and join the ACLU, and generally get cranky about what’s been done to the country during the Dubya administration.

Now, I’m not going to forget he was once one of Gingrich’s felch monkeys, mind you. It’s something you don’t just gloss over. But on the other hand one doesn’t leave the GOP and become a member of the Libertarian Party because one feels it’s really going to light a fire under one’s career in Washington, now, does one. One feels his commitment to libertarian principles is reasonably genuine, otherwise he’d just have stayed where he was. As a presidential candidate, Barr offers a genuine alternative to what McCain would offer — which, if you believe minority whip Roy Blunt, would be a third Bush term.

But let’s be real, here: the question not really whether I put Barr ahead of McCain in my voting queue, since I had no intention of voting for McCain in the first place. The question is whether some folks who might otherwise vote for McCain will do so, and whether there will be enough of them to constitute a genuine drag on McCain in the election. Regarding the former, sure, I think there are folks who’ll jump off the McCain Express for Barr, since when you get right down to it, Barr’s small government, states-rights, “fair tax”-loving, immigrant-phobic positions are more classically Republican-y than anything McCain is going to manage, and McCain is a candidate that apparently lots of Republicans tolerate but none of them actually love, and only a few more than that seem to even like.

Regarding the latter, well, I don’t suspect Barr will pull huge numbers from the GOP. But as Nader showed in Florida in 2000, you don’t need to have huge numbers to screw a candidate, you just need enough to throw a spanner into the works. It’s entirely possible Barr could get those numbers, particularly, I think, in the South and the West.

And you know, I’m fine with that. Barr’s not going to be President, but if he helps make McCain not president, too, I’ll honor him for his service to the country. He has my backup vote.

66 thoughts on “The 44th President of the United States

  1. “bilious felch monkeys”

    Not an image I would normally have chosen to accompany me through the balance of my working day…

  2. Good take on Barr, John.

    (I think Obama can do the baby seal blubber eating thing on SNL and thus rob it of any impact it might have during the general election.)

    Do you think there’s any room for a ‘Fens voter’s guide’ (best on tax issues relating to publishing, space programs, technology, etc), or is the SF community just too widespread ideologically for such a thing to mean anything?

  3. Steve Davidson:

    Yeah, sf/f readers are politically all over the place. I think a fen voter’s guide would just piss them off.

  4. And if Senator Clinton somehow takes the nomination without any acts of seal-blubbery on Obama’s part?

    I’ll tell you what I’d probably be doing: Writing in Obama. And I suspect I wouldn’t be the only one.

  5. I really don’t think we have to worry about that too much anymore, though, Joe. I could be wrong on this, but I don’t think I am.

    That said, today’s WV primary will be a nice consolation prize for her. She’ll win big.

  6. I remember Bob Barr when he first won his seat (during Newt’s Contract on America) since he unseated my Congress-critter at the time, Buddy Darden. I find it amusing that he has basically flipped his position on everything from the PATRIOT Act to marijuana laws since joining the ACLU. What next, Bob? Support for gay marriage and a ban on assault weapons? No, that’s probably too radical for him.

    There may be a number of conservatives out there who would vote for Barr over McCain. I suspect far more of them will simply not bother to vote.

    I remember all too well the nastiness with which he pursued his agenda in Congress, so no, I won’t be casting any votes for Bob Barr. Barack Obama with seal blubber on his breath would still be preferrable to either Barr or McCain…

  7. I agree with you. He’ll be my backup candidate as well. That is, I’ll vote for him before I’ll vote for Barack :)

  8. The thing that keeps me worrying about Obama isn’t any of those random humorous possibilities, it’s that he might get assassinated.

    For extra chaos, imagine what happens if he’s killed early enough in the process that Hillary is the obvious replacement candidate.

    As for Barr, I’ll be delighted by anyone who can serve as a spoiler for McCain, and if Barr has even a little of that Ron Paul magic, he’ll be a good spoiler. And if he opposes the war on drugs, it’ll help get that idea into the national consciousness.

  9. Nancy @8:
    If he opposes the drug war, it’ll be a new position. Maybe the guy really has had a Damascus Road conversion, but I’m way too damned cynical to vote for a guy who changed ALL his positions after he left office. Nope. I’m just belting in for 4 years of total disaster, no matter who wins.

  10. Do I really want to ask what “felch” means? Would it be safe for work to even google the word?

  11. Obama….

    Libertarian.

    This does not compute.

    How does one have a Libertarian as a backup to the most Liberal human in the Senate?

    Scalzi, I believe I will never understand your politics.

    Not that you give a shit, but still, I needed to say it.

    Thanks for listening

  12. Nick @ 11:

    Do I really want to ask what “felch” means? Would it be safe for work to even google the word?

    No.

    I did, and I regretted the flavor text that showed up, much less the actual content of the first hit (whose title seemed relatively innocuous in comparison).

  13. Bilious Felch Monkeys — I almost bought their album, but the record store manager said it was a piece of shit…

  14. John and derf,

    Okeydokey, then. I’ll just imagine it, even though I know my pallid and depauperate imagination cannot even begin to conceive of the vileness that lurks on teh intarwebs.

  15. I don’t know. Bob Barr was a complete nutcase in Congress. Now he’s apparently switched all his positions,… but he’s still apparently a nutcase.

    Of course, McCain has flip-flopped like a fish on a hook, too. In fact, I suspect that half of his supporters are just assuming that he’s lying now, in order to get the nomination. It’s pretty bad when you’re hoping your candidate is lying about everything!

    How in the world could Barack Obama not win this in a landslide? I don’t agree with him about everything, but I like the way he thinks. I like the fact that he DOES think! No backups for me. It’s Obama or nothing.

  16. I wouldn’t vote for Barr even if Barack did somehow implode, explode, or cannibalise. Man has a shitty record with reproductive rights, and I, for one, kinda like my birth control. Also, he drummed up support on the Defense of Marriage shit, the whole while being one of those poster boys for Hetero Marriages Wot Don’t Work. (Three times married, seen licking women at conventions, that sort of thing.)

    If one could vote for him, hurt McCain’s base, and leave the opposition intact, which is what I guess you’d be hoping for, sure, maybe then. That’s a non-vote with a side of strategy.

    Anyway, I think you (Scalzi) were just taken in because he looks kinda like you (but with greyer hair) in this picture here:

  17. Well, I used to vote for Nader, but people told me that I just threw the election to the Republicans by doing that. So this time I’m going to vote for Barr, so I can throw the election to the Democrats!

    Some people ask me why I don’t just vote directly for the major party I prefer to win. They obviously don’t know the awesome power that we third party voters have. Major party voters can only affect the election a little, being lost in a vast sea of fellow voters, but we third party voters, few as we are, have the power to decide the election all by ourselves!

    It’s an awesome power, which comes with awesome responsibility. Or that’s what I think I heard Scalvi say.

  18. Frank @13: How does one have a Libertarian as a backup to the most Liberal human in the Senate?

    I won’t speak for Scalzi here, but the #1 issue for me in this election, personally, is a desire to roll back the many ways in which the Bush administration has infringed on civil rights. I think Obama is the most likely candidate to succeed in doing that, but if he were to implode, I’d expect the odds to be better with a Libertarian than a Republican.

    Although Barr is enough of a freak on some issues that I’d worry I was sending the wrong message with my vote, like “deport all the immigrants” rather than “warrantless eavesdropping is not OK with me.” Really, if Obama were caught up in a baby-seal-eating scandal in October, I’d have to weigh my options pretty carefully. I might figure that the eating of baby seals was still the least of the available evils.

  19. Christian @ 14: I thought that was women with moustaches who were hiding something.

    Scalzi @ 20: Imagine him without the moustache and hair. Or get out your photoshop.

    Several: You made me very curoius, so I looked up felch in the Urban dictionary. Don’t.

  20. I wonder if his newfound Libertarianism means that he’s also no longer a Christofascist. He first came to my attention when he found out that the US Army was allowing freedom of religion (Pagan worship) at a Georgia military base, and tried to stop it.

  21. As a “recovering” Libertarian I have to agree with Frank… huh?!?

    The best thing to counteract the whole “wasted vote” argument against voting for third parties would be the adoption of instant-runoff voting.

  22. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ll vote for Cannibal Hitler’s Head in a Jar before I vote for McCain – and his latest position on the new GI Bill just convinces me even more that I’m right.

    But Barr? Hmmm, Obama’s going to have to do a lot worse than eat baby seals to lose my vote. Besides, baby seals taste just like chicken, once you get past the blubber…

  23. Frank:

    “Scalzi, I believe I will never understand your politics.”

    Ah, they’re pretty easy: Generally fiscally conservative, generally socially liberal, with an eye toward pragmatic long-term social planning and respect for the Constitution of the US. Add a few personal quirks to taste. You’re done.

  24. The National Review carefully calibrates its most-liberal rankings; they used different criteria to make sure that John Kerry came out on top for 2003. A more serious study has Obama tied with Joe Biden for 10th most liberal.

  25. It’s pretty clear that the Libertarian party has now entirely abandoned its roots and has now just become a dumping ground for Republicans pissed off at their parties own failures.

    I remember Barr, and detest him with a vehemence that I can’t even begin to work up for someone like McCain. He’s a fascist thug, and therefore precisely the opposite of what the Libertarian party used to stand for when I was a naive young member in the eighties.

    If he splits the conservative vote, all to the best, but I could never pull the level next to that bastard’s name.

  26. Don’t count on Barr taking the nomination — the way the convention runs, if I understand it correctly, pretty much guarantees upsets and unpredictable results. Add in that Barr is waaay off-platform in a lot of ways (drugs, Iraq, his entire previous political career) and that he has donated to Republicans while waging his campaign in the Libertarian party and you have a candidacy that’s going to run into a fair bit of trouble.

    While it’s true that the “pragmatist” wing of the LP has been enthusiastically selling out for years now, Barr may prove to be a sellout too far.

  27. it became clear that neither Clinton nor most of America were in the least concerned about the trial.

    No offense, John, but how exactly did you come to this recollection? My own memories of the period involve quite of the televisions in the Chicago downtown area playing the hearing simulcast when Clinton was before the Senate — including the trading floor of the bank where I worked at the time. And of course, late-night hosts were relentless on the subject, as were quite a number of newspaper columnists. All of that implies a significant percentage of America was very much concerned.

    Likewise, a perfectly commonplace opinion of the time was that Clinton launched an attack against Sudan for the sole purpose of covering up the scandal. Perhaps you recall the movie Wag The Dog, which had the same premise?

  28. John Scalvi’s biggest fan @22

    Well, I used to vote for Nader, but people told me that I just threw the election to the Republicans by doing that. So this time I’m going to vote for Barr, so I can throw the election to the Democrats!

    I don’t think that plan is going to work. The best you are going to get Ron Paul supporters. If that.

    Naomi Kritzeron @23

    I won’t speak for Scalzi here, but the #1 issue for me in this election, personally, is a desire to roll back the many ways in which the Bush administration has infringed on civil rights.

    You mean your interpretation of civil rights.

    I consider the 2nd Amendment a Civil Right and I don’t trust Obama with that.

    Do you?

    I also don’t see how abortion is a Civil Right as enumerated in the Constitution. Not that I am against women being free to have an abortion, I just don’t see how it can be construed as a Constitutional right.

    Clearly different people see the whole idea of Civil Rights differently.

    Scalzi @29

    Ah, they’re pretty easy: Generally fiscally conservative, generally socially liberal, with an eye toward pragmatic long-term social planning and respect for the Constitution of the US. Add a few personal quirks to taste. You’re done.

    Oh.

    Don’t see how that translates into Obama, or Barr for that matter, but OK. (Not that you need to explain yourself to me, of all people).

    Max Kaehn @30

    A more serious study has Obama tied with Joe Biden for 10th most liberal.

    Actually 9th in the Senate if you look at the link provided by your source

    There are a total of 286 Democrats in the 110th House and Senate (counting replacements). There are 88 members to Obama’s left — 8 Senators and 80 Representatives.

    McCain appears to be right of Center instead of Left of Center Left.

    Obama doesn’t equate to a Libertarian in any respect which would be Right of Center Right. Depending, of course, on what issues to consider to be “Right”.

    Combining the two Chambers shows even more clearly the fact that Senators Clinton and Obama are essentially identical ideologically with a substantial number of Democrats to their left. Senator McCain is in the left wing of the Republican Party and President Bush is on the conservative edge of his Party.

    Steve Burnap @31
    I remember Barr, and detest him with a vehemence that I can’t even begin to work up for someone like McCain. He’s a fascist thug, and therefore precisely the opposite of what the Libertarian party used to stand for

    Well there’s that…

  29. Gerrymander:

    “And of course, late-night hosts were relentless on the subject, as were quite a number of newspaper columnists. All of that implies a significant percentage of America was very much concerned.”

    You’re confusing what a 24-hour news cycle feeds on with what people actually care about. At the time Clinton was being impeached, he had a 65% approval rating, if memory serves. Most people didn’t care about the impeachment. I don’t imagine Clinton himself was particularly concerned that he’d get the boot, either, or was ultimately worried about what impeachment would do to his ability to get things done. He could read polls as well as anyone.

  30. “Bilious felch monkey” John another first, this quote could be a 2008’s verbal bacon cat moment. I shall use it daily until the election, I’m thinking tee shirts of the “I’m with the –> bilious felch monkey” variety.

    I always wondered if Norman Lear understood the definition of felch when he named the Bunker’s priest the Reverend Felcher in All In The Family; I suspect so . I have also wondered how many picked up on this.

  31. Frank @ 13: Modern interpretation of terms is key:

    Libertarian = limited government, let people do what they want so long as they don’t hurt others, liberty and free markets maximize happiness and efficiency, therefore build a strong nation. What right do others have to tell you how to live?

    Liberal = Use government to implement programs to help everyone out of certain peoples’ pockets for the alleged betterment of everyone because someone knows best how to do that. Government control and appropriations will somehow lead to a good result, therefore must, reluctantly, be imposed on every aspect of your life. The collective has somehow acquired a right to tell you how to live, but it is emphasized that this is for your own good because you cannot possibly take care of yourself.

    Conservative = Build a strong nation no matter how you do it, crush all opposition and torture, mock or demean anyone who interferes with the process. Government programs are a means to this end. Strength and conformity can and will be imposed from above by certain individuals who know what’s best for you – because you’re nothing by yourself and you’re in no way competent enough to handle your own affairs.

  32. KIA

    Modern interpretation of terms is key:…

    Pretty clear what you favor.

    Use government to implement programs to help everyone out of certain peoples’ pockets for the alleged betterment of everyone because someone knows best how to do that. Government control and appropriations will somehow lead to a good result, therefore must, reluctantly, be imposed on every aspect of your life. The collective has somehow acquired a right to tell you how to live, but it is emphasized that this is for your own good because you cannot possibly take care of yourself.

    Hmmm. Sounds Fascist to me.

    I don’t remember, did I win that debate?

    Conservative = …

    I disagree with your assessment, but if a) Libertarian were true, and had a party that really espoused such values, and a political machine with the clout to push it, I’d be all for it.

    Unfortunately, the electorate isn’t there yet either…

  33. Frank:

    “I don’t remember, did I win that debate?”

    No. Neither did Jonah Goldberg, except to the extent that he found 80,000 suckers to buy his book in hardcover. But good for him on that score. Dude’s gotta eat.

  34. John,

    Flacking for a fringe candidate like Barr this early in the race implies a certain lack of faith in Obama’s ability to actually get the gift wrap off of the prize.

    You better hope Michelle doesn’t get wind of your apostacy …

    As an avowed kool-aid drinker, you may be held to a higher standard.

  35. I’d ordinarily vote for McCain, but will likely vote for Barr now. Of course, I’m in California, so it doesn’t much matter.

  36. Drew:

    That’s like saying that carrying a spare tire implies a certain lack of faith in that 50,000-mile-rated set of radial tires I just put on my car.

  37. The thing of it is we don’t know exactly how deep into the heartland of America the pro-baby seal eating lobby is. If it figured in strong in polling, we might end up seeing a baby-seal eat-off between Obama and McCain… (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  38. Well. Whatever is now my official source (after Shakespeare) for amusing insults. “Billious felch monkey” is the best piece of creative vulgarity I’ve seen since “bokele thyn ers.”

  39. I’m so tired of this election.

    Sincerely,
    Reformed libertarian left with a few leanings.

  40. First a clarification: Although Barr became well known during the impeachment proceedings in late 1998, he first introduced a Clinton impeachment resolution in 1997, before the Lewinsky business came to light.

    Second, and more to the point for those of us living in the DC area, Barr was the chief person responsible for the February 1998 imposition of “Ronald Reagan” in front of the decades-old “Washington National Airport.” This took place only a few weeks after the Lewinsky story broke, and the resolution’s introduction was likely timed accordingly by Barr; that is, Clinton’s nadir of political weakness coincided with Reagan’s 87th birthday. (Then, years later, Barr was behind legislation that forced Metrorail to change its station signage from simply “National Airport” to match his earlier triumph.)

    This retrospective aspect, renaming something in a politically charged way that had happily existed for decades under a more neutral name, was something that will always and forever annoy me about Barr. I don’t care whether he’s now a civil libertarian; I’d rather have civil libertarians who aren’t well-known Reagan worshipers, thanks.

  41. Drew:

    That’s like saying that carrying a spare tire implies a certain lack of faith in that 50,000-mile-rated set of radial tires I just put on my car.

    —-

    C’mon John you can do better than that. The spare tire analogy suggests that you think Barr and Obama are interchangeable.

    Are you really willing to argue that an Obama presidency and a Barr presidency would be the same thing? As similar as two tires?

    If you want to use a car analogy then instead of a spare tire, you have now purchased a set of spike strips to toss in front of McCain in case he overtakes Obama.

    That’s not something you would buy, unless you thought you might need them, and yes that implies a lack of confidence.

  42. My spare tire has instructions that I’m not to drive over 40mph with it on; I don’t see the metaphor as implying that they’re completely interchangeable.

    I will add “bilious felch monkey” as a fallback for times when I’ve already used “syphilitic goat pimp”.

  43. John Scalzi said “That said, today’s WV primary will be a nice consolation prize for her.”

    And a nice way to save face for Obama by not embarrassing him (ie. losing to someone who had dropped out after the Indiana/N. Carolina primary).

  44. Drew:

    “The spare tire analogy suggests that you think Barr and Obama are interchangeable.”

    Nonsense. Not if it’s one of those dinky spare tires you’re not supposed to drive over 55 miles an hour.

    Secondly, you are so overthinking this, Drew, that what I really want to do is tell you to sit down, take a deep breath, and have, like, a Fresca or something. The idea that I might have a (very distant) hypothetical second choice in case of extraordinarily unlikely circumstances does not actually imply a real world lack of confidence. Please review to the scenarios in which Bob Barr becomes a viable candidate for me. Relating to Obama, they are:

    1. Spontaneous human combustion
    2. Alien Abduction
    3. Nationally televised slaughter of cute aquatic baby mammals.

    You running about saying my theorizing about a backup candidate in case of spontaneous combustion implies a genuine lack of real world confidence, is, well, stupid. Please stop with the stupid.

  45. Steve Davidson @2: It’s not a Fen Voters’ Guide, but Popular Mechanics’ Geek the Vote site covers some of the relevant territory.

    Strangely, they don’t have Barr listed as a candidate…

  46. If neither Clinton or Obama get it then my backup canidate is for Robin Baker.
    Even a person with 20% sheep DNA will be a much better choice than McCain or even this Barr fool.

  47. I don’t think that plan is going to work. The best you are going to get Ron Paul supporters. If that.

    Exactly. Barr is not going to split the McCain vote. He is going to split the Ron Paul nutcase vote.

  48. I personally don’t understand the amount of bile that the Hillary / Obama contest has generated. Ain’t a dime worth of difference between ’em, policywise. Any Obama voter should be able to pull the lever for Hillary with a clear conscience, and vice versa.

  49. Mary Lou Klecha @55.

    Thanks.

    I asked because John has one of those ‘finger on the pulse of’ things going on (seems that way anyway).

    I also know that lots of fen are more aware of many issues than the average, particularly ones that affect technology, communications, etc. (Not that you can’t find a good sized group that’s hepped up on all sides of every issue you’d care to name.)

    I know that while I’m favoring Obama, I am disappointed with what I know of his position on the space program. Its not smart to forget Heinlein’s lesson about dropping rocks from Luna – and right now there’s a distinct possibility that Hong Kong in Luna is going to be the first settlement…

    But then I’m also usually a ‘single most important issue’ (in my judgement) type of voter when it comes to presidential races, and this time around (and right now) that single issue is the preservation of constitutional law. I’ve lived in a society that’s much more familiar with active terrorism and have witnessed first hand that you don’t have to and can’t give up freedom for security.

  50. “Perhaps you recall the movie Wag The Dog, which had the same premise?”

    Interestingly enough, the book it was based on was about the grand plan to get George HW Bush re-elected with a short victorious war. Unfortunately GHWB sets it up a year too early and peaks before 1992.

    I think it was called American Hero.

  51. 60: Paging James Nicoll… Paging James Nicoll…

    http://tiny.cc/wc3NI

    But this bit

    Cheyenne is destroyed in TMISHM by the impact of many rocks
    from the Moon. As near as I can figure, Cheyenne Mountain’s peak is
    about 1000 meters higher than the surrounding terrain, so this would
    have taken about 125 shots. If the Lunar Capapult is able to accelerate
    payloads at 10g (and I don’t recall the actual numbers: that one is
    made up), it can fire one package every half minute or so [SEE ENERGY],
    so this might be about an hour’s work.

    is incorrect, as I later realized:

    This is wildly incorrect.

    I should have used the crater volume (about 5300 m^3 for that shape
    ding) and the volume of the mountain. Call it a cone of r = 1000 m
    and h = 1000 m, for a volume of about 10^9 m^3. It would therefore
    take very roughly 200,000 shots or at least 67+ days.

  52. steve davidson @59
    I’ve lived in a society that’s much more familiar with active terrorism and have witnessed first hand that you don’t have to and can’t give up freedom for security.

    Oh? Which society is that?

  53. An alternative interpretation of social liberal is recognizing that government intervention is necessary to address market failures.

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