Friday, May 16, 2008

I spent the week talking to Libertarians

As I explain in my column in the Waukesha Freeman, it's been a heady week for the Libertarians.

Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr announced he’s running for president as a Libertarian. Zogby polling currently has him at 3 percent, just enough to have a Nader-like effect on Republican chances in November.

Meanwhile, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988, continues to chug along to the Republican convention where his supporters hope to be noisier than his estimated 19 delegates would suggest.

However, this was also the week that saw Kevin Barrett enter in the race for Congress as a Libertarian against Ron Kind.

This is not to say that Barrett is unanimously endorsed by the party. The state party chairman wasn’t sure "what the next steps are" and indicated that there was some opposition to Barrett within the party. However, he admitted, there is a strong component within the party that believes in 9-11 conspiracies. He hoped Barrett’s candidacy wouldn’t be solely about 9-11. He also told me Barrett is a member in good standing.

I checked with Randy Palmer, the Libertarian Party’s 3rd Congressional District representative, and he hoped Barrett would not use his campaign as a soapbox for his conspiracy theories. Palmer had no firm beliefs about what happened on 9-11 and conceded again that there are "lots of people" in the party that believe in the conspiracy theories.

And I conclude,

I would add that any hope of the party leadership that Barrett’s candidacy would not be about 9-11 conspiracies misses the point. That’s how he gained his notoriety, his Web site is plastered with 9-11 conspiracy material, and WEAU television reported Barrett’s call for another investigation into 9-11.

If the Libertarians, both locally and nationally, want to move out from their fringe status and kook reputation, they should issue a strong statement condemning 9-11 conspiracy theorists like Barrett. And they may want to have a long talk with Tommy Thompson’s little brother as well.

Meanwhile, I wrote another piece that complimented my Freeman column over at Jo Egelhoff's FoxPolitics.net. There I went into greater detail of my conversation with Marquette University Professor John McAdams about conspiracy theories. Because of the later deadline, I was also able to include a follow-up conversation with national Libertarian Party Political Director Sean Haugh.

Haugh did end up calling me back to say that he could not support Barrett’s candidacy for Congress. Not because of the 9/11 conspiracy thinking. It was Barrett’s support for Holocaust denier David Irving that had given him pause. “Oh, my.” And then Haugh’s research also led to discovering Barrett had called for the execution of journalists “complicit in the 9/11 cover-up.”

So it’s interesting to note that the Libertarian Party does have some standards. Calling for violence against journalists and denying the Holocaust are, in Haugh’s words, “beyond the pale.”

We’ll see if the Wisconsin Libertarian Party also finds Barrett to be “beyond the pale” or if Barrett will continue to run as a Libertarian without opposition from the party leadership.

Given former Libertarian Party candidate for governor Ed Thompson’s seeming endorsement of much of Barrett’s 9/11 conspiracy views in a February 19 radio interview, it’s a fair bet the Libertarian Party will continue to be the home of the political fringe.