By Jason A. Smith
Smaller government and more of a choice for voters are two reasons given by a former Georgia lawmaker, as to why he is seeking the highest office in the land.
Bob Barr is running as the Libertarian Party's candidate for President of the United States, along with Vice Presidential Nominee Wayne Allyn Root.
Although Barr was once considered one of the more powerful voices within the Republican Party, the former representative of Georgia's Seventh Congressional District has become increasingly critical of lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.
Dissatisfaction with both parties, Barr said, led him to seek the Oval Office himself, to ensure neither Sen. Barack Obama nor Sen. John McCain is elected in November.
"Neither of the two major parties is putting forth an agenda, program or candidates that will, in a meaningful way, shrink the size, scope, power or cost of the federal government," said Barr. "My solution would be to cut government spending ... stop spying on people and abide by the rule of law."
Barr, 59, served as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995-2003. He is also a past U.S. Attorney for Georgia's northern district.
He and his wife, Jeri, live in Smyrna. They have four children and six grandchildren.
The former congressman said one of the main reasons he decided to run for president is that the federal government of today is "way too big." He said politicians in Washington exert too much of their influence on the people's lives and businesses.
"Americans want to be able to live free of government interference."
The Libertarian acknowledged the difficulties of being a third-party candidate for the presidency. Some candidates, he said, have been faced with exclusion from debates, and problems being allowed on voting ballots in some states.
Still, Barr said giving voters another option is "important enough to take that challenge on." In addition, he took issue with those who would say a vote for him is a wasted one.
"The definition of a wasted vote is to go to the polling booth, and vote for a Republican or a Democrat, because that guarantees that nothing will ever change," he said. "Our two major parties are simply two sides of the same coin. We have one party of big government, and the other of really big government. I think many Americans welcome the opportunity for real choice in this election."
Barr expressed disappointment over the actions of his former party since he left Congress. He said although Democrats have consistently been known for using government to bring about social change, Republicans have been equally guilty of the same in the last several years.
The former congressman said although Sen. Barack Obama has "a huge groundswell of support" from Democrats, the Republican Party is not having as much success in generating support for Sen. John McCain.
One reason for that, he said, is because the GOP has gotten away from its core values. "The Republican Party has become enamored of unfettered, executive-branch power and federal spending, just like the Democratic Party has always been," he explained. "It's like President Ronald Reagan said many years ago, when he joined the Republican Party. He said he didn't leave the Democratic Party, and that they left him ... The Republican Party left me."
An example of this, the Libertarian candidate said, lies in the current administration's economic agenda. "The government calls itself conservative, but are looking to spend $3.1 trillion in the next year in their budget," said Barr. "That does not even include most of the spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. That represents a party that believes in big government."
The candidate also leveled sharp criticism at President Bush, for how he has conducted the war in Iraq. Barr said the commander-in-chief has taken undue liberties with the authority granted to him by Congress.
In addition, he said the president orchestrated a "bait-and-switch" by using authorization to oust Saddam Hussein, as a way to justify keeping troops in Iraq.
"[The Bush administration] asked for authority to conduct specific and limited military action, and Congress authorized that," said Barr. "They now claim ... authority for a multi-year occupation. Neither I, nor other members, voted for [that]."
Barr said if elected, he would call for an "immediate and significant" reduction in troop levels in Iraq, and a decrease in the amount of funds being directed there.
"In my view, it is utterly irresponsible for the administration to be spending $400 million a day in U.S. taxpayer money, to provide a security blanket for the Iraqi government."
Barr's harsh words about Bush continued when he addressed the economic picture in the country. His tone also became a bit sarcastic, on the topic of the ongoing gas crisis, and recent actions taken by the president. "I commend Bush for realizing 7 1/2 years into his administration, that we have an energy problem," said Barr.
"It's taken that long to repeal the executive order his father signed in 1991, making it impossible for companies to drill in the Outer Continental Shelf. There's absolutely no reason not to be ... extracting resources we know are there in our own territory."
Barr said he plans an aggressive push to allow drilling in Alaska and the midwest, and to loosen restrictions on alternate sources of energy.
He also touched on several domestic issues, including crime. He said the federal criminal code is "way too large," and in need of reform. "We can start by reducing the number of people in federal prisons for victimless crimes."
In addition, Barr said federal authorities should spend more time focusing on international criminal activity and interstate crime.
Another area Barr believes is in need of change, is that of education. He said parents, and not lawmakers, are best equipped to make decisions regarding how children should be taught.
"The $70 billion being used for the federal Department of Education," he said, "should be returned to parents ... to improve the education of children in their communities, not taken from them to fund a massive ... bureaucracy."
Barr said overall, he wants to reduce the power of government, and increase the power of the American people to run their own lives.