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Libertarian presidential hopeful Bob Barr says he is opposed to what he calls the "bailout from hell."
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, first came to national attention as one of the House managers in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. The former Republican congressman from Georgia tells Scott Simon he is opposed to what he calls the "bailout from hell."
Instead, Barr says, the government should be prosecuting fraud and looking for private entities to buy up troubled institutions.
He believes the U.S. has no business being in Iraq and would bring the troops home upon assuming office. In Afghanistan, Barr proposes to use the military "much more wisely" and isn't convinced that a massive presence of troops is required.
Everyone should be able to get health care — if they want it, Barr says. Government should be spending its time "reducing and removing the onerous regulations that actually prevent people from being able to afford health care."
Barr doesn't see anything wrong with government agencies exchanging information or engaging in surveillance, as long as they stay within the Fourth Amendment and federal laws. What should never be condoned, Barr says, is a president who wields absolute authority to gather intelligence.
Below is a transcript of the interview.
SCOTT SIMON: Bob Barr joins us now from the studios of WSND in South Bend, Ind. Mr. Barr, thanks so much for being with us.
BOB BARR: It's my pleasure entirely. Thanks for having me.
You've been outspoken in recent years, warning about the federal government infringing on the private lives of U.S. citizens. Looking back on it, did the prosecution of Bill Clinton set a bad precedent for snooping on private lives?
Not at all, because the precedent that it set had nothing to do with his private life. It had everything to do with his public life. It was the oath that he took in court proceedings before a grand jury and before a United States district court judge in a lawful proceeding in which he then perjured himself. That's what was the issue there. Not his personal behavior, but his public behavior in a U.S. court of law and before a United States grand jury.
To get to the week's events, you have been opposed to the financial rescue package that finally passed on Friday, and President Bush signed it. What would you do?
I certainly would not take the tack that this administration or this Congress has done. The proposal that is now the law of the land, this — what we call this "bailout from hell" — now says to the American people, well, we see what got us into this problem in the first place, and we're going to propose to get us out of it by spending up to a trillion dollars or more of U.S. taxpayer dollars doing precisely the same thing that got us into the problem. And that is buying up bad, mortgage-based security paper.
What the federal government ought to be doing is prosecuting fraud. We ought to be looking at forced receiverships and Chapter 7 bankruptcies for many of these institutions. The president and the Treasury Department ought to be looking for private companies and private entities to buy up these problem institutions, which is precisely what happened with Wachovia.
Wachovia did not go to the federal government with a handout, saying, "Oh, please give us a bailout." They were having problems, and they put themselves on the public market. And Wells Fargo looked at them carefully and said, "There are some good assets, and we're going to buy you." That's the way it ought to work.
What would you do with the more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq?
Begin immediately on assuming office to bring them home. We have no business occupying Iraq. President Bush, when he was a candidate for the presidency, recognized that. It is not helping our security to be artificially propping up a government in Iraq that ought to be able to rise or fall on its own. And the expenditure of 400 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars a day, which is the cost of the Iraq occupation, that is utterly irresponsible and unnecessary.
What would you do with U.S. troops in Afghanistan?
I would use them much more wisely, I think, than they have been. If in fact, as we know there was in the past certainly, those responsible for the attack of 9-11 hiding out in the beginning under cover of the government in Afghanistan, then we should find them, ferret them out, take them out by force, if necessary. Those that do us harm, or are poised to do us harm and have the capability and the weaponry and the intent to do so, ought to be taken out. But I am not all convinced that the enemies that we might have in the hills of Afghanistan or Pakistan require a massive presence of U.S. troops.
Is every U.S. citizen entitled to health care?
Not at government expense. No. Everybody ought to be able to get health care, but that's up to them. What ...
Don't millions of people not have it because they can't afford it?
There are some that simply cannot afford it. It is very expensive. But what the government could be doing is to be reducing and removing the onerous regulations that actually prevent people from being able to afford health care.
Mr. Barr, you have the distinction of having worked, as I understand it, with both the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. With that in your background, and the fact that you worked at the CIA for seven years, can the U.S. government do everything we citizens expect them to do to prevent terrorist attacks, to prosecute public corruption, organized crime, discover the mental history of people buying guns, without occasionally tapping a phone line or having federal agencies exchange information?
There certainly is nothing wrong with federal agencies exchanging information. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the government engaging in electronic surveillance, so long as they do it within the confines of the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution, for example, and federal laws. What should never be condoned or accepted by the American people is this notion that because a president believes that as commander-in-chief he has absolute authority over the citizenry to gather intelligence — even if the law tells him he can't. Unfortunately, both senators McCain and Obama voted recently to greatly expand the power of the government to surveil the citizenry. That is neither necessary nor appropriate.
The Libertarian Party candidate for president, Bob Barr. Thank you so much.
My pleasure. Thank you for having me.