Saturday, May 24, 2008

Libertarian Party Convention Report

I'm at the LP convention now, on the floor. A delegate just asked about a rumor that Bob Barr's campaign is stacking the floor with "hired delegates."

* Thursday.

Storms in Denver. My American Airlines plane sits on the LAX tarmac for nearly an hour before takeoff.

The LP arranged for a shuttle to take us from Denver airport to the hotel. $22 round trip -- cheap! Our driver got lost briefly; seeking a shortcut, I guess. We took a bumpy ride along a dirt road, cows to one side, before we reached a dead end. Two cars were (idiotically) following us, and were likewise forced to turn around at the dead end.

* Thursday night.

The 9/11 Truth movement sponsored an unofficial debate. Lots of free popcorn. Three flavors.

Daniel Imperato came off as a real loon. Here is his explanation of 9/11, as best I remember it (not an exact quote, but a condensed paraphrase): "9/11 began when Jacob grabbed Esau's heel, thus did the Jews steal the Arabs' birthright. Since then, Arabs have been trying to regain their birthright. Christopher Columbus was a Jew who discovered America. When Washington was inaugurated, he established the United States as a Judeao-Christian nation. The Jews worked hard to control international finance. The Arabs "woke up" to this Jewish control, realized they'd built nothing, and so they established the United Arab Emirites. The Saudis launched 9/11 and attacked the U.S. at the exact spot where Washington was inaugurated in order to divide the U.S. from God (making it no longer a "nation under God"). As a result, the Saudis now control American finance, having taken it away from the Jews."

Imperato bragged of all his international connections, and how as president he can use that to help the U.S.

George Phillies runs a great hospitality suite. Great sandwiches. Free alcohol and soda (although I only drank water and coffee). Someone praised the jelly beans.

Imperato's statement made for much fun gossip at Phillies's hospitality suite, everyone passing it on and laughing about it. One wonders, does Imperato have a clue as to how "out of touch" he is with the LP?

Also at Thursday's debate, one of the presidential candidates (Jeffers? Johnson?) refused the sign the 9/11 Truth group's pledge (basically a call for further investigation). He was thus asked to leave, then ordered out. "I paid for this event," one large woman said as she had the candidate escorted out.

Starchild challenged Mike Gravel, asking if any of the candidates supported "initiation of force." Gravel didn't understand the question, answering if someone got unruly (alluding to the ejected candidate), it was proper to throw that person out of the room. Starchild clarified, redirecting Gravel to his position of using state funds for education. Gravel got snappish, saying that (a paraphrase), "Sure, if you want an uneducated country, you could have that, but to have a functioning democracy you needed an educated citizenry." Libertarians challenged Gravel, saying that the free market can provide that. Gravel didn't agree. "Sure, if you want to go back to the 18th century."

Gravel also suggested that the LP hadn't achieved anything in all its years, and thus we needed to get real (and by implication, nominate him). Ruwart stepped in and listed the LP's achievements, mainly that of "changing hearts and minds."

I later spoke with Gravel's people, noting that Gravel needs to show more respect to his audience. He must learn to "respectfully disagree."

Ruwart came off well, and I shifted closer to her after the debate.

[Just now, Alicia Mattson was giving a pitch for the Platform Committee's majority report. Angela Keaton demanded to know whether the minority report would get equal time. So Redpath allowed Rob Power to give a one minute pitch.]

As of Saturday morning, I still haven't given away my token. A presidential or VP candidate needs 30 tokens to be get time for nominating speeches. And tokens from 10% of delegates to be permitted in Saturday night's C-SPAN debate.

Also at the Phillies hospitality suite, last night, I met a delegate from Massachusetts. A Druid neo-Confederate. His sister is a lesbian, and so he can't stand Bob Barr. This delegate hates "religious bigots and homophobes. But he also thinks the Confederacy should have won the war!

I insisted that, even allowing for all the arguments against the North and Lincoln, the increase in government, the "unconstitutionality of the war," that the slaves "would have been freed anyway in about 40 years," that some blacks owned slaves (and I've heard all the -- often irrelevant -- neo-Confederate arguments) the result of freeing the slaves immediately (1863 or 1865, either way) morally justified the Civil War.

This delegate countered by saying that Lincoln "enslaved the South" -- and that blacks were better off under slavery -- !!!

A Druid who hates religious bigots and homophobes -- but who thinks blacks were better off under slavery. Only in the LP!

I should have known better than to argue with this man. Neo-Confederates are as stubbornly closed-minded as global warming believers.

* Friday.

By-Law stuff in the business session.

Bruce Cohen has been sitting in the Wayne Allyn Root booth. All the presidential candidates have booths. Even Alden Link. (Well, not Robert Milnes.)

Bruce has been scowling at me whenever he sees me. He also has a dog. A big white thing. I asked Bruce how me manged to get that dog into the hotel ballroom.

"We walked," said Bruce. "You should try it sometime." (A joke?) Then Bruce added, "My dog is even more pro-defense than I am."

That evening, I met Mike Binkley and Richard Venable at the hotel bar. Richard has been collecting Vice Presidential tokens for Gail Lightfoot. Gail showed up, and I gave her my VP token.

* Friday night.

Another unofficial debate. Ten candidates. A large crowd (must be over 100), cramped in a hot room. Virtually everyone except Bob Barr. I speculate this will backfire on Barr. Others agree. Libertarians don't like candidates who act "above it all."

Gravel's performance has improved. Friendly, not snappish. Jim Burns came off very well. Stately, less doddering, wisely libertarian. Christine Smith was hyper, her attitude matching her new "purer than thou" attitude. Kubby came off well.

Ruwart knows current events and history. So does Gravel. Ruwart mentioned that the Taliban had offered to turn over Osama bin Ladin to Bush, on condition that bin Ladin receive a fair trail. Bush declined, he invaded Aghanistan, and to date Bush has still failed to bring bin Ladin to justice.

Gravel observed that the Patriot Act has not drafted overnight. It had been waiting in the wings.

Root was energetic as ever. He reiterated that Obama was in his Columbia graduating class. Root also said that, were he to be nominated, he'd be the first Jewish presidential candidate from a major political party. Root suggested that this too would be a great media talking point.

I don't see that the LP is a "major political party." Bob Weber said to me that Marrou was Jewish, so Root wouldn't even be the first Jewish LP presidential candidate. Root's ignorance is matched only by his willingness to say anything if he thinks it'll win him the nomination. He's grasping at every imagined advantage, however irrelevant. I think Root is getting desperate, now that Barr is in the race.

Anthony Gregory, ever the ultra-purist anarchist, even found problems with Ruwart and Kubby (such as Kubby's reverence for the Constitution, a statist document). Gregory said that, of all the candidates, he thought Jim Burns was the best; the most libertarian.

After the debate I wandered through Bob Barr's reception. Barr was sitting by a table, chatting with people as they came up. He saw me, and invited me to have some food. I sat and talked with him.

Barr seems better in person than what I'd heard about him. I'd read (on, I think it was) that Barr was open to war on Iran. Barr denied this, saying that he'd been to Iran, he knew Iran, and war was unnecessary. He also denied wanting to send U.S. troops into Latin America to fight the war on drugs. Barr thought the only reason to send troops into Latin America would be to liberate Americans captured by terrorists.

I then went in search of the Ruwart party, held "outside, across the street." By the time I found it, all the food was gone. So I went to Phillies suite. Only fruit and jelly beans left. People from all campaigns congregating here. Root and Gravel buttons in evidence.

Outright Libertarians told me that Barr was busing in about 300 delegates for Saturday. "It's not a conspiracy theory," I was told. "It's a fact."

As of Friday, there were about 520 credentials delegates. About 550 Saturday morning.

* Saturday morning.

Platform debate going on. Scott Lieberman joked that he hoped that there were ambulances waiting outside, due to the expected bloodbath. Everyone expects much contention. Not so bad so far. At least it's civil.

I'll decide who gets my token in a few hours. As of last night, I'd heard that Phillies has about 40, Gravel 25-30, Barr over 100. Smith was asking for tokens at the debate, so that a real libertarian would be able to participate on C-SPAN.

One of Ruwart's people told me this morning that it's close; he's not sure yet. I'll check with them later today. If Ruwart sill needs tokens, I'll likely give it to her. If not, I may give it to Gravel.

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