Bill Steigerwald

With the announcement that he'll seek the Libertarian Party’s 2008 presidential nomination, former Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr has added another twist to an already crazy election year.

Barr, who hopes to win the LP’s top spot at the party’s convention that starts Thursday, May 22, in Denver, has an impressive resume that backs up his claim that he's the most qualified presumptive candidate of any party.

A lawyer, former U.S. Attorney and ex-CIA official, Barr, 59, was born in Iowa, but thanks to his military parents he lived in such exotic locales as Lima and Teheran, where he graduated from high school. He served in the House from 1995 to 2003, where he was known as a hard-line conservative who hated the IRS and fought tirelessly for privacy rights and other civil liberties.

Barr is far from the perfect libertarian. Many libertarians have serious issues with him over things like his vote in favor of the Patriot Act (which he now regrets) and his zealous support of the war on drugs, which he has backed away from.

Meanwhile, Republicans are mad at Barr because they fear as a third party candidate he could do to John McCain what Ralph Nader did to Al Gore in 2000 -- steal just enough votes to keep McCain out of the White House. When I talked to Barr by telephone on Thursday, he was on the grounds of the United Nations, where he said nothing is very good -- even the food.

Q: Why did you decide to run?

A: I decided to run for several reasons. One, because I want to restore the Constitution to our federal government. It seems to have been completely forgotten and disregarded by Congress and by this administration. I believe in the Constitution. I believe in separation of powers. I believe in the rule of law. I believe in limited government. And these are principles and policies that apparently neither the national Republican nor the national Democrat Party believes in. I believe great damage is being done to our Constitution and I see no remedy at all, no likelihood of that changing if we rely on the two parties to field our candidates for national office.

The Libertarian Party alone among America’s political parties truly stands for smaller government and maximized individual liberty. I believe if we don’t take a stand now and try to reverse course, we may never have the opportunity again. I think there are a number of factors coming together for this cycle that give us a much greater likelihood for success than any previous election.

Q: What major issues will you emphasize in your campaign that the other candidates will not go anywhere near?

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..