Liberty Guard Author
by Bob Barr
The list of reasons Iran should not become a nuclear nation is lengthy; but recent events present the starkest reason yet why that must never happen.
In the broadest sense, nuclear power should not belong to a nation that openly talks about eliminating an entire race of people from the planet. Rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, Iran’s theocratic regime clearly cannot be trusted to use such power only for deterrent purposes.
The recent downing of a civilian aircraft by its military forces serves as a glaringly obvious, practical reason why Iran must never gain access to military nuclear technology — incompetence.
Contrary to the visage of Iran as a mega-presence on the world stage (a view regularly promoted by the regime’s leaders), the country is not a formidable military presence by modern standards. Our Defense Intelligence Agency notes that the Iranian regime in recent years has emphasized military improvements to its forces. However, as a result of embargoes on foreign-produced technology, such improvements have been hamstrung by sanctions and internal financial troubles. Iran’s once modern air force now is comprised of aging fighter jets, and its ballistic missile arsenal – the backbone of its military power – includes many that the DIA believes to be old and inaccurate.
As calculated by the military-tracking organization GlobalFirePower.com, Iran’s military power ranks 14th in the world, behind countries such as Egypt and Brazil. While the military threat posed by Iran is not one to be taken lightly, it is not one that warrants the same degree of concern as Russia’s or China’s. Iran’s offensive strength lies in its ability and predisposition to engage in asymmetrical warfare; causing regional or cyberspace disruptions as opposed to full-on military conflict.
Becoming a nuclear power, however, remains an obsession of Iran’s leaders. And it is in this regard that what happened earlier this month must remain at the forefront of efforts by the United States and our allies to ensure Iran’s dream never materializes. The demonstrated inability by the country’s military to properly use a rudimentary missile air defense system, resulting in the accidental shoot-down of a civilian aircraft, underscores the practical need to keep more lethal weapons out of the regime’s hands.
Arming Iran with nuclear weapons, or even non-nuclear weaponry significantly more advanced and powerful than is currently available to them, is akin to putting a teenager behind the wheel of a 707-horsepower Dodge Charger Hellcat; a move irresponsible in the extreme.
Complicating matters further is the serious disconnect between Iran’s military leaders and its civilian authorities, a problem that was on full display following the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. The lack of transparency and accountability displayed in the aftermath of that tragedy is symptomatic of the manner by which the country has been governed for more than four decades. It is a dysfunctional system that breeds mistrust and secrecy, to the point that one hand does not know what the other hand is doing.
In such a closed theocratic system, true accountability is neither fostered nor tolerated. If forced by domestic or outside pressure to admit mistake, the action taken will be as limited and short-lived as possible; resulting in no systemic or long-term reform and essentially guaranteeing future blunders.
Though much more limited in scope, Iran’s downing of Flight 752 is reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Chernobyl was the byproduct of political obsession, shoddy engineering, systemic fear of voicing concern, cultural hubris and overall breakdown in communication between civilian and government agencies. As we later learned, the catastrophe was very nearly global in scope; but also one that would have been avoidable in virtually any non-totalitarian society. In Soviet Russia, however, Chernobyl was the result of government hubris and dysfunction.
Similarly, Iran appears un-phased by the killing of 176 civilians in a completely avoidable accident; choosing instead to cast blame on the United States for the tense regional environment in which the catastrophic military blunder happened. This, on top of its general incompetence, is all the more reason for a reinvigorated global effort to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s reach. A key element of this effort must be to renew the U.N. arms embargo currently set to expire in October, which would free Iran to update its military and pursue far more deadly and advanced weaponry.
Iran has offered the world absolutely no reason to suggest it is morally or practically capable of being trusted with weapons of mass destruction, and the downing of Flight 752 this month is only the latest reminder. We need not give them more opportunities to further prove us right.
by Bob Barr
The House impeachment managers and the lawyers for President Donald Trump have both filed their memorandums for the Senate impeachment trial which gets underway in earnest today. While the two documents are nearly identical in length, the president’s is by far the stronger document.
Neither memorandum breaks new legal, political or constitutional grounds, but there was no expectation they would. The only “new” evidence – if it can be characterized as such – is that the managers’ memorandum includes references to matters that came to light in the month since the two Articles of Impeachment were passed by the House. The managers discuss statements recently made by Ukraine-American operative Lev Parnas in television interviews and refer also to a Government Accountability Office memorandum released last week after being requested by Democratic Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen. The GAO report found fault with the grounds on which the Office of Management and Budget temporarily delayed the release of military assistance dollars to Ukraine last summer.
Even if the Senate decides to consider this “new” evidence, however, it adds nothing to the underlying question confronting the upper chamber – whether President Trump is guilty of the offenses alleged against him by the Democrat majority in the House and should be removed from office. If the grounds on which this seminal question is to be answered are to be gleaned from these first filings, the answer is a resounding, “Not Guilty.”
While the trial brief filed on the president’s behalf is over 100 pages long, the operative language, capturing the full essence of why the Senate trial should result in acquittal, is set forth in the preliminary “Answer” filed last Saturday and which continues as a central theme throughout the memorandum: “[the] Articles of Impeachment are constitutionally invalid on their face [and] fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatsoever, let alone ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ as required by the Constitution.”
That truly is all the president’s lawyers need assert in his defense, because it rebuts completely what the House is attempting to do in direct violation of the explicit language in the Constitution itself. The Constitution mandates that the only grounds on which a president may be impeached and removed from office are “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” (my emphasis). Neither the First nor the Second Article of Impeachment levelled against Trump constitutes a violation of any state or federal law.
“Abuse of Power” is not a crime, and “Obstruction of Congress” is not a crime. No amount of wordsmithing by the House managers can shoehorn either of these “offenses” into any criminal statute. Notwithstanding former President Clinton’s valiant but unsuccessful effort to escape impeachment in 1998 by arguing, “it all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is,” what is written in the Constitution of the United States means what it says. Lawyers may argue about whether a particular crime constitutes a “high” crime (the House decided in 1998 that perjury and obstruction of justice by a sitting president did meet that criteria). But they never should be permitted to prevail in arguing that behavior which is not a crime is a crime in order to rid themselves of a president they do not like.
This is the reason the section of the managers’ memorandum setting out the “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment” is so short – a mere three pages of a 111-page document – and draws on such irrelevant documents as George Washington’s 1796 “Farewell Address.”
The managers tip their hand — and reveal the true motive for their drive to convince 67 Senators that the President should be removed from office 10 months before he stands for re-election — in what they call their “Statement of Material Facts.” At page 60 of that portion of their memorandum, the managers argue that President Trump should be removed from office, because Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election showed that the president tried to obstruct that investigation.
As the rest of the world knows, the Mueller investigation found that the president did not obstruct anything. However, in the never-give-up, make-believe world in which these impeachment managers and their Democrat House colleagues operate, neither facts nor constitutional language mean anything. For the sake of our constitutional Republic, the United States Senate must reaffirm that both facts and the Constitution remain relevant, and acquit President Donald J. Trump.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.
House Democrats shouldn’t be given second chance for impeachment articles: Rep. Bob Barr
by Bob Barr
Virginia Democrats flexed their muscle in Richmond this week; passing four gun control bills through the Senate Judiciary Committee. This action had been promised by Gov. Ralph Northam since his Party gained majorities in both houses of the state legislature last November. As with other state governors who believe that the best way to stop criminals from committing murder is to make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to purchase and possess firearms, these measures will do just that – make it harder for law abiding citizens of Virginia to exercise their rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
Specifically, the Northam-endorsed proposals will limit citizens to one handgun purchase a month, mandate universal background checks, and allow local governments to selectively ban firearms from public events. Most troubling, one measure authorizes law enforcement to preemptively seize firearms from individuals they deem to be a threat (a so-called “red flag” law). But there’s more.
The “crown jewel” of Northam’s expansive gun control agenda is a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” This measure is expected to pass through committee this week, which then will trigger a long-anticipated showdown in the General Assembly.
In a concession of sorts, Northam agreed to include in the gun ban a “grandfather” clause allowing individuals who currently own a to-be-banned firearm, to continue to do so without automatically violating the law. They would, however, be required to register their newly banned “assault weapon” with state authorities.
This change illustrates the true fraud behind Northam’s gun control push – it was never really to address an “emergency” about public safety. Rather, it is a partisan “spiking the football” following the electoral sweep by Virginia Democrats last November. In grandstanding about their legislative clout and mocking concerned citizens as “losers” and “nuts,” however, Democrats have needlessly provoked an intense confrontation in the state.
This is no ordinary political stand-off. Democrats indicated they had every intention of doing whatever it took to implement their sweeping gun ban; including, if necessary, using the National Guard. This overheated rhetoric, on top of the radical policies being proposed, prompted more than 90 Virginia localities to declare themselves “gun sanctuaries,” placing local law enforcement and government officials in direct confrontation with Richmond and state officials.
All this is to say that if Democrats knew their promises were nothing more than a gimmick that would be partially rolled back at the 11th hour, it was highly irresponsible to push the confrontation this far knowing how it was tearing the state apart. This process has fostered genuine fear in the eyes of Virginia’s that their fundamental rights were going to be taken away, by force if necessary. As governments have understood for centuries, creating fear then becomes justification for more and expanded government power.
It need not have played out this way. Northam and his Democrat cohorts could have taken the time to craft specific legislative proposals that might actually address real-world gun violence issues — for instance, cracking down on “straw purchase” gun sales, and funding improved mental health programs in the Commonwealth. Such measures would have enjoyed bipartisan support and would not have raised the serious constitutional problems inherent in the gun control measures Northam is pursuing now.
Working to implement measures that actually might reduce the risk of further gun violence, however, would have involved real effort on the part of the Governor and Virginia legislators; effort they obviously were unwilling to expend. In their calculus, taking the low road and regurgitating the tired rhetoric about the dangers posed by “assault weapons,” “silencers” and “high capacity magazines” – while at the same time and clamoring for absolute “universal background checks” — was the easier course; even if it meant having to back down a bit when confronted with reality.
In the most fundamental sense, pursuing any course other than that on which Northam, et al. now have embarked, would not fit the gun control model to which the Democrat Party in Virginia and nationally has become so tightly bound.
Northam and the Virginia legislature are remaking the Commonwealth of Virginia in the image of Michael Bloomberg and George Soros; an image bearing no resemblance to the model of freedom and liberty designed by truly great Virginians like George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. For the sake of their, and our posterity, let us pray that this rebranding of Virginia will be reversed in the coming election cycles.
by Bob Barr
Using traditional criteria to measure a candidate’s likelihood of success, it would be easy to dismiss former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s presidential candidacy. Doing so, however, would not be a smart decision by either Democrats or Republicans.
Sure, Bloomberg’s was a late entry into the already crowded field of Democratic presidential wannabes. And yes, his polling places him in single digits among Democratic voters; behind Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. However, unlike the other billionaire still in the Democratic field, Tom Steyer, Bloomberg is a well-known figure to voters across the country.
Bloomberg’s enviable name id is due primarily to his having served for a dozen years as mayor of the Big Apple. He also, of course, is well-known (and widely reviled) thanks to his long-standing and very public attacks against the National Rifle Association and his support of virtually every gun control measure on the Democratic Party’s agenda. It would, however, be a mistake to view him as a single-issue candidate.
Bloomberg earned his position as one of the 10 richest people in the world based on demonstrable financial and technological acumen. Unlike many others on Forbes’ list of billionaires, Bloomberg’s wealth is “self-made.” Attacks by Sanders and Warren against Bloomberg for being a “billionaire” may resonate with some voters; but there are many more who either openly or quietly admire someone like him who earned his wealth by hard work and intelligence.
Like Donald Trump, Bloomberg is a creature of the city he led for three terms. But here again, pigeon-holing and criticizing him for being a “New Yorker” will fall flat, just as it did in 2016 when Trump faced similar attacks on his geographic heritage. Trump was criticized during the Republican primaries as unfit to carry his Party’s banner into the general election because he was from New York rather than the country’s heartland. He successfully defended against such attacks by clearly — sometimes with unusual bluntness — giving voice to issues close to the hearts of millions of middle-class voters.
To put it mildly, Bloomberg is a far different orator than Trump. While not entirely humorless in his public persona, Bloomberg presents as a more restrained and measured public speaker. The worst tactic Bloomberg could attempt would be to “out-Trump Trump.” It’s an impossibility for anyone who might attempt it. Also, the audience with which Bloomberg must connect between now and “Super Tuesday” on March 3, is not Trump’s base. Bloomberg’s audience will be millions of Democratic voters (and a not insignificant pool of independents) who pine for someone — anyone — who can convince them he or she can simply beat Trump.
Importantly, Bloomberg’s credibility in the financial arena along with positioning himself as a centrist on foreign policy matters, solidifies his appeal to more moderate and Establishment voters leery of the extreme left-wing policies espoused by Sanders, Warren and, lately, even Biden.
Bloomberg’s fabulous wealth — estimated by Forbes at $58.4 — and his already demonstrated willingness to spend it in support of his campaign (some $200 million already spent on advertising and field organization), by itself makes him a force to be reckoned with. But a winning primary campaign will take more than money and staff; and it is here that Bloomberg’s persistent gun-control strategy will help — at least in the primaries.
His long-running campaign against gun violence — and in many respects gun ownership — has been backed with generous grants to other mayors and to grass roots organizations across the country. These are IOUs that can be called in now.
Bloomberg has shown himself to have few deep political roots other than gun control. He ran — and served — as New York City mayor as a Republican, a Democratic and an Independent. He already is openly disavowing some of the policies he championed as mayor that are distasteful to Democratic voters in 2020.
In earlier times, Bloomberg would be vulnerable as a “party switcher” and a “flip-flopper.” In this post-Trump world, however, when an endorsement by “Judge Judy” means more than an endorsement by a former president of the United States, and when consistency truly is viewed as “the hobgoblin of little minds,” Bloomberg fits right in and is a threat to both Democrats and Republicans.
by Bob Barr
By all accounts, the low-tax, light-touch regulatory environment produced by Congress and the Trump administration has done wonders for America as we enter election year 2020. In the latest jobs report, 321,000 new jobs were added to the economy. The unemployment rate currently sits at a healthy 3.5 percent; down two full points from when President Obama left office just three years ago. The American economy is without a doubt going strong. Still, some say that America’s best times may soon be in the rear-view mirror.
While it would be understandable if in 2020 the U.S. is not able to match the astonishing gains of last year, there is no reason to expect a significant slowdown as some are predicting — not if Washington pushes to ensure its pro-jobs agenda comes to complete fruition this year.
Part of the problem is that the
existing economic data just is not accounting for all relevant factors. Take,
for example, my home state of Georgia. According to the University of Georgia,
the Peach State’s economy will grow at a significantly slower rate in the new
year. It projects that largely due to global factors, the state
will experience a net loss of agriculture and manufacturing jobs in 2020.
However, just days after the release of the UGA analysis, President Trump reached agreement on a partial trade deal with China; a deal that will prevent some of China’s protectionist, anti-free market activities that allowed it to wipe away over 90,000 Georgian jobs between 2001 and 2013. That means at least some jobs coming back home in 2020 that were not previously expected.
Washington’s free-trade celebration need not stop there, either. Days after the announcement of the U.S.-China deal, Democrats and Republicans unexpectedly came together to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in Congress. Given that Canada and Mexico are two of America’s – and Georgia’s — top trading partners, the renegotiated terms certainly will help to boost American employment as well. That means there are still more jobs to be created that U.S. economists didn’t previously take into consideration in their more pessimistic analyses.
For the good of America’s economy in 2020, Congress can and should continue to grease through these agreements. Important also will be actions by lawmakers and regulators to safeguard against abuse the many economic development successes initiated by the several states that have helped drive the country’s robust economy.
Again, Georgia serves as an illustrative example. Few states provide as many incentives to conduct business within their borders as does the Peach State. At the same time, however, due to matters outside of their control, Georgians — like Americans more generally — need some help from the feds to ensure that free-market competition within and across its borders is maintained.
This year, for instance, the significant number of new Georgian jobs promised by Thyssenkrupp, an elevator company building a new headquarters right next door to the Atlanta Braves’ stadium, could be compromised due to a pending acquisition from Kone, a leading competitor. The merger would likely pose no problems if the companies respected the free marketplace. Of concern, however, is the fact that Thyssenkrupp and Kone have previously been fined by the E.U. for uncompetitive behavior, including for artificially inflating procurement contract figures. If the government hands these two unnatural monopolies even more power, Georgia could be robbed not just of the many jobs the expansion would create, but also the millions of dollars in economic value the company is expected to bring in.
At the very least, threats to the economic development initiatives in states across the country, like the one potentially posed by Thyssenkrupp and Kone, should prompt inquiries from home state senators – in Georgia’s case, David Purdue and the Senate’s newest member, Kelly Loeffler. If necessary, they can then recommend whether the relevant committees or any other government bodies should become involved to protect the Georgia and the U.S. economies from anti-free market actors that may try to abuse the system.
Here’s the key takeaway — President Trump has proved himself a highly competent helmsman in the economic and regulatory arenas, and he is steering the U.S. economy in the right direction; at times with unexpected help from the Democrat-controlled House. If he and other Washington decision-makers continue to advance free trade policies, while at the same time demanding answers to federal matters that could adversely impact state competition, price competitiveness, and employment, the 2020 economy will afford us all many pleasant surprises.