Libertarian candidate Bob Barr speaks to Rotary Club

DULUTH - The other presidential candidates were invited, joked Eliott Brack, but it was Bob Barr, a former congressman from Cobb County, who gave a stump speech to the Rotary Club of Gwinnett on Tuesday.

Barr, who is the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, said he is the only candidate to address the major constitutional questions.

He read excerpts from the speeches of Republican John McCain in Minneapolis last week and Democrat Barack Obama in Denver the week prior and said little differentiates the two candidates.

"Nobody answers the question of what exactly is the federal responsibility," he said, arguing that the federal government should be restricted to interstate issues with many issues left to the local level.

Barr said his party's interest in the election is opening up the discussion, so even if citizens choose a bigger government, at least they have been engaged in an informed debate instead of the "sound-bite politics" of today.

He decried the federal bailout of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac and said he supports a consumption tax but has problems with some of the provisions of the FairTax, proposed by Duluth Republican Rep. John Linder, who beat Barr in a 2002 primary when the two faced each other because of redistricting.

Barr also said he supports off-shore drilling and exploring alternative fuel sources, although he said the free market should drive that issue.

Polling at about 6 percent support, Barr said he would not likely be allowed to participate in debates with Obama and McCain, since officials say a candidate must poll at least 15 percent to be considered a viable candidate.

But the former member of the Republican party said he did not believe he was taking votes away from McCain. Instead, he said his supporters are those who are dissatisfied with McCain or Obama and looking for another choice. He said he would not cast a ballot for either of the mainstream choices.

"I would not vote for either. To me, they are both for big government," Barr said. "The federal government is way too big."

He said the increasing debt and "fiscal irresponsibility" isn't the idea that troubles him the most. Instead, it's the "tremendous loss of freedom" that represents.

Slade Lail, president of the local organization, said the group ordinarily doesn't talk about politics, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a presidential candidate speak.

"We're definitely honored to have him here," the Duluth dentist said. "His speech was terrific. He doesn't seem to beat around the bush. He answers the question, which you don't always see in your presidential candidates. I found that refreshing."