Bob Barr, the Master of a Curious Universe

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 18, 2008


"I still plan someday to do a book on Bob Barr's laws of the universe," says Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate for president.

The rules of Bob Barr's universe are many and fascinating. Several have to do with his libertarian principles, like "No matter how much power government has, it never has enough." Others are more holistic, like "The world is full of idiots." There are deeply personal ones: "The most difficult thing about politics is dealing with people with really bad breath."


"You wouldn't believe," Barr explains in his deathly serious way. "Some people -- just awful halitosis."

Is there any human being on the planet more committed to his seriousness than Bob Barr? The 59-year-old Barr is so into the Founding Fathers that most of his phone numbers, including his cellphone, end in "1-7-7-6." He only reads weighty books, his wife says, like "George Washington on Leadership." He talks about himself in the third person. In his office, he keeps a photo of himself as a Republican congressman -- calling for the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Even Bob Barr's mustache is serious.

Bob Barr's law: "Never run a 100-yard dash in a 90-yard room."

What does that mean?

"It doesn't mean anything," he says, and then adds, sternly, "It's a joke."

And yet, every once in a while, the strangest thing happens. He does something surprising, like announces he really likes Bob Marley. Or says he kind of liked that Borat movie, except for the part where he was unwittingly in it as the butt of a joke, eating cheese purportedly made from human breast milk. He's still Bob Barr the bulldog, but in person he can be quite solicitous. And every so often, he smiles. Like now, during a discussion of the staying power of government institutions.

"That's one of Bob Barr's laws of the universe!" he says triumphantly. He is seated beneath a painting of Ayn Rand, who appears beautiful and all-knowing. "Once you create a bureaucracy, it is near to impossible to ever get rid of it." He's grinning broadly and -- look! The most unexpected thing in the world. Bob Barr's dimples . Sighted ever so briefly, like some fragile, exotic bird.

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