LONE ROCK -- Kevin Barrett, the 9/11 skeptic whose questioning of the official story of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon drew fire from politicians when he held a one-semester appointment as an associate lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is about to push back at the politicians.
Barrett plans to announce soon that he will run as a Libertarian candidate against U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, the La Crosse Democrat who has represented western Wisconsin's 3rd District since 1996.
"I'm planning a 'truth-in-politics' campaign that will milk that oxymoron for all it's worth: Call everything exactly the way I see it and let the chips fall where they may. It will be an interesting contrast to the standard campaigns with their timidity, hypocrisy and mendacity," says Barrett, a convert to Islam who has argued for a number of years that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "had nothing to do with Islam" and that "the war on terror is as phony as the latest Osama bin Laden tape."
Those comments and others along those lines put Barrett at the center of an international political storm in 2006, after it was learned that he would be teaching an introductory class titled "Islam: Religion and Culture" at the UW. Talk radio and television programs attacked Barrett -- sometimes to his face, as when he appeared for a rollicking segment of Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" program. A Republican legislator, Whitewater state Rep. Steve Nass, condemned the university for a man critics describe as "a conspiracy nut."
A 10-day review by UW Provost Patrick Farrell of Barrett's teaching record and his plans for the introductory class determined that Barrett would fairly represent a variety of viewpoints in his course -- and was thus fit to teach.
Since 2006, Barrett has written a book, "Truth Jihad: My Epic Struggle Against the 9/11 Big Lie," hosted a radio show and delivered lectures around the country.
Now, the Lone Rock resident is entering politics.
Typically, the media-savvy activist is doing so with every intent of grabbing the spotlight.
Barrett's promising to run "a campaign unlike any other" -- an "all-out no-holds-barred truth jihad."
"The two-party system is corrupt and stale," says Barrett, who explains that, while he breaks with the Libertarians on a number of issues, "I agree with much of the Libertarian platform, I'd like to take votes away from Republicans at least as much as from Democrats, and last but not least, they gave me a rousing reception at their convention and encouraged me to do it.
"As you can imagine, my main issue is the 9/11 wars and the devastation they've caused to both our economy and our values," adds Barrett. "Ron Kind, a quintessential wimp Democrat who hasn't stood up against any of it, is a perfect foil."
Kind doesn't see himself as any sort of "wimp Democrat." The congressman is a centrist who has drawn headlines in recent months for challenging the Washington consensus of farm policy, and he portrays himself as a maverick in the tradition of his former boss, the late U.S. Sen. Bill Proxmire, D-Wis. He's also reasonably popular in the 3rd District, a region of farms, small towns and medium-sized college and factory cities that has trended Democratic in recent years. In 2006, Kind was re-elected against an aggressive Republican challenger with 65 percent of the vote.
Kind's already preparing to run for re-election, making the rounds of local events such as the upcoming Syttende Mai parade in Westby and the annual Memorial Day parade in Eau Claire, and telling voters, "After 11 years in office, meeting personally with the constituents of the 3rd Congressional District remains as important to me as ever."
Political analysts in Wisconsin and Washington rank the race as likely to favor the Democrat.
But Barrett, who has drawn substantial crowds when he has appeared in 3rd District communities such as Viroqua, will shake things up with campaign statements like: "The 'war on terror' is really a war on our economy. And it is a complete scam -- the biggest hoax ever foisted on a shocked and gullible public. Even if you accept the official story of 9/11, that means that in 50 years of terrorism, we have lost two days' worth of cigarette fatalities, four days' worth of deaths caused by medical treatment, or 29 days worth of highway deaths. You are more likely to drown in your bathtub, or be struck by lightning, than to be killed by terrorists. More people die of peanut allergies than terrorist attacks. The whole media-hyped story that you need to be afraid of terrorism is a sick joke."
John Nichols, the associate editor of The Capital Times, writes "Evjue: A Wisconsin Politics Blog" at www.captimes.com.