Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate
Friday, July 16, 2004; 11:00 AM
President Bush and John F. Kerry may be hogging the spotlight, but Michael Badnarik, a computer programmer from Texas and a teacher of constitutional law, is running for president too. Badnarik unexpectedly beat out two better known candidates at the Libertarian Party's convention in late May.
Badnarik took your questions on his campaign, the 2004 election and politics.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Michael Badnarik : Good Morning, everyone!
This is Michael Badnarik, signing in from Santa Ana, California. It's 8:00am here and I've already done one radio interview this morning, however this is my very first internet discussion of the campaign. I hope this works out well. If it does, I would be happy to do this several times between now and November 2nd.
If Congress didn't go along with your plans for significant cuts in the government, what could you do as President to help make our lives more free?
Michael Badnarik : Everyone who learns about the Constitution understands that we are supposed to have a "separation of powers" that creates a "system of checks and balances". The three branches of power no longer challenge each other. As a Libertarian president, I would veto every unconstitutional bill that Congress sent to my desk. Then I would hold a State of the Union address to explain what Congress was doing, and why it was unconstitutional. Then I would remind the American voters that THEY are the source of all political power in the US, and that it would be THEIR responsibility to call their members of Congress to insist that they withdraw support for that bill.
What is the role of a third party candidate in an election that is this close and with what some might consider very high stakes?
Michael Badnarik : My role is to remind people of the proper relationship between "We the People" and the government that we created in 1789. "We the People" have rights, and we give the government limited privileges... privileges that we have the power to take away, should we decide to do so. In other words, government works for us, not the other way around.
My job is to give the American voter another choice. It's up to the American voter to decide if its time to change the status quo.
Chincoteague Island, Va.:
What is your vision of the United States' place in the world at large?
Specifically, what is our responsibility to under-developed and emerging nations around the globe?
Michael Badnarik : Libertarians are "non-interventionists". We are NOT "isolationists" as is often reported. We hope to follow George Washington's advice to "maintain economic ties with all nations, and entangling alliances with none". In practice that would mean opening trade with all nations, offering our goods and services to any country willing to buy them. That would improve our economy and raise the standard of living around the world. More importantly, it would dramatically reduce the probablity that other countries would "bite the hand that feeds them". On the other hand we should bring our military home from 135 countries around the world. We are currently using our military to influence other governments and other economies. It is little wonder that other countries are not happy with our foreign policy.
The libertarian party is known for its strong
support of property rights. In you opinion, does
the profferrence of Intellectual Property by the
government (i.e. patents and trademarks) help or
hinder the economy? If elected, what changes
would you make to the status quo?
Michael Badnarik : This is a very interesting question... one that has come up several times since my nomination. As a computer programmer (for more years than I care to admit), I fully support the concept of "intellectual property", however the very nature of it makes it difficult to define and protect. My initial reaction is to say that intellectual property should be protected for the life of the person who created it. I do not support extending copyrights for decades after the person's death. Suppose the decendants of the person who invented the wheel still retained the royalties to that concept, simply because the knocked the corners off of a square. There has to be a cut-off somewhere, but I'm not convinced that I know what that cut-off should be.
Realisticly, what are your expectations for this election. Also, if the government offered the LP the same financial support that they offer the Democrats and Republicans, would the libertarian party use that money or still strike out on thier own steam?
Michael Badnarik : My expectations for this election are that the Libertarian Party will become "an overnight success". We have been around for 32 years, now, and I believe that the political climate is perfect for us to make significant headway. I won't speculate on the percentage of votes that we are likely to earn, however I am confident that we will break the 1 million vote barrier that we have struggled against for so long.
Libertarians do not believe in using tax-funded money for our own uses, so we have NOT accepted matching government funds. We also paid for our own national convention, actually earning a profit for our national party. The Democrats and Republicans are about to spend MILLIONS of tax dollars just to pay for extravant parties to rubber stamp the person who has already been selected. Where's the drama (and honor) in that?
I definitely identify with a good deal of the Libertarian Party's beliefs but am dismayed that it is viewed by most people I know as a "lunatic fringe" party (probably even more so than the Green or Reform parties). What must you do to get your party to be viewed as a bit more mainstream (read competitive)?
Michael Badnarik : I share your frustration that we are viewed as radicals and lunatics. Our only solution to that dilemma is better advertising, and my campaign has a three part plan to address that.
We are producing commericals that we plan to broadcast in prime time in order to get the message out. When people discover what we REALLY stand for, they almost unanimously support our platform. My personal goal is to generate enough public interest that I am included in the presidential debates. If I can get into the debates, I expect to WIN the debates. I formally challenge George Bush and John Kerry to include me. If they don't consider me a threat, then it shouldn't bother them to include me.
Why do you think the media spends less time on the political parties that aren't the main two in this country?
Michael Badnarik : Because of the misconsception that I can't win, and therefore I don't make a difference. However the Democrats and Republicans are quickly coming to realize that Libertarians generate more votes than the difference between their two parties, and therefore WE control many of the elections. The Libertarian Party is beginning to gather far more media attention than it has in the past for the simple reason that it is assumed that I could "cost George Bush the election". Let me state, for the record, that I do NOT "steal votes from George Bush". What I am doing is "winning votes for Liberty and Freedom"!
Do Libertarians believe in strict interpretation of the Constitution? And does that mean if it's not in the Constitution, then the federal government is illegally conducting business?
Nothing in the Constitution about NASA or the World Trade Organization or the Federal Reserve.
They all go out the window?
Michael Badnarik : You have a fairly accurate assessment of our party. The only valid purpose for the Constitution and the government that it creates is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens. Anything beyond that is not authorized by the Constitution. Therefore, if you can't find authorization in Article I, Section 8, then Congress shouldn't be doing it. Why bother setting up a "limited federal government" if we are going to allow them to create any laws which are "necessary and proper", and to interpret "interstate commerce" to include ducks that fly across state borders?
The Constitution is the "supreme law of the land", and any outside influence from the United Nations or WTO is inappropriate. Our members of Congress have sworn and oath to protect and defend our rights. They fail in that duty when they relinquish our sovereignty to foreign organizations that hold socialist and communist agendas.
What is your past political experience (i.e.- held elected office) and what makes you the best choice for President?
Michael Badnarik : The only political experience I've had is running for state representative in Texas in the 2000 and 2002 elections. My qualifications are that I have NO EXPERIENCE in:
1) raising your taxes
2) violating your rights
3) sending your sons and daughters into foreign conflicts
4) negotiating back room deals with large corporations
The qualities that make me the best choice for president are honesty, integrity, and a knowledge of the Constitution that is unknown to Washington DC since James Madison. Wouldn't it be nice to elect a president who KNOWS that his powers are limited?
Falls Church, Va.:
What is your opinion of outsourcing and the loss of US jobs as companies move them overseas?
Do you feel something should be done to preserve these jobs, or do you support the libertarian ideal of free trade and a global economy, which essentially means "[loss of American jobs] is the way the cookie crumbles?"
Michael Badnarik : I believe that jobs are leaving this country because of international agreements that PRETEND to offer "free trade". NAFTA and GATT both create hostile economic environments in this country that cause large companies to send manufacturing and jobs to other countries with fewer regulations. The best thing we can do for our economy is to re-establish REAL free trade, and allow businesses to operate without costly government regulations. I am confident that our American work ethic combined with our superior technology would allow the United States to reclaim its position as the economic world leader. This this case, as in so many others, "government is the problem, not the solution".
Just reading your answers to the first couple of questions. Do you really think that your method of governing, trying to limit government and return more power to the people is what "the people" want. Most Americans dont mind the fact that the federal government has grown in size and now has much more control of the governing process. The legislative/executive agenda is so large and complicated, I hardly think most Americans have the time or interest to constantly contact thier representatives to urge them not to vote for the "Endangered Butterfly and Child Care Reform amendment proposal 2315 of 2004.
Michael Badnarik : The Tenth Amendment says (in part) that "The powers NOT delegated to the United States by the Constitution... are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people". The founding fathers felt, as do all Libertarians, that in ANY decision about your life, YOU are a much better person too make that decision than some elected official. We believe in "individual rights and personal responsibility".
Why are college age people so anxious to move out of the house and find an apartment of their own? Don't they love Mom and Dad? Of course they do, however there is a biological compulsion to make our own decisions. If you won't allow Mom and Dad to make decisions for you, why on earth would you allow some government offical to make decisions for you?
The federal government has grown MUCH too large, and far too intrusive in our lives. Libertarians intend to change that for the better.
What is your day-to-day life like as a third party Presidential candidate? We don't hear much about your campaign on the evening news, unfortunately.
Michael Badnarik : I thought I was busy campaigning for the party's nomination. That was EASY compared to my typical day, now. I average about four hours a sleep a night. My first radio interview generally starts at 7:00am. Then I shower, shave, and spend the next sixteen hours talking to radio, newspaper, and television interviewers. My job is to spread the Libertarian message, and I am using every ounce of my energy to do precisely that. I have now way to predict how successful we're going to be in November, but I promise that no one will be able to point to the Badnarik Campaign and claim that "Michael didn't work hard enough." I am giving this campaign EVERYTHING I've got.
I had read somewhere that you do not recognize the legality of the federal income tax. If this is true, how do you account for the 16th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?
Michael Badnarik : There is a two volume book called THE LAW THAT NEVER WAS that makes a very convincing argument that the Sixteenth Amendment was never properly ratified. Nonetheless, a Supreme Court decision called BRUSHABER .vs. UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD concluded that "the Sixteenth Amendment confers no new power of taxation on the government". In other words, Congress can't do anything now that it couldn't do before the Sixteenth Amendment.
There are millions of people who have asked the IRS to show us the laws and statutes that make the average American liable for taxes. The IRS refuses to answer, asserting that these are "frivolous arguments". We aren't arguing anything, we are simply asking a government agency to justify its actions. That is something I think we are clearly entitled to do.
The Constitution was ratified in 1789, and the IRS came into existence in 1913. If America could survive without ana income tax before, I'm sure we can find a way to do so again.
As President, what would you do to ensure that we don't abandon the poor? A large welfare state is clearly against libertarian philosophy, but what do you suggest in its place? On a related note, what would you do about the spiraling cost of health care?
Michael Badnarik : First of all, let me assure everyone that Libertarians have no intention of abandoning the poor or elderly. Americans are CLEARLY the most generous culture on the face of the earth. Within one month of the September 11th disaster, Americans VOLUNTARILY contributed over 5 Billion dollars to the city of New York. The outpouring of aid and assistance was unparalleled in history. We will NOT allow anyone to starve to death in the United States.
However Libertarians are all about voluntary cooperation. We do not condone the use of force, even for a "good cause". If someone confronts you in a dark alley and uses a gun to deprive you of $100 - that is theft. If that person subsequently uses the money to pay for ice cream for the local orphans, that does NOT convert the transaction to philanthropy! Anytime you take someone else's money for your own use, that is theft. When the government takes someone else's money and "redistributes" it to you, that is government theft. Libertarians are vehemently opposed to government theft. We prefer to improve the economy to such an extent that Americans have the money to be even more generous to those in need.
Michael Badnarik : I'm terribly sorry, but my schedule requires me to terminate this interaction for now. I have thirty minutes to get dressed and head into Los Angeles for a photo shoot. Aaron Russo, my former political opponent, needs to film me for the television commercials that we plan to broadcast. Apparently I have to say, "My name is Michael Badnarik and I approve this ad." Don't you feel safer knowing that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act requires me to appear in my own commercials? That's your federal government at work.
Thanks for all your wonderful questions. I hope to do this again!
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