Letter re: Michael Badnarik's coverage in Chronicle

Hi John,

  I appreciate you reporting Michael Badnarik's appearance at the Commonwealth Club last Thursday. It's refreshing to see the Libertarian Party covered in the Chronicle for a change. However I think it was a bit unfair to quote Badnarik about F-16 ownership out of context. He clearly stated that examples of that nature were ridiculous to begin with, and asked rhetorically if people had a problem with F-16s in their neighborhoods -- the implicit point being that people do have problems with shootings in their neighborhoods despite the anti-gun laws, so our lack of problems with F-16s is not the result of there being laws against owning them.

  It's also untrue that "no one" believes Badnarik would be competitive in the race for the White House if he were able to participate in the debates with Bush and Kerry. In fact I myself believe that if Badnarik gets into the debates, he will have a decent shot at getting elected. Ross Perot probably could have won in 1992 after being in the debates, if he had stayed the course. If the Republican and Democrat-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates is allowed to shut Badnarik out, on the other hand, that will probably be enough to keep him from reaching the exposure threshold where he would be a serious threat to win the presidency.

  Even if that happens however, I think he will likely hold the balance of power this year by getting more votes in numerous battleground states than the difference between Bush and Kerry. Given the amount of attention the media has paid to Ralph Nader, one would think that this strong possibility would be considered a bit more newsworthy. It happened with the Libertarian Party's 2000 presidential candidate Harry Browne in Florida -- which could have easily gone to Gore -- among several other states, and Badnarik is already polling higher than Browne was four years ago.

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Individual liberty inspires presidential hopeful
Libertarian nominee puts faith in people, not big government
-John Wildermuth, Chronicle Political Writer
Friday, August 20, 2004

Voters looking for change aren't going to get it by voting for George Bush or John Kerry, Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate for president, told a San Francisco audience Thursday.

"If you continue doing what you've always done, you're going to get what you've always got,'' Badnarik said.

The U.S. government, whether it has been run by Republicans or Democrats, has always sought more power and influence, usually at the expense of the voters, said the 50-year-old computer programmer from Austin, Texas. The national government has to be smaller, cheaper and much less intrusive.

"Much of what the federal government now does is unconstitutional,'' Badnarik told about 70 people at the Commonwealth Club of California. "Its purpose is to protect your life, liberty and property. Any time the government does anything more, they're exceeding their authority.''

Libertarian policy calls for most government services to be turned over to private companies, leaving only very limited authority for the federal government. "Coining money, national defense and the post office, and that's about it,'' Badnarik said.

The Libertarian platform ranges from the outer reaches of the political left to the hardest of conservative positions, but all follow from the party's overriding concern for individual liberty.

Badnarik, nominated by Libertarians this spring in Atlanta, for example, supports same-sex marriage, legalization of drugs, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and an end to the Patriot Act, which he described as "the most egregiously unconstitutional piece of paper to leave Congress since the Alien and Sedition Acts.''

But he also wants to end most drug testing by the Food and Drug Administration, eliminate regulations on business and overturn all gun control laws.

Halfway measures are impossible when it comes to individual freedom, Badnarik said.

If people have an absolute right to bear arms, that means they must be able to have not only hunting rifles and registered pistols, but also concealed handguns, assault rifles and even an F-16 fighter jet without government approval or interference.

"If I concede that the government can stop you from having an F-16, I'm conceding the right of government to regulate,'' Badnarik said.

Government should only be involved when there's a clear and present danger of harm, he said. "You can have a gun under your coat, you can pull it out of the holster, but you can't point it at someone."

Police wouldn't be as busy if more people were carrying guns, Badnarik said. In Florida, for example, the crime rate plunged when people were allowed to carry concealed weapons, he added.

The Libertarians' goal is to get Badnarik invited to the presidential debates, even though he doesn't have the 15 percent support in the polls the debate commission requires. That rule has been challenged in court.

The opportunity to challenge Kerry and Bush in the three televised debates would be a major coup for the party, even though no one believes it would boost the Libertarians into the heart of the race for the White House. For third parties, national elections are more about issues than votes.

"Even if I get 10 percent of the votes, the people who go to the White House will be dusting off their copies of the Constitution,'' Badnarik said.

E-mail John Wildermuth at jwildermuth@sfchronicle.com

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/08/20/MNGQ28BFNL1.DTL

Since John is a member of the media and conversations with reporters are generally presumed to be "on the record" unless specified, and he isn't talking about anything personal in this message, I don't mind posting his reply here.

Yours in liberty,
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