An interview with Michael Badnarik
Story by Steven Sisson
Poet Robert Frost wrote, “I never dared be radical when young for fear it would make me conservative when old.”
But what about being a … radical conservative?
That could be the best description for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik out there.
Badnarik, 50, is a baby boomer – nothing radical about that, necessarily.
His parents still reside at their suburban home that was built when Badnarik and his two brothers were younger.
Nothing radical about that.
Badnarik is a former Boy Scout and was a Scoutmaster during his college days at Indiana University.
Nothing there out of the ordinary.
So what is about Michael Badnarik that makes him stand out as being a radical conservative?
An interview with a candidate
Mr. Badnarik, can you tell us briefly why you seek the position for the highest elected office in the United States?
Badnarik: “You might call me ‘the accidental candidate.’ For several years, I’ve taught a course on the U.S. Constitution around the country. A couple of years ago, a number of friends and former students came to me and said ‘Michael, we want you to run for president.’ My first reaction was ‘president of what?’ And when they said ‘president of the United States,’ I thought they were nuts.
“But the prospect also intrigued me, so I went out on the road to test the waters. I ended up traveling and speaking almost nonstop for 18 months. The reaction from Libertarians, ultimately expressed at the Libertarian Party’s national convention, was ‘Michael Badnarik can talk to voters, and they’ll believe him and agree with him. He’s our man.’ So here I am.”
And what are your three main priorities as that candidate?Badnarik:
“I only have one priority as a candidate – and as an individual – and that is the restoration of the Bill of Rights and of constitutional government in America. There are various ways of going about it, but that’s the priority.”
There are many choices this presidential-election season. Why should America vote for Michael Badnarik for president?
Badnarik: “I’m the only candidate who will reduce the size and power of the federal government. The Democrats have never made any secret of the fact that they want to grow government – and the Republicans have stopped pretending that they want to reduce it. So the real answer is another question: ‘What do you want in a president?’ If you want a pro-freedom, limited government executive, then I’m the man to elect.”
A lot of folks here in the Shenandoah Valley might ask, why vote for the Libertarian candidate?
Badnarik: “The Guardian – a British newspaper – ran a column by George Monbiot the other day in which he wrote that we ‘can vote out the monkeys but not the organ grinder.’ That’s as apt a description of the ‘major’ parties as I’ve read. The Republicans and Democrats don’t differ to
any great degree on any important issue. If you vote for either party, you’re going to get less freedom and more government. Voting Libertarian is the only way to express your desire for more freedom and less government at the ballot box.”
AFP: In accordance with federal election laws in the United States, a third-party presidential candidate must seek ballot access by petition.
Can you tell us about the progress of the Libertarian petition drive concerning access to those state ballots?
Badnarik: “At this moment, I’m on the ballot in 31 states; I expect to be on in 49 or 50, depending on how a ballot access lawsuit in Oklahoma comes out. In the other states, the petition drives and such are still being wrapped up.”
The recent findings from the 9/11 Commission Report did not satisfy the American public concerning the lack of accountability – and enabling the county to move forward with new standards with our nations’ ability to protect the citizens.
What are your personal observations about the 9/11 Commission Report?
“The 9/11 Report reads sort of like a Rogaine prescription for a chemotherapy patient. Yes, the patient is losing his hair, but that’s the least of his problems. The report talks a lot about enhancing the nation’s ability to collect and analyze intelligence, but it doesn’t get to the real problem, which is an interventionist foreign policy that needlessly creates enemies. Until we address that, we’re stuck playing catch-up with an ever larger, ever more adaptive set of enemies. And that’s a losing game.”
What U.S. government policies would you change with the findings of the 9/11 Commission?Badnarik:
“I believe the 9/11 Commission was right in one significant respect: We do need to retool the American intelligence community. However, that’s not so much a matter of appointing a ‘czar’ or laying down new rules for information sharing as it is a matter of getting the intelligence community back in the business of intelligence collection and out of the business of raising and toppling regimes, influencing the internal affairs of other countries and so forth.
“More to the point, the answer lies beyond the horizon that the commission set for itself. We need to get U.S. troops out of the more than 130 countries in which they are now operating and look instead to the defense of the United States. How Al-Qaeda attacked us is less important than why Al-Qaeda attacked us. They’ve never been shy about saying why. They’ve been telling us since 1991. They’ve told us before and after every attack since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that their problem with us is U.S. troops gallivanting about on Muslim soil.”
In a classic dog-eat-dog political tale, our local Republican state elected officials have rejected President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative with 2004 state legislation that would lower the federal-to-state requirements. Several legislators have labeled the Bush federal education mandate as another “big government program” – along with being too intrusive and costly to maintain. That high price tag is due to the continuing underfunding by the federal government, which can be compared with state unfunded mandates to localities.
Where do you stand, Mr. Badnarik, on President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiatives?
Badnarik: “I’ve read the Constitution many times. No matter how I read it – forward, backward, upside down or with my Captain Liberty Secret Decoder Ring – I can’t find anything in it that empowers the federal government to be involved in education. And since the federal government got involved in education, our children have slipped from first to 29th place in terms of literacy, numeracy and other measurements of educational excellence.
“The No Child Left Behind Act is just another extension of the policies that have destroyed American education. As president, I propose to get the federal government out of education, and I hope that the states will substantially privatize it as well. That’s the only way to get back to our position of preeminence in learning.”
The unspoken issues of the 2004 presidential elections are the antiquated and useless policies of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Most Americans believe both major political parties are pandering for future Hispanic votes while avoiding the politically sensitive issues of immigration.
If homeland security and the threat of foreign terrorists are such a major concern, why can’t we control immigration on the Mexican-U.S. border?
Badnarik: “Let’s be realistic: The U.S. has more than 95,000 miles of border and coastline, and the current immigration regime encourages people to slip through without the formalities. With millions of immigrants dodging our Border Patrol every year, it’s time to say ‘enough – this isn’t working.’
“My goal is to encourage legitimate immigration – people coming to the United States to live free and work hard – while defending the nation against enemies who come here to harm it and parasites who come here to live on government largesse.
“I advocate open immigration for individuals who are willing to enter at a Customs and Immigration station and submit to a quick background check to ensure that they aren’t criminals or terrorists. And except for extreme cases such as Cuban and Haitian boat refugees who don’t have much control over where they land, I advocate treating people who cross the borders elsewhere as what they are: invaders.
“As a Libertarian, I oppose redistributionist welfare programs. As president, I’d work to eliminate them. Right now, the U.S. is a magnet for people seeking a handout. I want us to demagnetize ourselves in that respect.
“A more open immigration regime, coupled with the elimination of welfare incentives, would greatly reduce the resources needed to provide real border security. And the proper agency for that security is the armed forces – once we’ve brought them home from Japan, Korea, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan …”
Recently, it has been reported by The Washington Times that 35 percent of those arrested for illegal entry into the United States were personally motivated by President Bush’s promised legislation for the amnesty concerning undocumented foreigners.
Shenandoah Valley residents would like to know if you support the presidential uncontested amnesty?
Badnarik: “President Bush’s proposal is just the sort of half-fish, half-fowl thing that hasn’t worked. He isn’t proposing a real amnesty. He’s proposing that those aliens currently living in the U.S. be tracked down and subjected to the same standards as newly arriving immigrants. It’s not a bad idea as such, but it’s a serious misallocation of resources.
“Let’s stop worrying about some guy who walked from Guadalajara to Arkansas to work in a poultry plant, and start worrying about real criminals and real terrorists. Instead of doing mass roundups and implementing documentation programs, let’s concentrate on tracking down those who are harming Americans or lying in wait to harm Americans.”
What is your opinion concerning faith-based initiatives at the White House?Badnarik:
“Not only do I approve of churches undertaking to provide welfare services, I want to hand the job over to them entirely. The difference between President Bush’s proposal and mine is that mine doesn’t include a taxpayer handout. Charity should be private. The churches can ask people to provide. My job is to cut taxes so that they can afford to provide.”
Mr. Badnarik, the federal government has grown three times the size of the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton. Who’s to blame?
Badnarik: “Who’s to blame? Who’s in the White House? Who controls Congress?
“Over the last four years, the Republican administration and the Republican Congress have grown government like LBJ on a crack binge. They got a one-party government for the first time in 40 years by claiming that they’d cut government back. Now they’re fresh out of excuses.
What steps are needed to control the rate of growth for the federal government?
Badnarik: “I don’t propose to ‘control the growth of the federal government.’ I propose to prune it until the pile of dead branches is bigger than the shrub. The steps needed to do this are simple: Cut operations, cut taxes and cut spending. As president, I’ll slash the executive branch by eliminating all of its unconstitutional functions, I’ll veto any budget bill that doesn’t include elimination of the income tax, and I’ll veto any budget bill that spends more money than reasonable projections say we’ll have.”
Many have raised serious questions regarding the 2002 Bush tax cuts and also John Kerry’s wealth-redistribution plan to adjusted taxes for higher income only.
Is all of this nothing more than smoke and mirrors?
Badnarik: “The Bush tax cut is a joke. It amounts to a 1 percent reduction in gross revenues, phased in over 10 years, if it even survives for that long. The Democratic tax plan isn’t a joke, it’s a nightmare.”
What do you think about a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and the return of federal tax surpluses to citizens who pay the taxes?
Badnarik: I can’t support a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that says, ‘The IRS has to smile when it takes your money.’ I propose to eliminate the income tax, and the IRS with it. The United States did quite well for more than 100 years on low, uniform tariffs and excises.
“The Taxpayer Bill of Rights I support reads: It’s your money. You earned it. Keep it.”
What are your thoughts on corporate globalism, unrestricted free-trade agreements and the growing influence of corporate PAC contributions on the election process?Badnarik:
“I support real free trade. The thousands of pages of rules, regulations, dispensations and exceptions in NAFTA, GATT and other ‘free trade’ treaties aren’t free trade.
“I propose an end to trade restrictions. Period. My ‘free trade treaty’ won’t even fill a page.
“When we talk about corporate globalism, we’re talking about two different things: trade across borders – which I support – and a web of subsidies and barriers, which I oppose.
“As far as corporate contributions to political parties goes, you’ll be surprised how quickly they go down when government is limited. If government officials have no influence to sell, the corporations will stop buying.”
If you are elected, what would be your solutions for the rising cost of our nation’s health care system?
Badnarik: “Every expansion of government into health care has driven up costs and driven down availability. Medicare, Medicaid and Nixon’s deal with the HMOs … the way to make health care cheap and accessible is to get government out of it. If you look at any good or service where government keeps its hands off, the cost of that good or service goes down over time.”
What are the Libertarian positions concerning gun control and the Second Amendment?
Badnarik: “As president, I’ll veto any new victim disarmament – ‘gun control’ – legislation, and I’ll shut down the agencies that enforce the 20,000 unconstitutional gun laws now on the books. My administration will defend that policy in court as necessary. The right to keep and bear arms is not negotiable.”
Mr. Badnarik, can you tell us about other Libertarian policy objectives?Badnarik:
“It’s not difficult to derive my policy objectives, or those of the Libertarian Party. One need only ask two questions about a proposal: Does it make us freer, or less free? And, does the Constitution allow it, or not?
“We’ve spent 200 years making government complicated. But at bottom, it isn’t complicated. Jefferson got it right in the Declaration of Independence: Governments are instituted among men to secure our rights. Anything less than that, or anything more, and we’re in trouble.
“I want to restore the kind of government that our founders bequeathed us and that we’ve foolishly walked away from.”