Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik contends the United States is being ruled by a government that disregards the Constitution.

That hardly surprises the 49-year-old computer consultant from Austin, Texas, who considers himself a constitutional scholar and knows a caveat when he sees it.

What does surprise Mr. Badnarik is the candidacy he captured Sunday by unexpectedly defeating more well-known aspirants, such as radio talk-show host Gary Nolan and former Hollywood movie producer Aaron Russo.

Indeed, he is, even in his own eyes, the accidental candidate for president.

“My name is Michael Badnarik, and I find myself running for president of the United States,” is how he introduced himself at a candidate’s forum in Richmond earlier this year.

It was hardly a seal-the-deal statement.

“Nobody on that floor was more astounded than I was,” Mr. Badnarik said yesterday of his nomination during the National Libertarian Convention in Atlanta. “Up until two weeks ago, I was not even sure that I would have the money to attend. All I was hoping for was a large enough percentage of delegates so that I could go home without being embarrassed.”

Mr. Badnarik, who once said that homeland security is best manifested in gun ownership, is now the face of a party that was founded in 1971, created with the desire to reduce the involvement of government in the personal lives of citizens.

“I do not interfere in your personal life domestically, and internationally, our military forces should not be interfering with foreign governments,” Mr. Badnarik said.

He advocates the withdrawal of troops from Iraq “as quickly and safely as possible.”

“The engagement itself is an unconstitutional encounter,” he said. “Congress declares war. What actually happened is that the Congress indicated to the president that it would not censure him if he chose to go to war. So Congress transferred the responsibility to the president, which it is not allowed to do.”

The party has yearned for a marquee name that would attract some attention the way Ralph Nader did for the Greens with his 2000 candidacy.

“The party dreamed of the day, and it had two big names in Gary Nolan and Aaron Russo, and Michael Badnarik was chosen,” said Michael Dixon, national chairman of the Libertarian Party. “I think it is a positive statement for our party, it is the American Dream, where a guy can grow up and run for president.

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