PART ONE OF FOUR ...
LIBERTARIAN CONVENTION ENDS IN UNITY DESPITE CONTROVERSIES
by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor.
[June 24, 2004]
Party delegates chose Constitutional scholar Michael
Badnarik for their 2004 presidential candidate over Memorial Day weekend
(May 27 - 31) at Atlanta's Mariotte
Marquis hotel -- and the Hollywood Investigator was there!
So were over 800 delegates
from around the U.S., plus celebrity speakers (both on and off the convention
floor), merchandisers, activists -- and controversy!
* The Next President ...
chose Badnarik to be their presidential candidate on Sunday, May 30, live
on C-SPAN. As the three "major"
presidential contenders were nearly identical on issues (despite minor
individual tweaks, all supported legalizing guns and drugs, peace, foreign
non-interventionism, abortion rights, gay marriage, and abolishing almost
all taxes and government programs), the decisive factor was style. Delegates were left to chose between Nolan's polish, Russo's energy, and
Radio talk show
host Gary Nolan was the front runner
as the convention opened. Seen as the "libertarian establishment"
candidate, Nolan had won the endorsement of former LP presidential candidate Harry
Browne -- and all state primary elections! The LP does not recognize
primary election results, preferring to nominate its national candidates
by convention (as the GOP and Democrats had done 60 years earlier), but
even so, many delegates praised Nolan as a "smooth talker" who could promote
the LP with polish and aplomb.
in an exclusive interview by the Hollywood
Investigator why he was the best candidate, Nolan said that it was because
he phrased the libertarian message in a way that was "optimistic, compassionate,
and promoted the benefits of liberty." This message (part Reaganesque
"morning in America," part "compassionate libertarianism") seemed intended
to counter the tax-cutting LP's image among some voters as a scary "party
of greed" that cared nothing for the poor.
Hollywood producer Aaron
Russo promised a rough & tumble campaign were he chosen. During Saturday's debate among the three leading candidates, Russo vowed
that if he were barred from the Bush/Kerry debates, he'd lead a thousand
supporters to the debate in a massive display of "civil disobedience."
Less cautious with words
than Nolan, Russo said, "America has become a fascist country. ... What's
happened in Iraq is part of that fascist government."
bucked the LP's laissez-faire environmental policy by opposing oil drilling
and in Alaska, saying that oil companies were "part of fascist
government." Instead, Russo advocated seeking alternative sources
of energy. He also hailed alternative medicine, claiming to have
used it himself. (Russo has been reported to have had bladder cancer,
and to have beaten it!)
Russo supporters hailed his energy, other delegates worried that he was
a "loose canon" whose outrageous remarks would embarrass the LP. D.C. delegate Carol Moore (a Nolan
supporter), circulated a sheet listing Russo's
past antics, including these complaints:
"jokes" about Gary Nolan being Arab: "Let's kill him." If Nolan had
joked about Russo being Jewish, he would have been out of the race.
* Russo "jokes" to
a delegate wearing Nolan sticker: "Nolan? Take that sticker off,
I ought to beat your ass."
* When a beautiful
blond raises her hand to ask a question he acknowledged her by saying,
"No, I can't sleep with you."
* "Jokes" to a man
asking about gay marriage, "Are you the woman in the relationship?"
* "Joked" that we
should repeal women's right to vote.
* Loosens belt and
lunges at woman (me!) asking a tough question saying, "Fix my belt buckle,
I can't get it in the hole."
such allegations, libertarian bisexual activist Starchild supported Russo,
and Russo's campaign literature cited praise from actors Jack Nicholson
Bette Midler, and radio talk show host Howard Stern. And though Russo
lost California's primary election to Nolan, Russo won a straw poll
of delegates at the California
LP state convention in March. However, a source who was
at the state convention told the Hollywood Investigator that Russo's win
was due to the state
convention being held up in San Jose, resulting
in a lopsidedly large turnout of San Francisco delegates. Presumably,
Russo is less popular among his hometown Los Angeles delegates.
delegates at the national convention were unimpressed with Russo's claim
that his "Hollywood contacts" would promote his campaign. Russo has
not produced anything since
1991, making him a former producer in some delegates'
doubt was Russo's longterm commitment to the Libertarian Party. Russo
had previously founded a now-defunct Constitution Party (not to be confused
with the current Constitution
Party), had run for governor of Nevada
in 1998 as a Republican, and planned to run as an independent in
2004 before pursuing the LP nomination. Thus it was no surprise that
the "party establishment" favored Nolan.
staffer told the Investigator that Russo was the choice of "young, grassroots
activists" whereas Nolan was the pick of "country club libertarians." But other self-described activists disputed that characterization and endorsed
Nolan. [The Investigator tried to arrange a pre-convention interview
with Russo in Los Angeles via the staffer, but no interview was granted.]
the pre-convention buzz was Nolan or Russo. Few people paid
any serious attention to the tortoise in the race, Texas-based Constitutional
scholar Michael Badnarik, who was
seen as intellectual but colorless.
Apparently, Badnarik listened
to his critics, unveiling a feistier, livelier candidate during Saturday's
debate with Nolan and Russo. Badnarik's surprise performance was
a key factor in winning over delegates.
Badnarik also remained Constitutionally
correct. Asked how he'd deal with terrorists, he said that instead
of going to war against nations that hadn't attacked us, he'd issue a letter
of marque and reprisal to target the individual terrorists
responsible. (Browne had made the same suggestion post-9/11.)
Speaking exclusively to the Investigator, Badnarik said, "I am opposed to [the Iraq war]. I'm opposed to foreign intervention. I am not an isolationist. I understand the Constitution allows us the responsibility of national
defense. It does not give us the authority to do international offense. And the best way to eliminate terrorism for the United States is to bring
our soldiers home from 135 countries around the world. Stop influencing
other governments. Stop influencing other economies. And stop
poking other countries in the eye politically, and just mind our own business
the way we would like other people to leave us alone."
his nomination why he was the best candidate, he said, "I've been teaching
since I was five years old. I've been an advanced First Aid instructor,
a CPR instructor, a skydiving instructor. I have an ability to communicate
the libertarian message to non-libertarians so they understand it and join
the party. I'm an effective communicator."
May 30, Russo won the surprisingly close first ballot (Russo 258, Badnarik
256, Nolan 246). Then the LP's "minor candidates" were dropped, and
Russo won the second ballot (Russo 285, Badnarik 249, Nolan 244). At that point, anyone with "a sense of the floor" knew that Badnarik would
win the nomination, as the delegates had coalesced into two camps: the
"respectable" Nolan or Badnarik vs. the "controversial" Russo.
few were surprised when, after placing third on the second ballot, Nolan
endorsed Badnarik. LP national chair Geoffrey Neale refused Russo
a chance to rebut, perhaps because, since Nolan was no longer a candidate,
equal time rules did not apply. Yet few thought it would have made
a difference, and Badnarik handily won a majority of delegates on the
third ballot (Badnarik 423, Russo 344).
"rebutted" during his concession speech. After praising Badnarik,
Russo said that he was happy to have achieved one important goal: denying
the nomination to Nolan. Booing erupted, one delegate shouting: "Low
even Badnarik, pre-convention wisdom holding that Nolan would likely
win, with a possible Russo upset. One woman who'd been on Badnarik's
staff "since the beginning," confessed to the Investigator that even the
small Texas group who'd initially convinced Badnarik to seek the nomination
never seriously expected him to win.
* Abortion Controversy
hisses also marred the speech of presidential candidate Jeffrey
Diket, the most controversial of the LP's "minor candidates," running
directly opposed to the LP's pro-choice plank. Diket was introduced
on stage to delegates as having lost his sight in the struggle against
racial prejudice. He began speaking, striking nerves when he called
abortion "baby murder," whereupon the Investigator spotted California delegate Mark
Selzer begin booing.
A couple dozen delegates
followed Selzer's lead, booing and hissing loud enough to be heard over C-SPAN.--
which was televising Diket's speech -- although most delegates listened
in respectful silence.
Asked by the Investigator
why he initiated booing, Selzer replied, "My actions are that of an individual
and I did not 'initiate' booing because Libertarians are not a group to
be led. I have opinions that are my own. If others agree or
disagree that is up to them."
why he booed at all, Selzer explained, "I booed the accusation that the
Libertarian Party advocates 'baby murder.' This is a slanderous and
ugly allegation and I always defend the Libertarian Party whenever I see
it attacked. No one in the Libertarian party has ever said it is
OK to murder a baby. [Diket] is not a Libertarian but a conservative
wanting to change the Libertarian Party into a 'conservative' organization. The Libertarian Party needs to be able to include conservatives but should
resist efforts from those outside the party to 'Republicanize' the party."
require that a candidate gather signatures from at least 30 delegates to
have their name placed on the ballot and be permitted to address the delegation.
After Diket's speech, California
delegate Jim Gray moved to change
rules, increasing the number of required signatures from 30 to 100 to make
it harder for "minor candidates with little support" to address
the convention. His motion was voted down.
But despite the LP remaining
solidly in the pro-choice camp, Libertarians
for Life kept a visible presence throughout the convention.
opposition to abortion is usually associated with religious conservatives,
to the Investigator, Diket critisized abortion without mentioning
religion, saying, "Abortion is an affront to the Declaration
of Independence, it's an affront to Objectivism,
of which I'm an adherent, and it's an affront to libertarianism because
the Libertarian Party says you do not initiate force against another human
being. Yet the abortion choicers say we initiate force against a
baby because a baby is not a human being. They won't even call it
a baby, which is absurd since man, as a rational animal, has babies like
his loss of sight, Diket said that he'd been born premature in 1945, placed
in an incubator, and given too much oxygen. This damaged his right
eye, leading to its extraction at age 7.
15, Diket was living in Greenville, NC, when several Klansmen tried to
recruit him. "What they didn't know," said Diket, "was that I'd lived
in New Orleans, where I'd marched in Mardis Gras parades behind black jazz
bands -- so I knew that blacks were not genetically inferior to whites."
15, 1961, angered at Diket's refusal to join the Klan, some Klansmen shoved
Diket into a door post. His injuries led to his left eye's retina
detaching two years later, leaving him permanently blind.
END OF PART ONE. GO TO PART TWO,
PART THREE, PART FOUR.
Copyright 2004 by HollywoodInvestigator.com
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