Libertarian last antiwar candidate left standing

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With the Democrat platform becoming more "hawkish" and Kerry defending the invasion of Iraq, Badnarik stands alone as a serious candidate campaigning in opposition to the war.

It's hard to pin John Kerry down. He might add troops. Or he might bring troops out. Or maybe he'd put together a bigger alliance to keep the troop level steady. John Kerry might do a lot of things about Iraq, but on Monday he made his one unequivocal statement on the issue: Had he been president, he'd have taken the US to war in Iraq too.

"When John Kerry takes a firm position, I'm willing to take him at his word," says Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik. "Such a rare occurrence commands that much respect.

"So here's another question for John Kerry," Badnarik continues. "Why should the majority of Americans who now believe that the war was a tragic mistake vote for him?"

One might expect Badnarik to display a certain elation -- he's the only antiwar candidate likely to be on most Americans' ballots this November -- but the usually enthusiastic candidate's reaction is atypically somber.

"We've lost nearly 1,000 young American men and women in Iraq so far. Why am I the only candidate who's willing to admit that a mistake was made? Why am I the only candidate with a plan to bring the troops home? Bush wants to continue it. Kerry wants to expand it. Nader wants to internationalize it. I want to end it."

Badnarik, stumping in New Mexico, recently polled at a solid 5% even before starting his recent television and radio advertising blitz, and could easily be in the position of being able to determine the outcome of November's election in the state at the end of this short campaign trek. He has put Iraq's new government, and the international community, on notice that America will withdraw its troops "with all due speed consistent with their safety" upon his inauguration. "It's not as simple as 'get them on the planes,'" he says. "But it isn't complicated. We'll give notice and begin a 90-day phased withdrawal. If the new Iraqi government or an international force can relieve US forces in place, fine. But that's their job to figure out. We're going."

Early on, Badnarik's candidacy was seen as most damaging to the prospects of President Bush. "That's changed," says Badnarik's polling director, Rolf Lindgren. "The Democrats wrote off the antiwar vote at their convention, and Kerry just sealed it with a kiss-off. When Kerry's war position is made known, Badnarik's poll numbers climb well into double digits -- at Kerry's expense."

Badnarik hopes to become competitive by concentrating on "battleground" states, generating momentum by being the decisive factor. The war issue, he admits, is good for that. "But all in all, I'd rather they took it away from me by doing the right thing. Some things are above politics -- but apparently most politicians aren't."

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Stephen Gordon
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