On Sunday, October 22, Peter Orvetti was granted an exclusive telephone interview with Natural Law/Independence Party Coalition presidential nominee John Hagelin, physicist and professor at the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa, who was also the Natural Law presidential nominee in 1992 and 1996. In 1992, he received 39,163 votes, finishing eighth, while in 1996, he received 112,978 votes, finishing seventh. This is the third in a series of interviews with alternative party presidential candidates appearing on enough state ballots to theoretically win an electoral vote majority.
PETER ORVETTI: Dr. Hagelin, are you the legitimate heir to the Ross Perot movement?
JOHN HAGELIN: I believe so. Pat Buchanan certainly is not. He came in from the outside and attempted to take over the party by spending money. He and his 'Buchanan Brigades' were able to take over [Reform Party committees] in weak states where just three or four people were needed to win. But the strong states like New York have stayed firmly behind my coalition candidacy. That's because the real Reform Party wanted to stay with an agenda meant to appeal to the 50 million independent voters, and the 115 million frustrated eligible nonvoters. Buchanan had his own agenda and took over the party. Ross Perot himself testified to the Federal Election Commission that my candidacy is the legitimate successor to his campaigns. And Ralph Nader is not the heir to Perot; he was invited to seek the Reform Party nomination but declined to take on Buchanan. Nader is not a coalition builder; he's interested in his own message.
ORVETTI: But you ran against Ross Perot as the Natural Law Party presidential nominee the two times he ran for president, in 1992 and 1996. How do you reconcile that with your current claim that you're his heir?
HAGELIN: It's a mistake to say I ran against Perot, or that I'm now running against Nader. In fact, I say we are helping each other. Nader and I are not simply trying to win an election, but to let our agendas enter the marketplace of ideas. With both of us out there, it frees us up to concentrate on specific areas. For instance, because Ralph is talking about corporate control of the [political] system, I am free to focus on renewable energy, preventative medicine, and the environment. When Perot ran, he focused almost exclusively on the economy, so I was able to run on other critical issues. I see it as us working together.
ORVETTI: What was it about 1992 that led to the founding of the Natural Law Party then? That, of course, was also the year Perot came on the scene.
HAGELIN: Yes, and I think that's significant. My effort was born of frustration. President Bush had just received the Republican nomination again, and many of us thought he was tired, and that he had sold out the American people with the S&L bailout, that he was too beholden to special interests. And Clinton had won the Democratic nomination, and a lot of people who care about preventative medicine, health care, and the environment were deeply frustrated that the majority of people who shared their views had no voice. Perot certainly succeeded in offering a voice for some himself.
ORVETTI: Have the Reform Party leaders who have endorsed your campaign, like Jim Mangia and Russ Verney, also embraced the Natural Law Party platform, or are they in essence using you in their own war against the Buchanan wing?
HAGELIN: They have embraced, very warmly, the Natural Law platform. We had a joint coalition convention in Alexandria, Virginia, in August, and prior to that we had a joint platform meeting in Long Beach [where competing Reform factions nominated both Buchanan and Hagelin for president]. Essentially, everybody just shrugged and said there was nothing we couldn't all support in the Natural Law platform. The Natural Law Party basically extends the Reform Party's central ideas to include the environment, health care, and other issues.
ORVETTI: What about Perot? Is he going to publicly endorse you before Election Day?
HAGELIN: I honestly don't know. Of course, his testimony to the FEC was close. But I would be honored by his endorsement. We had Jesse Ventura's endorsement in Newsweek [in comments during a Newsweek Online interview]. He's done a great job in Minnesota and done a lot for the independent cause.
ORVETTI: Will Ventura be making a formal public endorsement?
HAGELIN: I hope so....
ORVETTI: Do you have any prediction on how well you and Natural Law candidates will do this year?
HAGELIN: [In 1996,] we received about three million votes, for me and for other Natural Law candidates combined. Because some people voted for more than one of our candidates, that really amounted to about a million or 1 1/2 million voters. I hope to triple that this year.
ORVETTI: I want to talk about one of the planks of the Natural Law platform that has not been a part of the Reform platform. In 1992 and 1996, you spoke openly of the role of Transcendental Meditation as part of your policy agenda. But during your run for the Reform nomination this year, you downplayed TM. Why?
HAGELIN: I have been and continue to be very open about TM. In fact, half of my show on Meet The Press this morning dealt with TM's effectiveness in decreasing heart disease and stroke. [The Natural Law Party] has easily the most comprehensive platform of any party. TM gets a lot of play [in the media] because it's so novel. But 50 million Americans self-report that they [meditate], and the National Institutes of Health study meditation's effectiveness. It's a cost-effective approach to prevention.
ORVETTI: You said earlier that Mangia, Verney, and others saw little to dispute in the Natural Law platform. Does that go for the TM elements as well? HAGELIN: There was no disagreement on the TM section. In fact, Verney and Mangia have spoken out on TM as an example of a good idea. Government has always been relatively quick to absorb good solutions. We just want to accelerate the process of absorption....
ORVETTI: One difference between this campaign and your past campaigns is the support of director David Lynch, who has volunteered his services to you. How did he become a supporter, and what sort of ads is he making for your campaign?
HAGELIN: David Lynch heard me speak at a luncheon in Beverly Hills, a small lunch of about 20 or 30 Hollywood folks. He just liked what I had to say. I didn't know him before that. And I was happy that he was so impressed by our message that he switched his affiliation from Democrat to Natural Law. I got to know him well, and I was really struck by the quality of the person. He is very sincere, very gracious, and very concerned with helping people. He committed his staff and studio to creating quite a nice infomercial we will air nationally. Of course, it will be little and late because of our [low campaign] funding, but we're already airing it on cable channels and some of the free public access channels. And it's available on our website for anyone to view online.
ORVETTI: Dr. Hagelin, thank you for your time today.
HAGELIN: Thank you for the interview. I love your website, and I appreciate your coverage.