Date: Sun, 11 Jul 1999 17:51:44 -0600
From: "L. Neil Smith" <email@example.com>
Subject: WEEKEND MEMO
Dear friends --
This is the weekend memo I promised to write to clear up a number of points. As you read it, please try to keep in mind that I'm not a candidate, I'm just a guy whose friends are trying to persuade him to run.
Allow me to express my astonished thanks -- or try to, anyway -- to both the "petition side" and the "draft side" of this undertaking, for the beautiful and professional-looking websites they've unleashed on an unsuspecting World Wide Web, and the very impressive organizing they've accomplished, all at lightning speed and with close to no interference from yours truly. You've demonstrated that the secret to "herding cats" is not to herd them at all, but to leave them alone, to do what they're most inclined -- and best suited -- to do on their own.
I can't tell you what a shock it was, while I was conferring with my friends about the petition effort, to discover, suddenly -- Thursday before last, I think it was -- that another, completely independent effort to "draft" me for the LP nomination was already in place. Believe me, I'm flattered beyond words, and will do everything I can, consistent with everything else, to cooperate with this gentle persuasion.
While you were doing that, over the past few days I've had a great deal of mostly well-meaning advice, in the form of "please don't talk about (or so much about, or so strongly about)" various controversial issues such as firearms, abortion, the United Nations, or the legal prosecution and punishment of Constitutional wrongdoers, for fear -- their fear, not mine -- of "sounding like a "nut" to voters and the media.
But that kind of thinking, of course, is precisely how we got into this mess, isn't it? And how much respect would anyone have left for me if I soft-pedaled even one of these items? And since there are already so many candidates out there who _do_ soft-pedal them because they _have_ listened to such advice, what would be the point of my running?
Just to restore some perspective, please remember that I'm not a candidate, I'm just a guy whose friends are trying to persuade him to run. There's enormous freedom in that. Considerations about what the voters may think -- or not; I demonstrated a long time ago that what voters really want is straight talk on tough issues -- are a long way off.
And I intend to ignore the Old Media completely, so who cares what impression I make on them? I intend to reach _people_ -- people who want to see the Bill of Rights enforced -- in my own way and on my own terms, eye-to-eye, on talk radio, over the internet, without any Peter Jenningses or Dan Rathers or Tom Brokaws or Ted Turners to "interpret" for me. In fact, the more that creatures like this attack me, the better advertising it constitutes among those most likely to support me.
There have been and still are advocates out there of ideas well worth lampooning and ridiculing. Lyndon LaRouch and Ross Perot come to mind immediately. Not to mention George W. and Albert "I invented the internet" Gore. But my ideas are rooted in the time-honored Bill of Rights. I plan to make life hard for anyone who wants to make fun of that.
Another item I need to mention is my choice of vice presidential candidate. Again, remember I'm not a candidate myself, just a guy whose friends are trying to persuade him to run. Picking a running mate won't happen at all without a million petition signatures. If and when it does, it won't be a matter of "balancing the ticket" or babying some part of the country or the movement. I don't expect to be president, but campaigns, like a novel or a movie, require willing suspension of disbelief, engendered by attention to detail by the author. My choice will be someone -- at the moment I have nobody in mind -- who could be relied on to extend my Bill of Rights enforcement policy for another vital eight years after the "Smith Administration" ends.
When the time comes, I'll also appoint a "shadow cabinet" of at least a dozen individuals who can present that policy articulately all over the continent, as well as within certain specialized areas like taxes and the economy, Constitutional rights, national defense, and so on.
As to various "dream tickets" that have been proposed, with me (as presidential or vice presidential candidate along with some star of the freedom movement, the leader of a group within it, or a familiar figure from an established political party), the whole purpose of this exercise is _independence_. I don't purpose to give that up for any reason, certainly not now, at the very beginning of things. (Weird Al Yankovic's phrase about "I'd rather dive into a swimming pool filled with rusty razor blades" runs through my mind.) And if I were to accept a vice presidential role, I don't see how I could keep any resulting campaign tightly focused on Bill of Rights enforcement, do you?
Some folks working toward my candidacy express a strong desire that I attend Libertarian Party state conventions between now and the national convention. There are many reasons for not committing myself to that. In the first place, I'm not a candidate, I'm just a guy whose friends are trying to persuade him to run. If decide to become a candidate, I will be an independent candidate. As I've said, if the Libertarian Party wishes to _adopt_ my candidacy, how could I be so churlish as to reject them? But whether they do or not, my decision to run will be based on the result of the petition drive, as I've promised.
There's another point to be made here, too. As a person who is not a candidate, just a guy whose friends are trying to persuade him to run, I have a family to feed. Public speaking represents a respectable fraction of my income. Candidates for the LP nomination are expected to arrive on their own nickel, hat humbly in hand, and entertain for free.
Look: this effort isn't about my pretty face (I don't have one). It isn't about my awe-inspiring presence (my wife laughed when she saw that) or my hypnotically persuasive speaking voice (I'll leave that to Pinky and the Brain). It's about _ideas_. Ideas can be conveyed in writing, on the internet, on audio or video cassettes, and I plan to do all of that. I may speak publicly from time to time if I get the right kind of offer, but it's long past time for libertarians to stop focusing on personalites and refocus on _ideas_. They're what once made us admirable and unique. They'll make us admirable and unique again.
This effort will be nothing if not unconventional because, in the first place, the conventional way didn't work, and in the second, because the conventional way turned out so often to be unethical and sleazy.
Without doubt, most of the people working in the LP today are very good people. But when was the last time you heard of a new idea being generated _within_ the party? Once, the LP was not only "the party of principle", it was the party of exciting new ideas. Now, exciting new ideas are a threat, and, just like the Democrats and the Republicans, the LP has become another party of getting votes at the expense of everything it once stood for. My campaign, if and when it happens, will focus on exciting new ideas about the two-century-old Bill of Rights and -- for the first time in the freedom movement -- their _implementation_.
Some folks seem a bit confused about my statement -- my correct identification of objective reality -- that I won't be elected president in 2000. I won't be. Get over it. Nor am I willing to make myself sound like a lunatic by claiming anything to the contrary -- I have to look my little girl in the eye every day, and she's a harsh judge.
I'm here, as I said, to establish once and for all that there's a constituency for the Bill of Rights too large to ignore or abuse. I'm here to tell the Clinton Administration and any administration that follows it that if they declare martial law, suspend elections, or set aside any or all of the Constitution "for the duration" of Y2K or any other emergency, trumped up or not (I've been very worried that that's what they're planning, and this was the only thing I could think of to do about it) that they're going to find themselves on trial as criminals.
Of course I look silly saying that by myself, but with a million voices ...
In the end, although we "lose", we wind up with an international organization of our own, an organization aimed at becoming the LP, the ACLU, and the NRA of the 21st century. It'll be an organization that can go head-to-head, toe-to-toe with the mass media. And as long as I'm here, it'll be an organization that'll never soften the truth for the benefit of all the mythical soccer moms and Mrs. Grundys out there.
About money: just as LP libertarians have paid too much attention over the last couple of decades to getting votes at the expense of the very reasons they sought them in the first place, too much attention has been paid -- often for the ugliest of reasons -- to raising money.
Aside from those associated with the two web pages, we have no expenses at present, and won't for some time. When we have a million signatures, the money will be there, and we'll be prepared to receive and use it. Until then, let's worry about the hard parts that come between.
If folks still want to help financially, please ask them to buy my books.
All this is simply by way of explanation. I don't _ever_ want to discourage anybody from speaking his or her mind to me. I owe much of my current stance in the movement to a young woman who insisted -- no, demanded -- 22 years ago that I go to the Libertarian Party national platform committee with an ethically sound children's rights plank. And the fact that that plank has been pusillanimously erased from the plaform has played a large part in my decision to initiate the present effort.
If you have an idea that's purely operational in character, please contact John Taylor <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> on the "petition side" or Tom Knapp <mailto:email@example.com> on the "draft side". If there's something you always wanted to hear a candidate say, and I can say it in principle -- even though I'm not a candidate, just a guy whose friends are trying to persuade him to run -- please let me know.
My heartfelt, speechless thanks again to those who did the sites and organizing, and those who've offered their support and urged me to run.
The history of the American presidency is a history of weak men making
bad decisions. -- Mirelle Stein
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