Candidate Spices Up Elections

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The hoopla and pageantry of this month's major national conventions may have been fun to watch, but it masked the pervasive feeling that the Democratic and Republican parties lack the conflict and drama that once sparked public obsession with politics.

Just a few weeks earlier, however, a minor party made up for that lack of drama with all the staples of good old-fashioned politics - screaming delegates, late-night meetings, mutiny, and in the end, a fight for millions of dollars that only the courts can resolve. In the middle of it all, a Berkeley resident closely affiliated with the university clings to his dreams of the vice presidency.

You may not have heard of him -yet - but Nat Goldhaber is in fact running for vice president -yes, of the United States. A UC Berkeley alumnus, Goldhaber has a house in the Berkeley Hills and serves on the executive board of the College of Letters and Science. He has headed the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and developed Local Area Networks, making his money in classic Silicon Valley style by creating products and selling them to larger companies such as Sun Microsystems.

In his free time, he is the running mate of John Hagelin, a Harvard-educated nuclear physicist in the midst of his third bid for the presidency.

But controversy has enveloped Goldhaber's Reform Party. At this summer's party convention, Hagelin and Goldhaber supporters walked out of the convention hall in protest of another potential nominee, Pat Buchanan. Now both Hagelin and Buchanan herald themselves as the party's true nominees - a dispute that may take months to resolve.

"Buchanan is a piece of work," Goldhaber says by cellular phone from Lake Tahoe. "His tactics are reminiscent of the National Socialist Party. He thought he could take it over with brute force. He sent his goons in to intimidate the state organizations and created an alternative party, then declared it was the Reform Party. Man, it felt like the '60s."

What is left, then, are two rather large-scale campaigns. Each waves the banner of the Reform Party, founded by Ross Perot. As both parties make their way across the country on the campaign trail, officials in every state choose which one will carry the Reform Party title by pulling one name, at random, out of a hat.

Goldhaber's ticket also represents the Natural Law Party, whose platform includes an appeal for holistic medicine and meditation. His Reform Party platform, he says, is based on several fundamental tenets such as campaign finance reform.

"The principal platform is that the country has been deprived of a government that is able to make sensible, logical actions to overcome longstanding problems because they are so indebted to their special interest groups," he says.

His ties to UC Berkeley become clear when he speaks of the party's educational goals.

"I have always believed that there is such spectacular intellectual capital within the university environment that it's possible to use them for profit making," he says. "Let's turn ideas into companies. One of the really fascinating issues is the power of American higher education to draw the finest minds from around the world."

He also calls for a foreign policy approach that emphasizes non-intervention.

"People around the world never hate us because we hold democracy and freedom high - they hate us because we're interfering in their internal affairs," he says. "We have to be very, very careful in how we deploy our might and how we foster the notions of freedom in the other nations."

Despite the rocky road that may very well lie ahead of Goldhaber, he is upbeat about his chances. When asked if he would enjoy debating other candidates, including U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Dick Cheney - the two major parties' vice presidential nominees, he relishes the thought and says he would be "honored and pleased."

The chances of such a debate occurring, however, are slim. New rules ban all candidates from debate unless they garner at least 15 percent of the public vote in reputable opinion polls - a daunting task for most minor parties.

"Fifteen is a carefully calculated percentage which makes it impossible," he says. "It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a preposterous demand and the third parties don't have an opportunity to share their ideas with the people. In countries around the world where we demand fair elections, we demand that third parties be heard in the debate - we are preposterously hypocritical."


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