Lyndon LaRouche: A maverick with a mission

CNN/January 27, 2004
By Patrick Jackson

Eight-time presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche Jr. is not the favorite son of the Democratic Party. His views and a past felony conviction make him an unwelcome contender.

A self-styled maverick, LaRouche, 81, is revered by many of his followers as a visionary - and reviled by many of his critics as a dangerous demagogue and conspiracy theorist.

At various times, LaRouche has claimed Queen Elizabeth II was involved in an international drug conspiracy, and that former Vice President Walter Mondale was a Soviet agent. In his current writings, he refers to Vice President Dick Cheney, who he claims played a central role in persuading Congress to authorize going to war in Iraq, as "Beastman."

But LaRouche has raised enough money to qualify for federal matching funds and appears on the Democratic presidential primary ballots in 19 states, including Delaware.

Almamie Owens of New Castle has seen LaRouche speak three times and came away so impressed she is serving as his Delaware contact person.

"He's a very impressive person," she said. "He was talking about doing some good things."

But if party leaders have their say, he won't be talking about those things at the party convention in Boston - even if he gathers the necessary 15 percent of the votes to secure delegates in Delaware or elsewhere. LaRouche has attained 15 percent in some primaries, but rarely.

In 2000, the party refused to recognize his delegates to the national convention in Los Angeles, saying he could not qualify to be the nominee because he was not a registered Democrat. He sued in federal court, but lost. Party leaders promise a similar stance this year.

LaRouche can't register to vote where he lives in rural Virginia. Felony convictions in the 1980s on mail fraud charges - for which he was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison - make him ineligible to vote.

"He is able to qualify to get on the ballot in some states," said Tony Welch, the Democratic National Committee's press secretary. "We don't think he'll get the 15 percent needed to qualify for awarding a delegate."

LaRouche said he would renew his challenge to have his day at the convention should he qualify for delegates. He said he sees himself as the only candidate capable of defeating President Bush.

"If Democrats go along with the Republicans and allow us to lose, it will create divisions in the party it will take years to overcome," LaRouche said.

LaRouche said he thinks the nation and world are on the brink of the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression. To head off the crisis, he wants the United States to lead an effort to restructure the international monetary system. He would have the world's major economic powers agree to set international exchange rates similar to those he said helped shape the recovery after World War II.

"This is the most important issue of our times," he said. "It can only be resolved by national governments coming to an agreement."

LaRouche said he also thinks Democrats need to emulate Franklin Roosevelt in domestic policies that helped farms and the nation's industrial base. He contends the national economy must become manufacturing-based, rather than the consumer-based system he sees now. He does not provide specifics.

"We can't do everything that Franklin Roosevelt did, but we need to recapture the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt," he said. "We need to reach out to what he called 'the forgotten man.'"

To broaden access to health care, LaRouche advocates expansion of the Hill-Burton Act, which requires hospitals and other health-care facilities that receive federal building or modernization aid to provide free or low-cost health care for low-income people.

LaRouche said the United States needs to pull out of Iraq, and he devotes even more energy to a critique of the build-up to the war.

He said the government needs to investigate what led to the war, particularly the role of Cheney. In his publications, LaRouche has claimed Cheney played a role in doctoring intelligence reports that led Congress to support Bush's request for the authority to use all means, including military force, to oust Saddam Hussein.

He also supports the ouster of Attorney General John Ashcroft and repeal of the Patriot Act, which gives investigators greater surveillance powers, among other things.

LaRouche began his quest for the presidency in 1976, when he ran on the U.S. Labor Party.

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