L. Neil Smith's
Number 261, February 29, 2004

Leaping Lizards!

TLE Interviews Aaron Russo — Part Two
by L. Neil Smith
Transcribed by Rylla Smith

Exclusive to TLE

I recently interviewed celebrated movie maker — and candidate for the Libertarian Party's 2004 Presidntial nomination — Aaron Russo by telephone, only to discover that my elderly cassette tape recorder had problems. This is the second part of that interview, and I reiterate that words and phrases in brackets represent my best guess, and any inaccuracies as a result are my fault and mine alone.

TLE: Now let me ask you a question that's somewhat controversial even in Libertarian circles. You and I agree that the USA Patriot Act is unConstituional and that the Constitution is the highest law of the land. So that makes the Patriot Act unlawful. Would you regard the people that forced it through Congress as criminals and treat them accordingly?

RUSSO: I would certainly call them treasonous, but I think that most of our government is treasonous today. I think we have a Constitution — which they seem to know, too — and whenever they [run afoul] of their oath of office, they become treasonous. So then you ask, "What's an appropriate punishment for that?". I haven't thought about it, and I can't give you a glib answer.

TLE: Okay, that's fine. "I don't know" is one of the most legitimate answers in the world.

RUSSO: Yeah, I don't really know what's proper...

TLE: I've suggested reopening Alcatraz.

RUSSO: (Laughs) The thing is that what's happened to America is such a steady erosion of our rights that a lot of the people now in office either don't understand that they're committing treason or maybe they just assume that the next step is a good thing. They don't know what's going on.

I think a lot of Congressmen don't even understand what the Constitution is, or what it represents. You know, I don't know if we're doing this to ourselves completely intentionally, or through stupidity.

TLE: Well, we know they didn't read the Patriot Act.

RUSSO: That's right. And they didn't read GATT either. It's twenty-two thousand pages long! I remember seeing the President, with Bob Dole saying that he has a copy of GATT for anybody to read. I mean, it weighs eight hundred and sixty-five pounds! (Laughs) Six men couldn't lift the thing. And he says he has it for anybody to read.

You know, they don't read a lot of stuff. The whole thing is just running on its own energy, its own momentum now. It's not about principles, or protecting the freedom of the individual. It's about [feeding] the government — it's got a life of its own, and that's got to stop.

TLE: You and I have both had occasion to envision ourselves as the Chief Executive. I was once considered a candidate for the Liberarian Party nomination. I also wrote a book, Hope, with Aaron Zelman, about the first Libertarian President, who sort of accidentally gets elected.

Realistically, a Libertarian candidate for President doesn't expect to get elected. If he does, he needs some serious couch time. So, with that being the premise, what do you hope to accomplish with your campaign?

RUSSO: I want to create an awareness in America of what's happening in this country, and I want to make the debates. And if I get to the debates, anything can possibly happen. Who knows what can happen. The economy [is never predictable], who knows what it's going to do. Who knows what's going to happen, I have no idea what's going to happen.

I do know this — America has to go for it. I have a certain high profile that I bring to this work. I can get a lot of press. If I'm the Libertarian nominee, between that, being the nominee, and my background, well, the synergy works — I mean, one and one makes three — and I can wake people up to what's happening. If I get to the debates, and the economy and other things don't go so well, then after the debates... well, I can't see that far down the line.

Look: if you try to do anything, you have different plateaus you have to reach along the way. The plateau that I want to reach right now is getting the nomination of the party, and then getting into the debates.

TLE: Now, in a narrower sense, I noticed on your website that you have a real enthusiastic interest in changing the political attitude we've come to expect from Hollywood. How is that progressing or what do you plan to do?

RUSSO: Well, it's not progressing anywhere, yet! (Laughs) I've only been seeking the party nomination for a few weeks. I'v started doing real well in the polls pretty quickly — sixty percent, can you belive that? — and I think a lot of people like what I'm saying and recognize what I can bring to the party. But I'm not yet trying to turn Hollywood around. I do think that if Howard Dean doesn't get the Democratic nomination, that'll be a big help to the campaign.

TLE: How's that?

RUSSO: Well, because — although I don't think it's true — he's considered in sum circles to be a Libertarian candidate. With John Kerry or whoever getting the nomination instead of Dean, I think a lot of those people that are supporting Dean will come to me.

TLE: Kerry is one of the people who "destroyed the village in order to save it" back in Vietnam.


TLE: Let me ask you another question that relates to Hollywood. Some people who probably share your views — who have views that are not approved by the Hollywood majority have been made to suffer for it. I'm thinking specifically of John Milius —

RUSSO: Right.

TLE: — who made a famous anti-communist movie and made numerous pro-gun movies and has found getting work very hard since then. Do you expect that this campaign of yours is going to affect your career?

RUSSO: I don't even think about that. I don't bother thinking about that. I follow my conscience — I don't think about the consequences it may bring, I can't predict what's going to come from it. If there are consequences, it's not important to me. What's important to me is the damage happening to my counrty.

TLE: In the same connection, are we going to see some more Aaron Russo movies in the future?

RUSSO: Probably. You know, if I'm not busy being President. (Laughs) What I'd like to do is get several projects going at once and let other people do the producing.

TLE: So you'd sort of be a "super-producer".

RUSSO: Yeah, an overseer. I think we could get a real movement going that way.

TLE: I can imagine there are a lot of people in Hollywood who share your views but are afraid to express them.

RUSSO: I don't know, I don't know. It's very possible.

TLE: Well, I think that just about does it.

RUSSO: Okay.

TLE: I want to thank you very much, Aaron. This has been an enjoyable experience for me. You seem to be very refreshingly straightforward.

RUSSO: Thank you, Neil, I appreciate that.

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

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