Profile: John Hagelin

John Hagelin, nuclear physicist and would-be president, looks to science and sees solutions to the nation’s troubles.

Harness the laws of nature, he says, and the needs of every American can be met.

Not exactly typical fare for a presidential candidate, even one running in the sometimes bizarre Reform Party.

“I’m just talking about what I think is key — I’m bringing a profound new basis for government decision-making,” Hagelin said in an interview.

He’s already run for president twice, in 1992 and 1996, under the Natural Law Party. This time around he’s found a new band of supporters — Reform Party members looking to stop Pat Buchanan from the nomination.

With party founder Ross Perot on the sidelines this year, Hagelin is the only other candidate for the Reform Party nomination, which brings with it $12.5 million in federal money.

Still, Hagelin argues that his Reform Party supporters are attracted to his ideas, as well.

“I began as the anti-Buchanan candidate … six or eight months ago,” he said. “What we have here now is very much a pro-Hagelin Reform Party.”

Unusual Biography

Hagelin, 46, earned his master’s degree and doctorate from Harvard. Divorced with no children, he lives in Fairfield, Iowa, drawing a salary as platform chairman of the Natural Law Party, which grew out of the teachings of Transcendental Meditation leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

His biography describes him as the man who developed “the world’s most successful Grand Unified Field Theory, which unites the various fundamental forces — the electromagnetic, nuclear, and radioactive forces — into a single, universal ‘superforce’ governing all forms and phenomena in the universe.”

And he preaches a unique approach to the world’s ills.

He promotes preventive health care and the tapping of the body’s natural healing mechanisms. He advocates sustainable, organic agriculture methods and curriculum changes he says would boost student performance. He has long been associated with a belief in the power of meditation.

His biography boasts that he has led “a scientific investigation into the foundations of human consciousness” and notes that he teaches at the Maharishi University of Management.

“I will talk to you for hours about transcendental meditation and its effects on things like heart disease,” he said. “But rather than single out any single issues and present a lopsided view of my campaign, I’d rather focus on the principles that inform all of these decisions.”

‘Thirst for an Alternative’

The soft-spoken candidate dismisses questions about where he stands in the political spectrum, or how he compares to Democratic candidate Al Gore or Republican nominee George W. Bush.

“I transcend that one dim view of politics by seeking foundational solutions that benefit both conservatives and liberals,” he said.

“There’s a thirst, an unprecedented thirst for an alternative to George W. and Al Gore, and we are poised to capitalize on that,” he said.

He favors abortion rights. He says the government should plug existing loopholes in gun control laws, and he favors child safety locks.

He proposes a flat tax that would exempt families earning less than $34,000 a year, and favors campaign-finance law changes that would outlaw unlimited donations to parties.

Although he is an expert in nuclear science, he opposes nuclear power because of its waste disposal problems, favoring development of wind power.