Last night I watched the Larry King-moderated debate between four third-party candidates in Chicago. Present for the debate were:
Gary Johnson – Libertarian Party
Jill Stein – Green Party
Virgil Goode – Constitution Party
Rocky Anderson – Justice Party
The debate started with hostility from all four candidates which was directed at the Commission on Presidential Debates for excluding them from the Obama/Romney debates and at Obama and Romney and their respective political parties. Johnson said the only voices being heard were “Tweedledee and Tweedledum” (Obama and Romney).
Stein related that she and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, had attempted to gain entry to the debate at Hofstra University but were arrested and handcuffed to a chair for eight hours.
All four candidates voiced their disdain for the current political system, specifically mentioning PACs and Super PACs, saying they should be eliminated. Johnson said candidates should be required to dress in “Nascar-like outfits” complete with patches representing their corporate sponsors to whom they owe political favors.
Jill Stein came across as the kookiest candidate. Yes, kookiest. She railed against Wall Street, complained about corporate wealth and reminded me of some of the Occupy wackos and some of their diatribes. She called for a “new green deal” that would create 25 million jobs, putting a halt to climate change (Green Party candidate, big shock), making wars for oil obsolete, bailing out students and providing higher education for free.
Stein advocated legalizing marijuana, a substance she incredibly claimed was dangerous only because it’s illegal. Legalizing it would eliminate the health problems associated with marijuana, she claimed. She said on day one of her presidency she would instruct the DEA to use science to determine what substances would be scheduled. And hemp would also be made legal since, like marijuana, it has no bad effects.
Stein’s foreign policy would consist of stopping all wars, cutting the military budget, bringing all the troops home and stopping the use of drones. Drones seemed to be a hot issue for her. She claimed that drones drop bombs on wedding and funerals and that she would lead an international convention to ban the use of drones. She said her foreign policy would be based on international law and human rights, not on a war for oil.
Stein also advocated for making higher education free. She said it’s an outrage that money is spent bailing out Wall Street instead of students.
Gary Johnson also voiced disdain for the use of drones and said their use should be stopped because they “take out” innocent civilians. He claimed with Obama and Romney we will have a police state.
Johnson ran through a list of positions on various subjects – Don’t bomb Iran. End the war in Afghanistan and bring the troops home tomorrow. Marriage equality for homosexuals, which he said was on par with the civil rights of the 1960s. End the drug war and legalize marijuana. Repeal the Patriot Act. Eliminate income tax and corporate tax. Abolish the IRS and create a federal consumption tax.
Johnson claimed that 90% of the problem with marijuana was prohibition related, not use related. He said Colorado has a legalization measure on their ballot and that Coloradans have a chance to “change marijuana policy worldwide.” He said marijuana use issues belong with the family and not in the criminal justice system.
On military spending, Johnson made sure that no one in the military would vote for him by saying that he would cut the defense budget by 43%. He also said that Al Qaeda was wiped out after we were in Afghanistan for six months (someone forgot to tell Chris Stevens) and that it’s time to get out. He continually said we should not bomb Iran.
Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party said he wants public financing of campaigns and free access to public airwaves. He claimed the government has been sold out to Wall Street fat cats who are buying elections and making out like bandits. He said Bush and Obama have shredded the Constitution and the “imperial presidency” has been expanded.
I am pretty sure he made the claim that the Pentagon has warned that climate change is a greater national security threat than terrorism and that we need environmental justice. My notes on that comment are slightly illegible and I haven’t been able to verify that statement with a transcript. If anyone reading this post has a link to one, please post in a reply, thanks.
Anderson said the war on drugs is insane and that marijuana and all drugs should be legalized. He wants to treat drugs as a health and education issue and not a criminal justice issue. He also said as president he would issue a pardon to everyone in prison for drug offenses.
Anderson said that every vote to build the F-22 Raptor was treason against our country. Defense money should be spent on education and jobs and combating climate change. He said if you haven’t been attacked then attacking a country like Iraq is illegal and should be prosecuted.
Like Stein, Anderson said that higher education should be free. Interestingly, neither said where the money would come from to pay for it all. He also said if given the opportunity to pass a Constitutional amendment he would pass an equal rights amendment for sexual orientation.
Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party had an accent that made him the most interesting debater. He called for a “green card moratorium” until unemployment is below 5%. He advocated cutting federal spending on the war on drugs, saying it was a state issue but that he is against legalization.
On military spending Goode said he supports a strong defense, but that to balance the budget, defense cuts would have to be made. He said we need to “retrench” rather than try to be the policeman of the world.
Goode was against more Pell grants or more federally subsidized student loans, saying we can’t afford them.
The most interesting part of the debate came at the end. I was under the impression this debate was organized to give third-party candidates a chance to put forth their views after being excluded from the Obama/Romney debates. All four candidates voiced extreme displeasure with the exclusion and the organizer of the debate, Christina Tobin of the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, spoke of the need to give a voice to third-party candidates.
However, at the end of the debate it was announced that there would be another debate on October 30 and that viewers of the first debate could go online to vote on which two of the four candidates should be included. What happened to inclusion for all candidates? After railing about third-party candidates being left out, they’re leaving some out of the next debate? That’s just bizarre.
It was an interesting ninety minutes and instructive to hear the views of these candidates. That said, I would not support their inclusion in debates with the Republican or Democratic candidates. They have zero chance of being elected and I don’t believe time should be spent listening to them advocate for things like legalizing marijuana or doing insane things like slashing the defense budget by 43%.
And if you favor including these fringe candidates in debates, then you must also favor including the Peace and Freedom Party candidate, Roseanne Barr. You read that right – Roseanne Barr. Shockingly, she was excluded from this ‘inclusive’ third-party debate. But I’m sure she and her running mate, Cindy Sheehan, will get plenty of votes in California anyway.
Perhaps these candidates have been smoking too much of the marijuana that three of them want to legalize. Until they come back to reality and stop advocating either crazy or impossible ideas, they will always be the fringe candidates who will be excluded. An overwhelming majority of Americans aren’t interested in their ludicrous agendas and just don’t want to waste their time listening to them.