Four presidential candidates running in third parties and excluded from the major Republican-Democratic debates gathered in Chicago Tuesday night to partake in a debate of their own, discussing issues foreign and domestic.
The candidates included Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein, Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode, and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson. The debate was moderated by former CNN host Larry King and hosted by the nonpartisan Free and Equal Elections Foundation.
Much of the debate centered on the unfair advantages and control provided to the two major parties over the election cycle. In opening statements following a question about ballot access, Justice Party’s Mr. Anderson ridiculed President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in the last debate bragging about who would spend more on the military.
Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson followed up by claiming that whether Obama or Romney wins, the result will be the same. “We will still be heading towards a police state,” we will still engage in “military interventionism,” which has “created enemies that otherwise would not exist.”
Johnson went on to harshly condemn the drone war, saying it doesn’t just take out militants, but “takes out a lot of innocent civilians.” He added that “we should end the [Afghanistan] war tomorrow,” that we should “repeal the PATRIOT ACT,” and that he never would have signed the NDAA, which allows for Americans “to be arrested and detained without charge or trial.” All four candidates went on to condemn the NDAA.
The second question asked about foreign policy. Gary Johnson said defense is a fundamental power of government, but that it should be defense, “not offense.” He proposed imposing a 43 percent reduction in military spending, that we need to “get out of these countries, stop the interventions, and stop the drone strikes,” and end foreign aid, which serves primarily to “prop up foreign dictators.”
Johnson also warned about “unintended consequences” of US foreign policy, criticizing current US efforts to aid the rebels in Syria, which he described as “jihadists,” before asking, “did we not learn anything from Afghanistan?” referring to US aid to the mujahideen in the 80s against the Soviets.
Finally, Johnson noted that the largest demonstrations in support of the United States following the 9/11 attacks occurred in Iran, and now some people in the US are advocating an unprovoked war on Iran for a nuclear weapons program it doesn’t have. He warned the US could end up killing those very same people that stood in solidarity with Americans following 9/11, and that this kind of war would generate “100 million new enemies.”
Green Party nominee Jill Stein similarly denounced a foreign policy “based on militarism,” saying it is “making us less secure.” She said we should move to cut the defense budget, “bring our troops home, and put an end to drones.” She said as president she would gather the international community to establish an international law “to permanently ban the use of drones as a method of war” and as a tool “to spy on Americans.”
Stein also condemned drones for the “blowback” they cause, pointing out that the US has often “bombed weddings and funerals.” She concluded by saying the US should have a foreign policy based on “international law and human rights.”
Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party said that although he supports “a strong defense,” he would cut defense spending and “save us billions of dollars.” Unlike the other candidates, he did not condemn specific elements of US foreign policy, but insisted that American needs to “retrench,” and condemned a policy of “policing the world.”
Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson referenced President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell speech in which he warned about the military industrial complex, and condemned “massive federal spending on wasteful project” in the defense sector.
Anderson said there should be “no wars of aggression,” and slammed the Iraq war as “an illegal war” based on the Nuremberg principles laid down after WWII and based on Constitutional requirements for Congress to declare war in order for the president to commit the US to hostilities.
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