Jill Stein: On Debates and "the Politics of Fear"


I may write more about this later, but here's a transcript (based on the C-Span transcript) of my questioning Green Party candidate Jill Stein at a news conference today at the National Press Club that largely addressed climate change and the election. Recommend people see the full video -- there were several interesting exchanges. I tried and failed to get another question in later in the news conference. 

How Presidential "Non-Opinion" Polls Drive Down Third Party Numbers and Facilitate Debate Exclusion

This week, the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced what polls it will utilize in excluding candidates from its debates. 

The CPD says candidates like the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein must get 15 percent in polls conducted by "five national public opinion polling organizations" -- ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times, CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Fox News, and NBC/Wall Street Journal.

Not only -- as several have correctly argued -- is the 15 percent threshold arbitrary and exclusionary, but these polls don't actually ask voter preferences at all. 

They all ask "If the presidential election were being held today for whom would you vote?" or some minor variation of that.

Who you want or prefer and what you would do in the voting booth may be very different things. These "public opinion polls" don't actually measure opinion -- they are a non-opinion polls. They ask a false hypothetical regarding a future action. 

A better public opinion question would be: "Who do you want to be president" or "Who do you prefer to be president?" or "Who is your first choice to be president?" 

By contrast, the question that the CPD relies on from these media organizations -- if held today, who would you vote for -- is a tactical question. As has become increasingly clear, there are many people who would like Gary Johnson or Jill Stein to be president. However, many who fear Trump or Clinton are currently planning on voting for Clinton or Trump. 

Each of the dominant candidates is using fear of the other to prevent public opinion from manifesting itself. 

Our voting system puts voters in a bind, making it difficult for them to vote their true preference. 

But public opinion polling should be a relief from that. Such polling should find out what the public thinks and wants -- especially if the electoral system doesn't allow for those choices. But that's not what's happening. The "tracking" poll question that's being used over and over and obsessed over by all these organizations is actually disguising public opinion. And then the CPD, acting on behalf of the two major parties, is using that to exclude third party candidates from the debates, further marginalizing any public thinking that questions the establishment parties. 

This is more egregious since the CPD has basically asked for the "who do you want/prefer to be president" question to be used. When some suggested alternative criteria for inclusion in presidential debates, like if a majority wanted another candidate to be in the debates, the heads of the CPD rejected the effort. Then-CPD Director and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson said: "The issue is who do you want to be president. It's not who do you want to do a dress rehearsal and see who can be the cutest at the debate." Similarly, Paul Kirk, the then-co-chair of the CPD (now co-chairman emeritus) and former head of the Democratic National Committee, said: "It's a matter of entertainment vs. the serious question of who would you prefer to be president of the United States."

Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedian

In remarks from the Democratic National Convention stage applauded by big media, Sarah Silverman lauded the Democratic Party primary process as "exemplary".

I guess that's why she's a comedian.

Perhaps she doesn't know who Debbie Wasserman Schultz is. Perhaps she doesn't know that Schultz just resigned as head of the Democratic National Committee after the release by WikiLeaks of DNC internal emails showing evidence of them conspiring against Sanders. Of course, Schultz was then immediately named "honorary chair" of the Clinton own campaign. Schultz as "honorary" anything -- now that's funny. 

Mike Pence: The Leading Member of the "Israel, What Nuclear Weapons?" Flat Earth Society

Last night, Pence addressed the Republican Convention: "And if the world knows nothing else, it will know this: America stands with Israel." 

I've heard him say that before. 

Being a journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area, I try to ask tough questions of political figures when I can. Perhaps my favorite question is some variation of "do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons?" I've asked this of many political figures and virtually none have given me a straightforward response.

But the most surreal -- almost comical -- response came from Donald Trump's VP pic, Mike Pence, in 2011. At the time, he was a congressman and vice-chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia:

Could the Republican Party Use its "Crack up" to its Benefit, Different Parts Controlling Different Branches of Gov?

Some Republicans are trying to do "Dump Trump" at convention. I suspect that what they are doing is trying to distance themselves from him so that they can keep House and Senate if he goes down. And they might be wanting to tell the "Tea Party" types a big "I told you so," so they can retake full control of party after the election. 

But, my channeling Theodore J. Lowi (who wrote The End of the Republican Era about the breakup of the Republican coalition) leads me to wonder: They might be experimenting with the notion of having different parts of the GOP in charge of Executive and Congress as a way of keeping the different elements of the party together. That is, resolving their factions by having each in charge of different part of government. It might fail, it might work, especially because of the hatred toward Hillary Clinton. 

Garrison Keillor's Prophecy and Apostasy

On what was billed as his last show, Garrison Keillor, host of "A Prairie Home Companion" got a call from President Barack Obama and they traded extensive compliments, with Keillor telling Obama he was "the coolest president." 

Keillor's signing off on July 4 weekend was likely calculated to accentuate his presumed ties to all things Americana, but for me it actually highlighted his hypocrisies and contradictions. 

For one, my favorite story of his was set on the Fourth. I'd long thought that any reasonable person who hears that story would concur it was his greatest. Unfortunately when I asked him about it last year, Keillor himself clearly wouldn't fit into that category. 

To #PPLSummit friends: VotePact -- Toward defeating Trump and Clinton

Dear friends, 

I'm sorry I couldn't make the #PPLSummit. I've been swamped dealing with backlash against Muslims after the horrific Orlando shooting. This week began with Trump brazenly blaming Muslims for not fingering terrorists (and Clinton doing so subtly), a story line based largely on questionable anonymous sources around the shooter's widow. That story line seems to have slowed, largely to information I've been able to get out the last 72 hours

But I'm writing to you because I want you to know about a path toward defeating Clinton and Trump while you're at the Summit: VotePact.org. There's a way out of fear, out of silence in not knowing what to do when faced with the "choice" of Clinton or Trump. If you can't vote for either fine, vote for who you most really want, but you'll want to share this with comrades who are trapped and torn. 

If you're trapped, there's a way out. It requires work, but it's a real path: Sanders supporters and other progressives can reach out to conscientious conservatives they know -- friends, relatives, neighbors, debating partners, etc. -- and both vote for the independent candidates of their choice. That way they don't change the balance of between Clinton and Trump, but both individuals -- who have to trust each other -- get to overcome their fear and get a greater measure of political freedom. 

You become free of the prospect of voting for Clinton's and all her wars and Wall Street ties and your "votebuddy" is free of voting for Trump's misogyny and bigotry. 

It's about really breaking down barriers, reaching out and instilling fear into Trump and Clinton instead of each of them using fear people have to keep them trapped in that "choice".

There are lots of benefits to this, some outlined in my latest piece from earlier this month, below. 

Happy to hear back from people on this, please feel free to share this email and idea with others at conference. 

all my best, 
Sam Husseini

PS: And here's my latest piece on VotePact: #BernieAndBoom