Tavis Smiley: Good evening from Los Angeles. I’m Tavis Smiley.
Tonight, part two of our presidential forum featuring the third-party candidates, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. With just a week to go before election day, two voices, two choices, you might still be unfamiliar with, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, coming up in just a moment.
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Tavis: I am pleased tonight to welcome the Green Party’s candidate for president, Dr. Jill Stein, and the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president, former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson, back to this program.
Tonight is the second of our three-part conversation. Part three will be available for viewing exclusively online on our PBS website starting at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time immediately following the West Coast airing of this broadcast.
For now, let’s get the conversation started. We will focus on foreign policy. Both candidates once again have agreed to limit their responses to 90 seconds. The first question is for both of you, for you first, Governor Johnson. Are Julian Assange and Edward Snowden heroes or enemies of the state?
Gary Johnson: Based on what I know about Edward Snowden and based on what I know is that the information that he made available, which he made available to major news outlets for them to release because he was afraid that, if he did that, he might put people in harm’s way or that people would get hurt as a result of that.
To my knowledge, no one has been hurt and, based on that, I would pardon Edward Snowden. I would like to turn the satellites away from the United States. There is a process in this country, due process, someone suspected of terrorism, go to a judge, get a warrant.
But in my opinion, when the NSA through the FISA court says we want to tap into 110 million Verizon users, that is not the country that we live in. WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, to my knowledge, what he is doing is releasing information, period. That’s what he is doing.
I do put Edward Snowden in the hero category. Assange, I think, has been very value-added in revealing information that we all had conjecture over, Hillary Clinton as an example, saying one thing to Wall Street, saying another thing to Main Street.
Tavis: Dr. Stein, same question for you.
Jill Stein: In my view, they are both heroes because they both revealed acts being taken by our government in violation of our constitutional rights, the spying, the mass surveillance and, in the case of Julian Assange, the war crimes that were being committed in our name.
And I think it has been invaluable to the American people to be informed about what actually has been going on in violation of our rights and violation of due process.
And in the case of Edward Snowden, corrective action, at least the beginnings of corrective action, have been taken at the Congressional level. We would be completely uninformed right now of the massive violation of our right to privacy. So I think they both deserve their freedom. They both deserve pardons and they both deserve a hero’s welcome.
Tavis: Governor Johnson, again, this question for you. You support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, better known as TPP, yet you said you find it imperfect. In what ways, how would you change it?
Johnson: Well, I think nothing is perfect, but if there is a takeaway that I’ve had serving as governor of New Mexico for two terms, the takeaway is to try and sign on to anything that makes things better. Are things perfect? No.
Oftentimes and in that context, I may have vetoed more legislation than the other 49 governors in the country combined, but based on my assessment–and by the way, I’m not doing this blindly. I have economics advisors. Jeff Miron is my economics advisor, the staff at Chapman University, the faculty at Chapman University.
The overwhelming consensus is that TPP is positive that it would result in more U.S. jobs, that it would eliminate many of the tariffs that exist right now. Is anything perfect? No, but does this advance free trade? It does, and bottom line, free trade, more U.S. jobs, not less U.S. jobs.
Crony capitalism. When government picks winners and losers, this advances the government making less of these–in other words, this gets government out of the equation. This advances genuine free trade, free trade the opposite of crony capitalism.
Tavis: Dr. Stein, you have said the TPP fundamentally attacks American democracy and sovereignty–your words. Which existing trade deal do you support, if any?
Stein: So there are bilateral trade agreements that the U.S. has, for example, with most countries that are a part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There are trade deals within Latin America that are based on promoting fair trade, that are based on promoting a more just and fair economy.
There are different models of trade deals. You know, I think with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it’s clear what we’re getting. This is NAFTA on steroids. This is not a good thing.
This is a very bad thing that sent at least a million jobs overseas, that closed about 60,000 factories, that depressed our wages and, perhaps most disturbing of all is this system of investor state dispute resolution that creates a court that’s not even a part of our own domestic courts.
These are judges appointed by the World Bank that conduct their own tribunals, that enable corporations to overrule our democratically established laws and regulations that protect our health, our jobs, our environment, even protecting our banking system from financial corruption, a healthcare system in which we can have bulk negotiations with pharmaceutical companies. All of that goes out the window with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s very important that we stop it.
Tavis: This question goes to you first, Dr. Stein. You both oppose the drone wars and you both oppose boots on the ground to fight ISIS in Syria and in Iraq. How do you propose then that we deal with ISIS or ISIL, if you prefer?
Stein: Great. So it’s really important to look at the track record here. Because the track record of more violence, of bombing, of sending in troops, have been a disaster. Every one of these interventions starting with Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya has been an utter disaster.
Each terrorist group that we have tried to contain in this way is stronger today, has more territory. And with each turn of the cycle of violence, we have a more ferocious and vicious form of terrorism to deal with. Witness ISIS which grew out of the chaos of Iraq and Libya.
So I’m calling for a new kind of offensive in the Middle East, a peace offensive which begins with a weapons embargo because currently we are providing the majority of weapons, weapons that get into the hands of all parties to the conflict.
We’re calling for a weapons embargo and a freeze on the bank accounts of those countries, in particular, our allies who are continuing to fund terrorist enterprises around the world.
Hillary Clinton herself identified the Saudis as still, long after 9/11, still the major funder of terrorist extremism around the world. So we can take a stand in the right direction. Use our moral authority for an intervention that will actually work instead of more of these catastrophes that are bankrupting us, taking more than half of our discretionary budget.
Tavis: Governor Johnson, how do you fight ISIL?
Johnson: Well, first of all, we should stop with supporting regime change. If we are attacked, we should attack back. We should have an invincible national defense, but I stress the word defense. And in my lifetime, I can’t think of one single example where we have gone in to support regime change where it has turned out positive.
We created a vacuum in Iraq when we invaded. We took out Saddam Hussein. We created a vacuum when we went in to support the oust of Assad in Syria.
And if you take Aleppo as an example, you’ve got Assad on the west side of Aleppo. On the east side of Aleppo, you’ve got the Free Syrian Army which we supported. And when we supported them, there was all this conjecture that the arms that we gave them would end up in the hands of the Islamists. They were fighting hand in hand with the Islamists to fight Assad.
Well, that happened, and also those arms ended up in the hands of ISIS, Raqqa, which arguably was created because of the vacuum because of our invasion of Iraq, and that Saddam’s henchmen fled to Raqqa.
We’re supporting the Kurds against ISIS. The Kurds are sideways with our Turkish ally that aren’t such a good ally anymore because of our invasion of Iraq. And before any of this started, we gave resources to Assad to fight the Islamists before any of this started.
Tavis: I hear you, and thank you for that response. Dr. Stein, just trying to watch our time here. On to you now. What would a CIA look like under a Jill Stein administration?
Stein: It would be a professional organization which advises the president on what the realities are of the threats to the United States. And the CIA has had integrity in the past and I think it could going forward. But we need to ensure that it is not enveloped by a military industrial complex that is ruling the day and that is looking to beat the war drums. You know, it should be neutral.
It was certainly politicized under Dick Cheney who was generating intelligence that was extremely flawed, that helped drive us into the war in Iraq. We need intelligence that is reliable, that is not politicized, and that’s going to a White House which has an even hand and which is not funded by the war profiteers which are pouring money into both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
It also needs to be free of this revolving door in broader government where people are moving from the defense industries and the defense contractors into the Department of Defense.
Tavis: In 15 seconds, do you trust the intel that’s coming out of CIA these days?
Stein: Not entirely.
Tavis: All right.
Stein: So, for example, the intel which is–I’m not sure if it’s coming–I don’t know who it’s coming from actually. It seems to be Homeland Security and the NSA, which is talking about the Russians being the source of the hacking, for which…
Tavis: And you don’t buy that.
Stein: I don’t buy it. I mean, where’s the evidence? Why don’t they show it to us? They’re talking about motives and methods, that’s all. That’s not evidence, and that’s very dangerous.
Tavis: Governor Johnson, this question is for you. You oppose torture. You’re clearly on the record about that. You oppose torture, yet you support Guantanamo. How do you square the two? How do you reconcile the two?
Johnson: Well, by support Guantanamo, I am absolutely opposed to Guantanamo for all the reasons that we should be, and that would be torture and detention without being charged. But there does need to be a facility to house those prisoners that have no home.
And by have no home, clearly they’re guilty and, by the way, this could all be done via military tribunal when it comes to due process, something that is not currently taking place. But if we were to send many of these detainees at Guantanamo back to their home countries, they would end up getting killed if we did that. So a facility like this needs to exist.
When Obama said, hey, I’m going to close Guantanamo, well, what he should have said was–which he did. He closed Guantanamo to torture and to detainment. The detainment without being charged still exists, but if we close Guantanamo, we’re going to have to open up a similar facility somewhere else.
So one of my problems with Obama is transparency. Just tell us why you didn’t close Guantanamo, given the fact that you said you were. And the reason that he’s not closing Guantanamo are those things that I’m raising right now, those same reasons.
Tavis: While you’re reconciling, let me ask you another question about how you reconcile something else. You oppose financial aid to Israel as you do to all countries, in fairness to you, although you favor the continuation of what you call strategic aid to Israel. Is that splitting hairs? How do you reconcile those two statements?
Johnson: Well, strategic aid, they are an ally and having been to Israel, having visited with Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, the big takeaway that I had having visited Israel is that they really don’t need our assistance at all.
They are best able to determine their own outcomes and it’s really a fallacy or it’s wrong on behalf of the United States to think that we can presume how to answer or to solve the problems that they do have.
Tavis: Dr. Stein, you propose that the U.S. stop arming–using your words here–stop arming and funding governments committing war crimes, among them, Israel. Do you believe then that the U.S. support if Israel makes us complicit in the war crimes that are being committed?
Stein: Yes, and that applies to Israel. That also applies to Saudi Arabia. And I call for an evenhanded foreign policy across the board where we are very clear and, with all due humility, because we ourselves have been leading the charge in war crimes and in human rights abuses.
But that as part of turning over a new leaf in our administration, we would inform, respectfully, our allies that we no longer intend to fund, in the case of Israel, $8 million a day for the Israeli Army which is committing flagrant human rights abuses, war crimes, occupation, home demolitions, assassinations, collective punishment, you name it, just human rights violations across the board.
We cannot continue to sanction that, not in the case of Israel, nor in the case of Saudi Arabia, and we need to put our weight firmly on the side of a process that brings together the grassroots groups who are actually making progress themselves between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
They have human rights groups themselves that are beginning in a very effective way to establish trust, to build confidence, to build a sense of community. That’s what we need to be supporting. So it’s not us imposing our solution on them, but we need to stop supporting a flagrant offense against human rights in the form of the current Israeli government.
Tavis: This question is for you as well, Dr. Stein. You said that the Iranian deal is not viewed as a threat by most intelligence services and that it should be used as a template to de-nuclearize the Middle East. My question is who do you trust, either by name in terms of leaders or countries? Who do you trust in the Middle East to help implement this policy?
Stein: You know, I think it’s a question of negotiations. And I think we need to sit down not only with the Iranians, with the Israelis, with really Iraq, with all of the countries of the Middle East, to create a nuclear-free Middle East.
In the case of Iran, there was a question about Iran having a nuclear program in the future and that was disputed by many intelligence agencies. But this was a future threat at worst, whereas there are countries right now who are violating nuclear agreements. Israel has nuclear weapons and they’re not supposed to. Pakistan, India, there are many countries that have nuclear weapons.
We need to sit down with the Russians in particular, because we have the bulk of nuclear weapons and right now we are investing a trillion dollars in a new generation of nuclear weapons at a time when Mikhail Gorbachev, the former President of the Soviet Union, in his words, we are at the most dangerous nuclear weapons moment that we have ever been in history.
Tavis: Since I got 20 seconds here, a quick follow-up since you mentioned Russia a couple of times tonight. Can you hit the reset button? Can you sit down with Russia after the accusation of what Putin has been alleged to do in this campaign?
Stein: Absolutely, yes. I mean, what Putin has been alleged to do is to have hacked. We hack all the time [chuckles]. And the Russians, in fact, have bene trying to get us to sit down and collaborate on a treaty against cyber warfare. So I think we can have principled negotiations with the Russians about nuclear weapons and about cyber warfare.
Tavis: Governor Johnson, another compatibility question for you. You have said that Iran is not a military threat, and yet you oppose the Iran Deal on the grounds that Iran is–your words–“the number one financier of terror around the world.” How are those two statements compatible?
Johnson: Well, I was skeptical of the Iran Deal because they were, and arguably may be, a major funder of terrorism in the world. Now with regard to the number, $165 billion dollars, that is a number or that is money that needs to be monitored as to whether or not that does end up in the hands of terrorists. And as President of the United States, I’m pledging to honor all treaties and obligations.
So given that the Iran Deal has been signed, I’m going to line up on the optimistic side that this actually will prevail, that surveillance, that monitoring, is in place and that we will be able to see and monitor that they are not engaged in the development of nuclear weapons.
So like I say, I’m going to be optimistic about this deal and I’m going to support this deal as President of the United States. But coming into it pessimistically, I think that’s probably a good–that would be my overall outlook on military intervention. I’m a skeptic.
Tavis: Well, as President of the United States, Governor Johnson, how would you deal with this? The government is accepting, as we know at this moment, very few Syrian refugees, that is, and yet we continue to preach to the world about human rights. How would you handle that situation as president?
Johnson: I think we should increase Syrian taking in, Syrian refugees, believing that there will be and that there is a very intense vetting process taking place. When the debate occurred the other night between Clinton and Trump and they started talking about safe zones, first thing that came to my mind was about six different questions.
I’m not receiving national security briefings, but I’m going to guess that in those national security briefings they were talking about safe zones. Well, safe zones? What does that mean? Does that mean boots on the ground? That is going to mean U.S. troops on the ground. And is that then not going to become a sanctuary for the Islamists and open then to getting attacked and that U.S. troops will lose their lives?
I think a much more viable strategy would be to increase those refugees allowed into this country and we could also step up funding. And we are funding refugees in the surrounding countries, so Jordan being one of those, we could increase that funding to allow more refugees safe havens in adjacent countries.
Tavis: Same question for you, Dr. Stein. How do you square our not taking in more refugees with this notion of advancing human rights around the world?
Stein: Yeah. They can’t be squared at all. Right now there are 65 million refugees around the world which is tearing apart the Middle East and Europe and other places as well. And most of these refugees are being created by the wars that we have instigated largely. So we need to take responsibility for these refugees.
We also need to stop these wars that continue to generate more, and that’s where I think the weapons embargo and the freeze on the bank accounts of those countries who are continuing to fund terrorism–I think fundamentally you’ve got to stop what’s generating this problem.
But in the meantime, we have to accept our proportional responsibility and we need to take a large portion of the Syrian refugees that we have played so large a part in creating.
Tavis: If you both give me a 30-second answer to this question, I think I can squeeze it in before this program ends. Our time runs so fast around here. You both proposed to drastically cut military spending. How do you do that and keep us safe, Governor Johnson?
Johnson: Well, the BRAC Commission itself in the mid-90s said that 25% more U.S. bases could have been closed, but the political will has not existed to see that take place. So submitting a balanced budget to Congress, a 20% reduction in military spending will not compromise an invincible national defense.
Tavis: Dr. Stein?
Stein: So our bloated and dangerous military budget is not making us safer. It’s making us less safe. So we need to cut back to where we were before 2001 because the military budget that we have right now is not helping us. It’s consuming half of our discretionary budget.
So we need to cut back, for example, this trillion dollar program and a new generation of nuclear weapons. That makes us less safe, not more safe. There are many ways that we can cut.
And I just want to say I hope we can do this again. I think this has been a really important debate. In addition to the online debate, I hope Governor Johnson will consider doing more of these debates at a time when the American people are really clamoring for something other than these two candidates being rammed down their throats.
Tavis: I take your cue. That does wrap night two of this debate here on television. But the third part of this debate can be seen at pbs.org/tavissmiley, an exclusive conversation for another 30 minutes or so with Governor Johnson and Dr. Stein as we continue talking about these important issues in this all-important election season.
You can see that conversation at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time tonight right after the West Coast version of this show airs. Until then, thanks for watching. Thank you both for being here, and keep the faith, as always.
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