Monday, November 5, 2012

Live-blogging the final presidential debate of 2012

I'll say anything I have to say about tonight's presidential debate, which you can watch live online, in this post.

I'll be writing down any quotes on the fly, without the aid of a transcript or pause/rewind button. So they might not be 100% verbatim, but I'll try to keep them as accurate as possible.

9:07 - Jill Stein (Green Party) wants to "bail out the students, not the banks." I'm not so sure. Stein makes it sound like of course we should bail out someone, and the question is who to bail out. Maybe the real problem is the very idea of bailouts.

9:09 - Stein criticizes President Obama for "expanding free-trade agreements," which will "continue to offshore our jobs" and "undermine American sovereignty." She wants a "fair-trade agreement" to protect workers and the environment. Isn't supporting "fair trade" really a euphemism for opposing free trade?

9:12 - Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) unsurprisingly starts out by expressing his support for free trade, pointing out that it makes goods and services cheaper for us as consumers. The problem is when free trade turns into "crony capitalism." Instead of creating loopholes, government should "get out of the way" and "create a level playing field for everybody." He'd eliminate the corporate tax.

9:16 - Stein describes a scenario where 100 loaves of bread are distributed to 100 people, and says that 1 person would get 40 loaves, while 50 people would get just 1 loaf. The bread is all of America's wealth, and the 100 people are the American people. She then says she supports a "living wage," which presumably means dramatically increasing the minimum wage. She doesn't explain how forbidding employers and employees from entering into mutually beneficial arrangements would equalize the distribution of wealth, rather than increasing unemployment.

9:20 - Johnson lambastes Stein for her support of increasing corporate taxes: "Why not increase the corporate tax rate to 70%? Why not 100%?" He argues: "Whatever we tax, we get less of" — raising corporate taxes causes businesses and jobs to leave the United States.

9:22 - Johnson warns of a "monetary collapse" resulting from government-backed inflation. "I am livid over the fact that we bail out Wall Street from making incredibly bad decisions — that they don't lose their money. . . . Capitalism on the way up, communism on the way down!"

9:26 - Stein is also against the fact that banks are considered "too big to fail." It seems like everyone is.

9:28 - Stein: "After a decade of war, over $5 trillion spent, and thousands of American lives lost, what have we accomplished?" Not stable allies or women's rights. Unlike in the Obama/Romney debate on foreign policy, she raises criticisms of Obama's drone war.

9:32 - Johnson: "Drone attacks potentially take out the target, but only 2% of its effectiveness is on the target. The rest is unintended consequences."

9:33 - Johnson flatly says that foreign aid "should stop." "Contrary to what we were brought up to believe, foreign aid does not go to poor people. It goes to prop up dictatorships. But it goes to dictatorships that are supposedly in America's best interests. . . . It's poor people in this country giving money to rich people in foreign countries."

9:35 - Stein seems to support foreign aid in principle, but says we need to "end the predominant form of foreign aid, and that is military aid." But even if our foreign aid didn't include any military aid, wouldn't it effectively make it easier for the recipient countries to spend more on their militaries?

9:39 - Johnson: "There are unintended consequences to our military interventions — always worse rather than better!"

9:40 - Stein says that "there are countries in the Middle East that do have nuclear weapons now, and that includes Israel." That's not officially public knowledge, so it appears unpresidential for a candidate to state it explicitly.

9:42 - Stein connects anthropogenic climate change to currently displaced people in New York. She pins the blame on "fossil-fuel politics," which she says Obama has participated in as much as Republicans.

9:45 - Johnson says he believes climate change is anthropogenic, but he doesn't think he as president could stop it. As always, his solution is economic growth spurred by free markets: consumers will demand that their products somehow reduce carbon emissions.

9:48 - Johnson bravely supports price gouging. $7 per gallon gasoline would lead to shorter car lines at the pump, and would attract entrepreneurs.

9:51 - Johnson says that all government action is "well-intentioned"; of course, the problem is unintended consequences. He describes his efforts as Governor of New Mexico to respond to a forest fire — which itself was caused by government. (Wikipedia has information on this episode.)

9:53 - Stein says climate change is an "emergency." "It's as if we've been attacked." She says it's a bigger emergency than Pearl Harbor.

9:57 - Johnson says that Stein seems to think government is the answer to all our problems, and he asks Stein what she thinks about net neutrality. Stein says she's for it, and adds that she doesn't assume government is the answer to every problem. "I'm not an ideologue. I'm a doctor. I don't actually know much about ideology. As a doctor, I look for practical solutions."

9:59 - Both candidates say that they're not aware of any way that Wikileaks is a threat to national security. Stein goes further and says that secrecy is the greatest threat to security.

10:03 - Stein warns that President Obama has "reinterpreted" the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force to authorize himself to "assassinate anyone, including American citizens."

10:05 - When asked about police brutality and excesses, Stein brings up a recent experience when she showed up at a presidential debate to insist on being included. She was arrested and "cuffed tightly to a chair for 8 hours."

10:07 - Johnson's response to the police question focuses on drugs: "I am going to do everything I possibly can to bring an end to the drug war. I would like to see the legalization of marijuana now."

10:08 - Johnson calls the TSA a "Constitution-free zone."

10:09 - Johnson says that if either Obama or Romney wins, we'll have "a heightened police state," "a continued state of war," and "unsustainable spending."

10:12 - Johnson does an extended impression of Obama giving a press conference where he started out saying that European countries that practiced austerity avoided the problems of countries that spent more money than they had — Obama then went on to say (according to Johnson) that the United States is different because we can print more money and use "leverage."

10:14 - Stein disagrees with Johnson, saying that the track record of "austerity" in Europe and the United States is abysmal. Johnson: "I think that's just baloney!" He says we need to stop spending more money than we have, or we'll have a "national collapse."

10:21 - Stein and Johnson both support labeling of genetically modified foods. Johnson connects this to the idea of a free market: consumers should make choices based on accurate information. He says he wouldn't be able to function if not for food labels, since he has Celiac disease and can't eat gluten.

10:23 - In her closing statement, Stein says she'll "put an end to student debt." She calls students "indentured servants."

10:24 - Johnson says in his closing statement: "Vote for the person you believe in. That's how you change this country for the better. I'm more liberal than Obama when it comes to civil liberties. I'm more conservative than Romney when it comes to dollars and cents. . . . I made a name for myself [as governor] by being a penny-pincher. . . . I don't know if there's a more important vote right now if you want to register your distaste with what's happening in this country." Johnson ends by asking for 5% of the vote, which will let the Libertarian Party get more ballot access and receive federal matching funds. So, the libertarian's slam-dunk argument for why you should vote for him is that it will let him receive federal-government benefits.


amba said...

Irony watch: "So, the libertarian's slam-dunk argument for why you should vote for him is that it will let him receive federal-government benefits."

John Althouse Cohen said...


Robert Cook said...

Somehow I didn't even know this debate was being aired. While I couldn't be bothered to sit through three marathon sessions of self-serving bullshit and dissembling from Obamney, I would have liked to have seen this.

In any case, I was at my NYC polling place this morning at 6:30 a.m. and cast my vote for Ms. Stein.