Thursday, October 16, 2008

Breaking the Sound Barrier: Third-Party Candidates Ralph Nader & Cynthia McKinney Respond to Final McCain-Obama Debate

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain met last night for the final debate before the November 4th presidential election, sparring over the economy, tax policy, negative campaigning, trade agreements, abortion and the educational system. As with the other debates, third-party candidates were not invited to participate. We break the sound barrier and hear from Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Cynthia McKinney, Green Party presidential nominee. Former Democratic congresswoman from Georgia.

Ralph Nader, Independent presidential candidate. He is a longtime consumer advocate and corporate critic.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Senators Barack Obama and John McCain met last night for the final debate before the November 4th presidential election. It was held at Hofstra University on Long Island in New York.

Prior to the ninety-minute face-off, police arrested fifteen protesters in a peaceful demonstration outside the university led by Iraq Veterans Against the War. One veteran, Nick Morgan, was hospitalized after being trampled by a police horse. Video shot at the scene showed Morgan lying on the ground by a pool of blood. The arrests took place less than an hour before Barack Obama and John McCain took the stage.

During the debate, the Iraq war was barely mentioned. The war in Afghanistan never came up. Instead, the two candidates sparred over the government’s plans to rescue the financial system, tax policy, negative campaigning, trade agreements, abortion and the educational system.

AMY GOODMAN: As with the other debates, third-party candidates were not invited to participate. But today on Democracy Now!, we will break the sound barrier by giving some of those candidates a chance to respond to last night’s questions.

Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney joins us in Atlanta, and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader joins us on the phone. We invited Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr and Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin, but they couldn’t join us. So, they will answer the same questions put to the major party candidates.

We begin with CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, the moderator of last night’s debate.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Cynthia McKinney, Green Party presidential nominee, you have two minutes to give us your view of the financial crisis and why your plan would be better.

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Thank you very much. First of all, let me thank you for inviting me to be with you, and also I’d like to thank Trevor Lyman of, who has also organized any event, a debate, a third-party debate on October 19th from 7:00 to 9:00, and I will be participating.

I’ve put together a fourteen-point plan, which is available on our website And in those fourteen points is included a elimination of adjustable rate mortgages, predatory lending, and any of the discriminatory practices that helped to fuel the crisis that we’re experiencing. In addition to that, I also call for the elimination of derivatives trading, which is one of the major problems.

I also call for David Walker to—who is the former Comptroller General of the United States, to oversee all of the entities that have received taxpayer funding. He is the one who was in charge of auditing the United States government and basically left in disgust because people in the Congress and in the White House were not listening to his admonitions.

I also call for the nationalization of the Federal Reserve and the establishment of a banking system, a nationalized banking system, that really responds to the needs of people and our country. Our country needs investment in infrastructure, in manufacturing and in greening our economy, and that could be accomplished through such a banking system that belongs to the American people.

And then I would also just like to say I agree that US corporations should not receive tax subsidies for moving jobs overseas, and that’s a piece of legislation that I actually introduced when I was in the Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, independent presidential candidate, your solution for the economic crisis and why your plan is better than these other candidates’?

RALPH NADER: Well, first of all, they had—Washington had Wall Street over a barrel, and they didn’t enact legislation in that $700-plus billion bailout to prevent this from happening again. So there should be in the future, very near future, a comprehensive re-regulation of financial services industry. It was deregulation that opened the doors under Clinton for this wild orgy of excess, as Richard Fisher of the Federal Reserve in Dallas called it.

We need to provide more power to the shareholders—mutual funds, worker pension funds and others—to control the companies that they own and control the bosses so that this doesn’t happen again.

We need widespread criminal prosecution of these corporate crooks and swindlers. There were lots of deceptive practices, cover-ups and conflicts of interest involved in selling this phony paper around the country and the world.

And we need, if there’s going to be taxpayer injection in these—in financial institutions, the taxpayers should not only have ownership, proportional ownership, but should have representatives on the board. Right now, it’s a very porous and very ineffective provision in the bill.

But above all, we need to make the speculators pay for their own bailout. And that can be done by a one-tenth of one percent tax on derivatives transactions, which this year will be $500 trillion worth. So, one-tenth of one percent will produce $500 billion; two-tenths of one percent will produce a trillion dollars. And that is only fair. So, what’s important here is there’s nothing spectacularly new about a derivatives tax. The stock tax transaction helped to fund the Civil War. Franklin Delano Roosevelt used it. Some European countries have it now. People in New York and elsewhere go into a store and pay six, seven percent sales tax for necessities of life. But someone today on Wall Street will buy $100 million of Exxon derivatives and pay nothing.

We also need a major public works program to stem the slide into a deeper recession, to rebuild America.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re over time. We’re going to break, and when we come back, we’ll move on with this debate between Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Barack Obama and John McCain. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez and CBS’s Bob Schieffer, as we expand the presidential debate with Barack Obama, John McCain, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader. Bob Schieffer?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Cynthia McKinney, two minutes on your views on the tone of the campaign and some of the exchange between Senator McCain and Senator Obama about John Lewis?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, I would rather give my impressions of what differentiates the campaigns of independent and third-party candidates, and that is, I believe that we talk about the issues. Former Comptroller General David Walker said that now is a time that this country needs leadership, not lagship. But unfortunately, we’re getting more lagship than leadership.

For example, the issues that I’ve been talking about as I’ve gone around this country have been the tremendous impact that the Bush tax cuts have had on income inequality in our country. The sad fact of the matter is that we are experiencing the kind of income inequality not experienced since the Great Depression.

In addition to that, I’ve been talking about the need to repeal the PATRIOT Acts, so that we can safeguard our civil liberties, protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I’ve also been talking about the death penalty, because, of course, in the state in which I was born, we have a young man who—for whom a death date has been set, and he’s had seven witnesses to recant their testimony in a trial. We need to talk about justice in this country. And I’m talking about the case of Troy Davis. We do need to talk about the administration of the death penalty.

It’s interesting that, categorically, I support single-payer, and I believe that Ralph Nader does, as well. We make no bones about our support for a single-payer healthcare system in this country. And just last week, 5,000 physicians wrote a letter, and they said that it was the only morally responsible, as well as fiscally responsible solution to the healthcare problems that face our country.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader—


AMY GOODMAN: That’s two minutes, Cynthia McKinney. Ralph Nader, your response?

RALPH NADER: Well, first of all, the reason why the press covers the lowest common denominator of gaffes or tactics or horse races or what someone said in a crowd is because Obama and McCain do not open up in their discussion day after day significant issues such as Cynthia McKinney just alluded to. You know, they say the same thing day after day after day, and so the press has to have a cheap lede, and they go with these gaffes or these diversions. If McCain and Obama really opened up all the huge variety of redirections and reforms and what’s going on in the country and allied themselves with local—local citizen groups who are fighting for justice, there would be news every day, and the reporters would not be as inclined to headline these gaffes or these so-called smears from different supporters of Obama and McCain. So it’s a combined responsibility of the candidates who open up this kind of foolishness and silly coverage, because they’re so redundant, they’re so ditto heads on the campaign trail.

And when we campaign all over the country in Nader-Gonzalez, there are all kinds of issues in Florida, in Washington state, in Hawaii, in Colorado, people struggling for clean environment, civic accountability, people going after toxic waste dumps and lack of a living wage. That’s where I would stand. And there needs to be many, many more debates, not these silly parallel interviews by a debate commission that is controlled by the two parties and keeps competition off the stage, in terms of third-party independent candidates. More and more debates will provide more substance, and more and more candidates on those stages who have been qualified on many state ballots—

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, that’s your two minutes. Thanks so much. For the first time in the debate last night, Senator McCain raised the issue of Senator Barack Obama’s connection to Bill Ayers, the University of Illinois professor, former member of the Weather Underground.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ralph Nader, one minute, your response, especially to the issue of ACORN, because this has now become a major issue as to whether there’s voter fraud or voter suppression going on in this election.

RALPH NADER: First of all, ACORN has done tremendously good work over the years with low-income people in city after city. When they go into big-time voter registration, things happen. Some people may get enthusiastic. They don’t control some of the new people they hire. And this happens. It should not besmirch the overwhelmingly good work on economic justice and voice to low-income people.

Second, on the Bill Ayers thing, who is a lapsed small-time saboteur with the Weather Underground many years ago, what should have been said was the big-time terrorists, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, these are clinically verifiable mass terrorists who have killed innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in their criminal wars of aggression. These are criminal wars of aggression. These are war crimes. These are war criminals. They have killed over a million Iraqi civilians as a result of that criminal invasion. That’s where the discussion should have focused on. The big-time terrorists, the state terrorists in the White House who have violated our Constitution, our statutes and our international treaties, and have been condemned even by the American Bar Association for a continual violence of our—violation of our Constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: Cynthia McKinney?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: First of all, I think I should say that I believe that the people in this country need a political party and a movement that places our values on the political agenda. Obviously, with that exchange, that’s not the case.

There’s something else that’s a bit more troubling. I’ve also been talking about election integrity as I’ve gone across this country. But, you know, I really don’t like the idea that the face of election fraud, given the past two presidential elections, is now a face of color and one of poor people.

In 2000, when people went to the polls, when the voters went to the polls, they were met with confusing ballots, manipulation of the voter lists, electronic voting machines that didn’t work, inappropriately or ineffectively or poorly trained officials who weren’t familiar with the workings of those machines, and we know what the problems with those machines have been and are. We still have those problems that have been with us since 2000.

In 2004, they added to these problems with the electronic poll books, the sleepovers that were discovered, where the machines weren’t even secured, even intensifying the failures of the machines with the vote flipping, and usually in only one direction. The battery freezes in the midst of voters actually trying to cast their votes.

And now we’ve got voter ID laws across the country, and we’ve got voter caging, which is a fancy way of purging people from the voter files.

So, now, what kind of election is it when neither of the political parties is addressing the issue, the fundamental issue, of whether or not our votes are even going to be counted?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to move on right now to the issue of free trade. John McCain.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ralph Nader, two minutes, your response on free trade?

RALPH NADER: There’s no such thing as free trade with dictators and oligarchs in these countries, because the market doesn’t determine the costs. There’s no free collective bargaining for workers. That’s a crime, de facto, in many countries, to try to form an independent trade union. There’s no rule of law, bribery. These companies can go there and pollute at will. There’s no judicial independence to make these companies accountable, and they abuse workers and consumers and communities, as the oil companies and the timber companies have on many occasions.

Second, these—NAFTA and WTO have to be scrapped. Under those treaties, we can withdraw in six months and give notice of withdrawal and renegotiate these agreements for the following purpose: no more trade agreements that subordinate consumer, union, worker and environmental rights. These are pull-down trade agreements that are allowing fascist and corporate dictators to pull down our standards of living, because they know how to keep their workers in their place at fifty cents an hour. So, any new trade agreements should stick to trade. Any other treaty should be labor, environment and consumer on a level playing field. These trade agreements also have to be open, democratic. They cannot undermine our courts, our regulatory agencies and our legislature.

That’s what we’ve got to do. And our website,, has ample information on this process.

AMY GOODMAN: In order to get to the next subject, we’re going to go right now to Cynthia McKinney on this, then we go to break and one more topic. Cynthia McKinney?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Great. I agree with Nader that we need to repeal NAFTA and all of those so-called free trade agreements, but they are—they don’t constitute fair trade.

And with respect to Colombia, I can say that not only have I been to Colombia, I have seen the devastation of the militarization of our policy, particularly with Colombia, and the displacement particularly of the Afro-Colombian communities across that country.

In addition, I would say that as a result of the unfair elections that have been held, particularly in Uribe, where there—in Colombia, where Uribe was elected, there should have been an Afro-Colombian woman elected as president. Her name was Piedad Cordoba. But instead of being elected, she was kidnapped, and she was forced out of the country. Now she’s back in Colombia serving as a united—as a Colombian senator.

What we must encourage is a relationship with countries around the world, where we engage in fair trade, not free trade; we pay a fair price for the resources and other things that we need; we respect human rights, labor rights, environmental rights; and we repeal these agreements that have been implemented so far.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, then come back for our last subject. Cynthia McKinney, John McCain, Ralph Nader and Barack Obama. This is Democracy Now!, We’re breaking the sound barrier. Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez and Bob Schieffer.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Cynthia McKinney, your message—since this is now what will be known as the Joe the plumber debate, your message to Joe the plumber, in one minute?

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, basically, I would say that the Green Party has four pillars on which all of its policy recommendations lie. And that is, they are social justice, ecological wisdom, peace and grassroots democracy. So that means that our foreign policy, our domestic policy, our public policy, in general, would focus on the well-being of the people, on the well-being of this planet.

We would also make sure that we would follow in the footsteps of the legislation that I introduced when I was in the Congress. For example, that legislation taking away the tax breaks for corporations that take their jobs overseas, we also wanted to make sure that US corporations were actually forced to abide by US regulations with respect to labor and environment and human rights. We also introduced the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act that sought to safeguard and actually restore our national forests. This is the kind of public policy that our country needs.

We also need an energy policy. War is not an acceptable energy policy. But certainly, if Canada can satisfy all of their space heating needs with solar energy, then so, too, can we. And I’d love to see the old buildings that have been abandoned in community after community across this country become teeming centers of employment so that people are actually able to manufacture the green technology that this country needs in order to relieve us of our dependence on oil. We don’t need to drill.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, your response to Joe the plumber?

RALPH NADER: Well, obviously, say, Joe the plumber, you don’t have to worry about paying for health insurance, because it would be full Medicare for all, and business would not have to pay. It would be an obligation of the government to provide full health insurance. It’s much more efficient. Free choice of doctor and hospital, quality and cost control on the private delivery of healthcare. It’s supported by a majority of the people and a majority of the physicians in a recent poll, 59 percent of them.

We also say to Joe plumber that we’re going to revise the tax system so we tax things we—society likes the least or dislikes the most before we tax human labor. That is, a securities derivative tax. We tax gambling industry more, addictive industry more, corporate crime and pollution, like a carbon tax.

Notice, throughout the debate, so-called, between Obama and McCain, they avoided anything that would challenge corporate power. They didn’t talk about a crackdown on corporate crime. They didn’t talk about ending corporate welfare. They didn’t talk about cutting the huge bloated military budget of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about. They didn’t talk about shifting this into a major public works program to repair America at the community level.

What we’re seeing today on your program is how a larger frame of reference should have been given to tens of millions of people, what Cynthia McKinney and I have been denied reaching. That’s why we want to give your listeners our website. Our website is And you can all donate to Cynthia McKinney’s campaign, the Green Party, and to the Nader/Gonzalez campaign. We’re having a big—

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re going to have to leave it there.

RALPH NADER: —super rally on Wall Street at noon today, super rally on Wall Street.

AMY GOODMAN: Super rally on Wall Street at noon. And will you also be at the debate on Sunday night, third-party debate at Columbia University?

RALPH NADER: Well, I just heard about it after you told me about it last night, and—Amy, and I’ve got to look at the schedule and see.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, if—

CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I’m with Trevor—I’m with Trevor Lyman at the from 7:00 to 9:00 on October 19th.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’ll put information on our website, because supposedly I will be moderating this debate if it does happen, and we’ll let our viewers and listeners know.

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]