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Obama, McCain, Bush and open debates

(Credit: Politirazzi)

Obama has had his chance to speak to voters on the debate platform; other presidential candidates should as well. (AP)

By Lynne

Recent commentary on CNN claimed that Obama and McCain are not so far apart. The entire piece is worth a read, but here is an excerpt:

Capital punishment: Like Bush, Obama supports capital punishment. He spoke out in opposition to the recent Supreme Court decision that denied the death penalty for child rapists. And in his 2006 memoir, Obama said, "I believe there are some crimes — mass murder, the rape and murder of a child — so heinous that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment."

Energy: In signing the $12.3 billion Energy Policy Act of 2005, Bush said it "promotes dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy for America's future." Obama voted for the energy plan and called it a "first step toward decreasing America's dependence on foreign oil."

Faith-based initiatives/fatherhood: Bush is well known for his commitment to the faith-based community — with initiatives for the poor and on fatherhood — and he expanded the ability to allow faith-based providers a seat at the funding table. Obama, who has railed against Bush's efforts, has still found a way to embrace them, saying he would "expand" faith-based initiatives. He used his Father's Day speech to echo the president's Fatherhood Initiative.

Offshore drilling: Bush has consistently pushed for drilling offshore, while Obama, who until recently opposed it, now says he's for it. In Nashville, Tennessee, he told an audience: "We're going to have to explore new ways to get more oil, and that includes offshore drilling."

FISA: Of the Senate bill passage that rewrote intelligence laws to grant immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration's wiretapping program, Bush said: "This vital intelligence bill will allow our national security professionals to quickly and effectively monitor the plans of terrorists outside the United States, while respecting the liberties of the American people."

Obama, who supported it, after opposing FISA last year, said: "Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people."

Almost identical, huh?

And yet many of my friends wonder why I am not excited about an Obama presidency, and why the Green Party will get my vote this election. It’s very simple: I believe in multi-party democracy where diverse viewpoints can be heard (open the debates!) and represented at the legislative table.Frankly, there isn’t a candidate in the race that I agree with 100 percent of the time. But I believe that as people died or were imprisoned for the right to vote, I should honor their sacrifice by voting for the person who best reflects my values and principles and my vision for our country.

Which means McCain/Palin should count on someone else, and so should Obama/Biden.

Both McCain and Obama may have supported electoral reforms like Instant Runoff Voting in the past, but neither have made it a part of the national dialogue this year — even though instant runoff voting entirely eliminates the so-called “spoiler” problem by allowing voters to rank the candidates in their order of preference (1, 2, 3).

And neither candidate used their influence regarding the debate process.

I mean, c'mon — with three presidential debates, surely at least one of them could have included third party and independent candidates who are on enough state ballots to potentially garner a majority of Electoral College votes.

Last week's boring snoozefest of a debate would have been much more interesting with the inclusion of the Green Party's Cynthia McKinney, a six-term former Congresswoman, or with independent Ralph Nader or Libertarian Bob Barr, also a former Congressman.

McKinney might have challenged Obama on what exactly he means by "clean coal" and "safe nuclear" and why he is so willing to keep the war going in Afghanistan rather than bringing the troops home. Nader would have offered his usual, insightful critique of corporations.

There will be an "Open the Debates" rally at Cooper Union on Oct. 15 with Nader/Gonzales with Green vice presidential candidate Rosa Clemente possibly participating as well. Unfortunately, since it’s the same date as the final debate at Hofstra, it probably won’t get much mainstream press coverage because — gee — all the media is covering the debate. But rumor has it there might be a third party debate later in the week.

It's about time.

In 2004, the Green and Libertarian Party candidates first debated in August, during the Republican National Convention. The entire event was covered on CSPAN and moderated by Walter Kane of Channel 12 News. After that, there were several third party debates sponsored by various colleges, such as Cornell University and the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, independent candidate Ralph Nader seemed uninterested in debating anybody but the big two (Bush and Kerry) and didn't participate in any of the third party debates but he seems to have changed his tune this year, including appearing at a joint press conference with Ron Paul a few weeks ago.

Nader and running mate Matt Gonzales keep plugging away. As do the Greens, the Libertarians and other third party activists around the country who are determined to build an ongoing challenge to the two-party system.

With record numbers of voters not affiliating with any political party — including billionaires like Mayor Bloomberg — I’m clearly not the only one dissatisfied with just two candidates.

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