Circumstances of Jill Stein’s Hofstra Arrest: “Symbolic” of What CPD Has Done to Democracy

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the Green Party’s candidate for President and Vice President, you may have heard, were arrested a little over a week ago as they attempted to confront representatives of the Commission on Presidential Debates on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on the eve of the second official Presidential debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. What you may not have heard about are the actual circumstances of the arrest.

In a suit for injunctive relief filed on October 22 in Circuit Court in Palm Beach, Florida, to prevent that night’s third official debate from occurring at Lynn University in Boca Raton without inclusion of third parties, Stein’s attorney related the salient details of that arrest:

24.  On October 16th, 2012, less than one week ago, the United States Presidential Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, and her Vice-Presidential running mate, Ms. Cheri Honkala, were arrested for being on the grounds of the site of the Presidential debate which was scheduled to take place approximately seven hours later.

25.  Dr. Stein arrived on the grounds of Hofstra University at approximately 2:00pm in order to speak with defendant Commission for Presidential Debates to request that she and other “third party” candidates be allowed to participate in that evening’s Presidential debate. Fifteen minutes after making that request to a representative of defendant Commission, Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala were approached by local police and the Secret Service, at which time they were handcuffed, taken to a remote detention facility/wharehouse/ especially set up to house “protestors”, where they were forced to remain for over eight hours while tightly handcuffed to metal chairs until such time as the debate between the only two candidates “invited” to participate in the debate was over.

26.  When Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala were finally “un-hancuffed” from the metal chairs and released, they were sent out into the cold night in a remote location with no notice to their lawyers or staff of their release.

27.  Dr. Stein’s comments concerning her arrest, handcuffing, and incarceration are, in essence, the basis for this injunction. Upon her release, Dr. Stein stated: “It was painful but symbolic to be handcuffed for all those hours, because that’s what the Commission on Presidential Debates has essentially done to American democracy.”

We know the suit failed in its primary purpose to stop the debate.  But I hope you will take a minute and think about what happened to Stein and Honkala on the afternoon and evening of October 16. Think about these two women, candidates for president and vice-president,  on the ballot in 38 states with their Republican and Democratic opponents, handcuffed with plastic restraints to metal chairs for eight hours in an “undisclosed location,” like common criminals or terrorists.

This is what American democracy in 2012 looks like.

This Was a Foreign Policy Debate?

I made a comment to Washington Post Associate Editor Robert Kaiser in an online chat this afternoon about the debate last night:

It’s likely that Romney’s limitations [in last night’s debate], which kept him trying to drag the subject back to domestic politics, owe to real limitations and inexperience. I don’t know why Obama was so ready to oblige Romney’s fallback to safety and follow him there. Nor do I understand why Bob Schieffer restricted most of the discussion to the Middle East and the military, as though that’s all the foreign policy worthy of being discussed or that Americans are capable of caring about. What about climate change, energy and geopolitics, immigration, drug war policy, the Eurozone and currency wars? This was the least informative debate in memory, except it did tell us almost too much about how vacant the discourse in the US has become, especially among the political class.

Kaiser replied:

Good comments, thanks. But I think both candidates are convinced that domestic issues will be much more important in voters’ final decisions than any concerns about foreign affairs.

The discussion is over, but here is how I respond to Kaiser:  Why have a foreign policy debate at all if it’s understood that the candidates and their campaigns don’t think it’s important to the voters and the media are willing to go along with them on that? Who was this debate for? Who are any of these debates for?

If you want to hear candidates actually talk about the stuff of foreign policy–how politics and economics in the US relates to politics and economics in other countries around the world–you have to watch democracynow.org’s Expanding the Debates, in which Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman allowed the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Justice Party’s  Rocky Anderson to respond to questions Bob Schieffer put to the president and Mitt Romney. (Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson declined Democracy Now’s invitation. )  It’s doubtful, if you watched the official debate only, that you’ll have learned very much at all, given the extremely limited subjects discussed and the frequent derailments with domestic politics. But it’s almost guaranteed you will learn something watching the expanded format.

Who’s the Status Quo Candidate?

Since David Corn and Mother Jones (with the help of James E. Carter IV and an an0nymous videographer) have exposed Mitt Romney as a major spoiled preppy ass, the Republican presidential nominee and his cheerleaders on the right are valiantly trying to make lemonade with the explanation that Romney’s rant against the 47% who pay no income tax was actually a eulogy for personal responsibility. He has even said that most Americans “would like to be paying taxes” (unlike himself?). On the other hand, Romney is also using this “teachable moment”  to criticize the notion of what he and his Republican parrots (or puppeteers?) disparagingly refer to as “redistribution,” which they claim Obama once professed to “believe in”   during a speech at Loyola University in 1998.  (“[T]he trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot,”  they say Obama said.) Continue reading