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Left Out in Cleveland: Three VP Candidates Speak Out on the Two-Party System

StoryOctober 07, 2004
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The restrictive rules agreed to by the Democrats and Republicans in 2004 may change the face of presidential debates for generations to come. They also exclude third party candidates. Today we hear from three VP candidates who were not invited to Cleveland: Pat LaMarche of the Green Party, Libertarian Richard Campagna and Peter Camejo, Ralph Nader’s running mate. [includes rush transcript]

Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards are back on the campaign trail after their only debate of the campaign Tuesday night. Their hard-hitting encounter set the stage for the next showdown between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry on Friday in St. Louis.

While the debates so far have produced some memorable moments, the structure of the debates has led many to criticize them as nothing more than glorified bipartisan press conferences. The rules governing these debates are the most restrictive in the history of presidential debates. In fact, the rules seem to be in place to prevent any debate. The candidates are forbidden from directly questioning each other and any spontaneous response to the opponent’s comments is not allowed.

But of all of the rules of the debates, the one that bolsters the case that these events are more like a bipartisan press conference is the exclusion of third party candidates. Today, we are going to give three vice presidential candidates that were not invited to Cleveland a chance to debate. In a moment we will be joined by Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Pat LaMarche, Libertarian VP candidate Richard Campagna and Peter Camejo, who is Ralph Nader”s running mate. But first, we wanted to hear a bit of the official debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards on the issue of health care.

  • Pat LaMarche, * Green Party* candidate for Vice President. For years, she has worked as a radio talk show host. She is a former Green Party candidate for governor of the state of Maine, where she became the first woman in the history of that state to gain ballot access for a political party through her candidacy. She just wrapped up a two week tour, where she lived in homeless shelters in various US cities.
  • Peter Camejo, * Ralph Nader’s* vice presidential candidate. He was the Green Party candidate for governor of California in 2003.
  • Richard Campagna, the * Libertarian Party’s* candidate for Vice President. He is a longtime university professor and an international businessman.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In a moment we’ll be joined by Green Party vice presidential candidate, Pat LaMarche, libertarian vice presidential candidate Richard Campagna, and Peter Camejo, Ralph Nader’s running mate. But first, let’s hear a bit of the official debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards on health care.

JOHN EDWARDS: Let’s go back to health care. I think the American people deserve to know what we would do different. 5 million people losing their health care. Everyone who is watching this knows health insurance premiums are through the roof. We need to talk about what we will do that they have not done. First, we’re going to make the same health care available to members of congress available to all Americans. We’re going to cover all kids. Not only that, we’re going to bring down costs by pooling the catastrophic costs. So we bring down premiums and we’re going to give tax breaks directly to families, save them up to $1,000 a year and businesses, the Vice President talked about that a few minutes ago, so they can provide health care to their employees. We’re also going to finally do something about the cost of prescription drugs. They have blocked allowing prescription drugs in the country from Canada. We’re going to allow it. They would not allow the government to use this negotiating power to get discounts for seniors. We’re going to allow it. We’re also going to stand up to the drug companies and do something about these drug company ads on television, which are out of control.

GWEN IFILL: You have 30 seconds to respond to that, Mr. Vice President.

DICK CHENEY: Well, Gwen, it’s hard to know where to start. The fact of the matter is, the most important and significant change in health care in the last several years was the Medicare Reform Bill this year. It’s the most sweeping change in 40 years. Medicare used to pay for heart bypass surgery, but didn’t pay for the prescription drugs that might allow you to avoid it. The fact is that when that came up, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards voted against it. It will provide prescription drug benefits to 40 million senior citizens. It’s a very, very significant piece of legislation.

GWEN IFILL: 30 seconds.

JOHN EDWARDS: They had a choice of allowing prescription drugs into this country from Canada, of being with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with the drug companies. They had a choice on negotiating discounts in the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, being with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with the drug companies. They had a choice on the Patient’s Bill of Rights, allowing people to make their own health care decisions and not having insurance companies make them, be with the American people, be with the big insurance companies. They’re with the insurance companies. John Kerry and I will always fight for the American people.

AMY GOODMAN: John Edwards and Dick Cheney debating in their first and only vice presidential debate. We go now to Pat LaMarche, Green Party candidate for Vice President. For years she was a radio talk show host, former Green Party candidate for governor of Maine where she was the first woman in the history of Maine, where she became the first woman in the history of Maine to gain ballot access for a political party through her candidacy. She’s just wrapped up a two-week tour where she lived in homeless shelters in the country. She’s back home now in Maine. Welcome to Democracy Now!

PAT LAMARCHE: Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond on the issue of health care. What’s your platform?

PAT LAMARCHE: Clearly, the whole system is corrupt, and where the Bush administration wants to do absolutely nothing except make the insurance companies and the drug companies wealthier, the Kerry administration would provide a bunch of Band-aids on the problem. I used the word Band-Aid on purpose. While getting Canadian drugs would be great, it doesn’t change the fact that we have a corrupt drug system that allows for other drug companies to rip people off and charge exorbitant 700, 800, 900 times the price of drug to make profits. The Medicare drug coverage bill that Vice President Cheney spoke of is an absolute ruse and a joke. It almost makes lives worse for the poor. It’s almost like a drug HMO where the elderly have to pick the drug plan they want to be a part of. Then if they sign up for it, they cannot sign out of it if they found out that the drug company plan that they particularly picked, if they get a new prescription and that prescription is not favorably priced in the drug bill, then they cannot change for like a year. And they pay the exorbitant price on the new prescription. So, it’s really a locked in, horrible system that helps again the drug companies, and everyone should have voted against it. In fact, anything that comes out of the Bush-Cheney administration that’s supposedly and allegedly going to change things for the poor or the needy or the people would are not millionaires should be voted against because it’s suspect. In the case of the Medicare drug cards, which is what you end up with, which is like a credit card that allows you only certain drug company benefit, it’s totally abusive to the consumer. We need to revamp this corrupt drug system that we have, the corrupt insurance company system that we have. We need universal health care. We’re the only nation without it. There is not a nation in the world that has it that has people rioting in the streets to get rid of it. It’s just completely absurd and it’s a way that the last 40 years, drug and insurance companies have been able to rip off only the United States of America and they’re the wealthiest countries in the world. We’re the only place they can have this field day.

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Campagna, you’re the Libertarian Party Candidate for Vice President, international businessman, returning scholar at the University of Chicago. Your response.

RICHARD CAMPAGNA: Just in general, and this particular issue, really, as it relates to all of the issues, the current so-called mainstream candidates literally, as we have stated before, almost look like two heads of the same corrupt, sloppy centralized monster. And our response again to health care issues, education issues, and issues all across the board is that we so desperately need another approach, both an approach in governing, administering, and literally just an approach that can be brought to the American people. And again, our party’s approach literally is virtually the opposite of the so-called two main parties. We seek decentralization. We seek privatization, individualization, and alternative medicine and prescription approaches.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you differ from President Bush, if you’re for total privatization?

RICHARD CAMPAGNA: Well, we don’t believe, and I certainly don’t believe that President Bush and the current administration are for total privatization. In fact, it seems to be, and this is a general concern and gripe we have with the administration, which is they oftentimes speak out of one side of their mouths, and pretty much govern in virtually the exact opposite way.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to Pat LaMarche, universal health care.

RICHARD CAMPAGNA: Again, we — it’s an interesting concept, but not something that at least from the national point of view, from the federal government point of view is something that we believe is really appropriately constitutional, and that happens to be an important factor for us. It’s just not something that from a federal government point of view we believe can be accomplished.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Camejo, you’re the vice presidential running mate of Ralph Nader.

PETER CAMEJO: Well, the choices in the debate, the fact that you cannot hear from any candidate like Pat LaMarche or Ralph Nader or myself or anybody who would be for universal health care like every European country has. And why can’t America have what Europe has? We spend for every dollar we spend on medical care, 25 cents goes to the insurance companies. This is money that could go to health care. We have 45 million people without health care in America. I would add to all of the wonderful points that Pat LaMarche made, our health care system should be focused on preventative. We should be trying to prevent people from getting ill, not just developing an industry that basically waits for people to get ill and then sells them something to cure them, which is the way our medical profession has focused. Even though there’s quite an effort by the public to learn about what foods to eat and other things that could prevent, we need to restructure our entire medical health care in America, so that it’s really focused on helping people for health care. And the profit, the private industry that plays a role of developing drugs and so forth, all of that has to be placed in a framework so the public’s right to protect it, and not abuse, because very often research is done by public money, and yet the profits are under control of private corporations. These are all issues that just cannot be heard in these debates because both Cheney and Edwards start from a framework of agreement that the insurance companies will continue to dominate, control, and be the people who run health care in America.

AMY GOODMAN: Pat LaMarche, who are you voting for for president?

PAT LAMARCHE: Well, I live in a district of Maine — we are the only other state besides Nebraska where we split our electoral votes. I live in a part of Maine where Kerry has about a 20% lead, so I have the luxury of voting for myself and David Cobb for president. But we are very sensitive this year. The Green Party is very sensitive to the fact that George Bush is the worst president in the history of time. He has serious competition for that title. He needs to go. I feel like we’re on the titanic with George Bush, there are no lifeboats. I’m interested in getting a few of the women and children off.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re telling people in swing states to vote for John Kerry?

PAT LAMARCHE: I’m telling people in swing states that I don’t have a right to tell them how to vote, but that I certainly understand their feelings and their feeling of immediacy and necessity, especially in the progressive community to eliminate George Bush as president of the United States. I think the world is looking for us to do that. I think right now, we have gotten off on the hook a little bit by the fact that we might just have the world’s worst president by accident, but if we re-elect him, it’s on purpose. And that’s a message that I really fear that the rest of the world — even if it’s only a marginal difference, and only marginally better, which I don’t believe in the position of nominating the Supreme Court justices and things like that, it will be merely marginally different. But if I thought that Mr. Kerry could do a good job of articulating what is important to people for the United States of America, I would not have run. It’s basically because I hear nothing of substance out of either of them that I decided that I needed to get out there and talk about the things that are extremely important. My colleagues on the phone today are very necessary to get out the message to the American people that it’s their democracy we talked about exporting it, but we have not manufactured any lately, and we really need to own our government. And certainly, we want to hit the ground running November 3, making the Green Party, bigger, better, stronger. More local candidates need to be elected on the 2nd. That’s how we are going to build a power base and that’s how we’re going to change, in the long run, who is at the top of the ticket and who we get to vote for.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a piece in the New York Sun, that says “Just as in 2000, a third party candidate could tip the balance in this year’s presidential contest. This time, the spoiler may not be Ralph Nader, but a man whose name most voters have never heard. That is the presidential nominee of the libertarian party on the ballot in 48 states.” Richard Campagna, you’re his vice presidential running mate. Your response and who are you telling people to vote for?

RICHARD CAMPAGNA: We are really telling people to vote for ourselves in as much as sincerely as I can state it, and I have really given this my most intellectually honest and best personal shot, because as you can guess, we oftentimes are asked if you do not win, don’t you really have a slight preference, and — and deep in your heart of hearts wouldn’t you really rather one candidate over the other? Aren’t they a little closer to your ideals and approach to governing? It’s fair to say that I started off with perhaps a slight preference, but honestly, after two years out on that campaign trail, I can sincere and truly state that the alternatives to, at least the Libertarian and some of the parties represented on this line, the mainstream alternatives are so disagreeable, so inconsistent with our approach, and in my view, the actual approach of the American people, that I true could care less which of those two candidates might have their election chances spoiled.

AMY GOODMAN: Has Michael Badnarik or you been approached by the Republican Party, with polls indicating what somewhere between 1% and 3%, not big numbers, but in swing states, could you make a difference?

RICHARD CAMPAGNA: No. No. We have not, and we are really out there trying to garner as many popular votes as we can on the 48 or 49 state ballots that we’re on, as well as trying to make the biggest impact that we can in the so-called swing states or battleground states. And —

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask Peter Camejo this question, Ralph Nader vice presidential running mate. Your response on this issue of swing states, vote for another candidate, safe states, vote for Ralph Nader and yourself.

PETER CAMEJO: I think to look at this issue one has to think about how we live in a political prison; how these two parties, very deliberately, do not allow run-offs, so that people are not free to listen to what a Pat LaMarche has to say, or a Ralph Nader or a Libertarian, and say, well, do I agree, and vote for who they agree with. Tens upon tens of millions of people in this election are going to vote for Kerry, but they don’t agree with Kerry. They’re opposed to the war; they’re opposed to the Patriot Act. 341 cities have voted against the Patriot Act. John Kerry is a man who gave George Bush 18 standing ovations in January. It’s very difficult to give anybody three or four standing ovations in any one-hour speech. He gave him 18 standing ovations. The fact is that these two parties are not — it’s not a question of weighing them and finding out which one is better or worse than the other. The fact is it’s the Democrats who have proposed in the Senate and in the Congress to now re-establish the draft. It is Obama, a Democrat keynote speaker at their convention who has proposed we prepare to do military strikes in Iran; it is Kerry saying he is more pro-Israel and what’s happening in the Middle East, and calls for ending nuclear weapons in Iran, but not in Israel. You go around in circles, and what you end up doing is voting for war, for the Patriot act against the Kyoto Protocol, against everything that you believe in, by falling into this trap of saying that you have to choose between these two. At one point, the Abolitionist movement in 1840 made a decision they would no longer do this. They would no longer interview the candidates and say which one is the least pro-slavery. They decided we’re not voting for people who are in favor of slavery anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: Pat LaMarche, your response.

PAT LAMARCHE: I agree there are reasons why neither one of these people have a party that I want to join, but I feel as though at this point I’m not going to drop the gauntlet and give up on November 3, I’m just going to work that much harder. We need instant runoff voting, and we need ballot access law changed. We need to do that by getting more legislators elected, more local representation. There many cities now adopting instant runoff voting, which allows you to vote your preferences, which I believe would have made Ralph Nader president in the year 2000. There are many things that would allow us to have a better system, but I cannot on the same token close my eyes to the fact that George Bush operates on a — on a system where we have gotten in one year 800,000 more kids living in poverty. 1.5 million more people without health care. In one year. I’m not willing to close my eyes on a couple of hundred thousand people and say, well, it’s the price they’re going to pay for a long run solution. Because that’s the Bush mentality. 'Well, we're making it better in Iraq in the long run.’ Well, I don’t think that the casualties agree. So, while I completely agree with the fact that these guys are not savory and not what we want, the ability to take the sting out of George Bush, plus he deserves to be fired. It’s unfortunate our system only allows us one person to fire him but he deserves to be fired. He has lied. He has gathered evidence that was erroneous. He went off the deep end over Dan Rather possibly having misinformation about Alabama in the National Guard, but then he used misinformation to get us into war.

AMY GOODMAN: Pat LaMarche. We are going to break and we’ll come back with the third party vice presidential debate. Pat LaMarche, Green Party vice presidential candidate, speaking to us from Maine. Peter Camejo, is Ralph Nader’s vice presidential running mate, he’s in Detroit now. And Richard Campagna, the Libertarian candidate for Vice President, speaking to us from Virginia Beach. This is Democracy Now! More in a minute. [break]

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, talk with the three third party candidates about their views on issues. Peter Camejo, your response to the Green Party vice presidential candidate, Pat LaMarche.

PETER CAMEJO: I agree with quite a bit of what Pat has said, but I totally disagree with her implication that what people should do is vote for war and PATRIOT Act through Kerry, that that doesn’t matter. That things are going to be better if we elect a democrat. That is the myth that has perpetuated the two-party system, and which continues to have working people and the mass of the American people, the environmentalists, voting against everything they believe in with the illusion — let us not forget, it was the democrats that brought us the war in Vietnam; they sent half a million soldiers, killed 2 million Vietnamese.

AMY GOODMAN: But, Peter Camejo, this point that the most vulnerable people in this country will be the most affected. Even interviewing Ralph Nader the other day, he was saying of the two candidates, yes, John Kerry is better, and the question of whether Supreme Court Justices matter, whether even small degrees of difference around health care will matter.


AMY GOODMAN: Jobs, et cetera.

PETER CAMEJO: Yeah. No, I think that’s a total — I think to place it that way is a complete illusion. There is nothing Bush has done that the democrats didn’t support him in, and make possible. The democrats is what makes a Bush possible. By people arguing to vote democrat is what makes Bush be able to win. That is, Bush is not a byproduct of some special circumstance. He’s a byproduct of this two-party system and what the democrats do. They set it up. When the republicans want to cut wages 10%, they demand 20 and the democrats step in and say, “Oh no, we’re pro-labor, we’ll make it 10%.” The platform is defined by the republicans. The job of the democrats is to find out how to implement it and continue to have the public support the government.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to the vice presidential debate, go back there to the candidates, John Edwards and Dick Cheney, debating over the issue of jobs.

JOHN EDWARDS: Here’s what’s happened: In the time that they have been in office, in the last four years, 1.6 million private sector jobs have been lost, 2.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost. And it’s had real consequences in places like Cleveland. Cleveland is a wonderful, distinguished city that’s done a lot of great things, but it has the highest poverty rate in the country. One out of almost two children in Cleveland are now living in poverty. During the time that the vice president and the president have been in office, 4 million more Americans have fallen into poverty. During the time that the vice president and the president have been in office, 4 million more Americans have fallen into poverty. And what the most striking and startling thing is, they are the first presidency in 70 years — and I’m talking Democrats, Republicans, presidents who led us through World War, through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Cold War — every one of them created jobs until this president. We have to do better. We have a plan. We’re going to get rid of tax cuts — by the way, they’re for outsourcing jobs. I want to make sure people hear that, the fundamental difference with us. The administration says over and over that the outsourcing of millions of American jobs is good. We’re against it. We want to get rid of tax cuts for companies sending jobs overseas. We want to balance this budget, get back to fiscal responsibility. And we want to invest in the creative, innovative jobs of the future.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

DICK CHENEY: Gwen, we’ve got 111 million American taxpayers that have benefited from our income tax cuts. We’ve got 33 million students who’ve benefited from No Child Left Behind. We’ve got 40 million seniors who benefited from the reform of the Medicare system. The Democrats promised prescription drug benefits. For years they’ve run on that platform. They never got it done. The president got it done. We also dropped 5 million people totally off the federal income tax rolls, so they no longer have to pay any federal income tax at all. So the story, I think, is a good one. And the data he’s using is old data. It’s from 2003. It doesn’t include any of the gains that we’ve made in the last years. We’ve added 1.7 million jobs to the economy.

AMY GOODMAN: Dick Cheney and John Edwards. Well, let’s get response from Richard Campagna. How would you create jobs in this country, Libertarian Party candidate?

RICHARD CAMPAGNA: Well, I guess I would just like to say first that that set of responses, similar to the set of responses on health care and virtually all of the issues again from my perspective, from our perspective, are too staged, too manipulated, same results, same not workable results from the same traditional approach. I literally don’t hear any real, sincere or programmatic difference between those two parties. And I go back to the libertarian approach and style and philosophy of all of these. We need a more constitutional, a more individualized bottom-up approach to each and every one of the domestic and in fact foreign policy issues that we’re saving. The answer is not to push up the solutions, whether it be job creation or health care augmentation or whatever. It has to be a bottom-up approach, whereby individual, community, private associations, in certain instances, municipal government and then state governments work on these choices, which are essentially individual and community and familial in nature.

AMY GOODMAN: Pat LaMarche, your response, Green Party vice presidential candidate.

PAT LAMARCHE: You almost have to have a universal translator to listen to this debate. 5 million people dropped out of the income tax rolls mean 5 million more people in poverty. That’s how you get off the income tax rolls. You are too poor to pay taxes. So that’s just totally absurd and it angers me so to listen to that sort of garbage. The No Child Left Behind Act is a racist and classist attempt at the Bush administration to provide education, which education would be the way to provide jobs in this country. The G.I. bill was the best investment we ever made and that’s where we educated the returning soldiers and they turned around getting much better jobs and paying much higher taxes and we made all our money back. The number one beneficiary for income in this country has been unearned income earners. Halliburton is a big example, but every huge, really wealthy individual who supported Bush becoming president of the United States has made the big benefit here.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Camejo, your response, and please also include just for five seconds what would you do in Iraq, a very quick answer.

PETER CAMEJO: Get out. Like we finally got out of Vietnam. We should get out of Iraq. We’re there illegally occupying a foreign nation against the will of their people.

AMY GOODMAN: Pat LaMarche, what would you do?


AMY GOODMAN: And Richard Campagna.

RICHARD CAMPAGNA: Get out and redefine our vision, world view of foreign policy, but get out safely and soundly from Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: We end on that common ground. Pat LaMarche of the Green Party; Peter Camejo, Ralph Nader’s vice presidential candidate; and Richard Campagna, Libertarian Party candidate for vice president.

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