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Wake Up To Politics - September 12, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016
57 Days Until Election Day 2016 (AKA my 15th birthday)
14 Days Until the First Presidential DebateI'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!

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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Green Party nominee Jill Stein

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein campaigned in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, urging supporters to buck the two-party system and vote for her in November. After a rally at the 2720 Cherokee Performing Arts Center, Stein sat for an interview with Wake Up To Politics and other media outlets covering the event.

In the interview, which was held in a dimly-lit backroom at the rally’s venue, Stein expanded on her Green New Deal and her chances in the upcoming election, while painting a dark – yet optimistic – picture of how she views the world to come. “The basic idea of the Green New Deal,” Stein explained, “is that we have an economic emergency and we have a climate emergency, and the only way we can solve them is together.” Stein mapped out the future the Green New Deal would bring, claiming that it would cement “a job as a human right,” creating 20 million jobs at a minimum of $15 an hour.

Where do all the new jobs come from? That’s where Stein marries unemployment and climate change as two problems with a shared solution. “These are jobs in green energy and healthy, sustainable food production and in public transportation, and also in restoring our ecosystems,” she told the gathered reporters Saturday. “It’s a broad variety of jobs, but especially where we need it, so that we can survive the climate crisis that’s coming at us.” Stein said that, fully implemented, her plan would improve an array of problems facing our country, just as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal lifted America out of the Great Depression as he fought World War II and enacted changes to health care that last to this day. The Green New Deal would “revive our economy, push back against catastrophic climate change, make wars for oil obsolete,” and as a result, she says, “our health massively improves, because fossil fuels are a health crisis unto themselves, so we save so much money by improving our health.”

According to Stein, “that alone is actually enough to pay the cost of the green energy transition.” The funding for green jobs would then be put by the federal governments “in the hands of communities, so meeting social needs is also critical, and ensuring racial justice is also critical,” she said. Stein also clarified that “the money would be appropriated to the communities with greatest need first, which are largely communities of color that have the highest rates of unemployment, so those are sort of the first to benefit, are those with greatest need, and it also provides really for community autonomy. The community gets to decide, through a participatory process, so that it’s not decided by the big-money contributes, it's not a pay-to-play process.”

“This is not about creating a green corporate economy,” Stein adds, laying out her vision for the economy of the future: “It’s about creating an economic democracy that is basically driven at the community level, and that way the profit that's generated stays in community and gets recirculated and helps create more jobs and more community wealth.”

Meanwhile, student loans are the other key stimulus package in the Green Party platform. If Stein is elected President, she would pressure Congress to authorize the assumption or paying of $1.5 trillion in student loans for young Americans. “There’s no better investment,” Stein insisted. “How exactly are we going to create a working economy when an entire generation is held hostage by debt, doesn’t have a place to live, is working two or three part-time, low-wage jobs? That does not create a viable economy, so we need to link together this liberation of the younger generation together with the recreation of a productive economy,” she continued.

“It’s always taken a younger generation to remake the economy of the future,” she says. “We need them to do that right now, and they deserve our investments.” While Stein believes that “there’s no doubt that this would repay itself many times over,” she also outlined where the money would come from in the short-term: a 50% cut in military spending; a focus on a health foods system, so health care costs go down; a tax on Wall Street transactions (“It’s basically a sales tax. “Every other sector of the economy pays it, why not the most profitable sector? They need to be kicking in too.”).

Despite a Green Party lawmaker never having served in Congress, Stein believes her election as President would require a “groundswell” that would also elect dozens of the party’s down-ballot members. Joined by “progressives, whether they’re Democrats or principled Republicans…liberated by having a president that belongs to neither party,” Stein believes she could pass her legislation if she is sent to the Oval Office. “To some extent, I would function like an Independent,” she says, pointing to Independent governors who have served across the country.

That is, of course, if Stein can manage to get elected. She currently polls between two to four percent nationally, far behind the three other main candidates for President, but well ahead of the Green Party’s record of 2.74%, set by Ralph Nader in 2000. Stein herself won just 0.36% of the vote as the party’s nominee in 2012. In Missouri, where she was visiting Saturday, Stein averages at just 1.7% in the polls, according to RealClearPolitics.

But she believes there is room for a third party on the national stage, pointing to the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln – when Lincoln’s Republican Party was not yet a major political party – as proof. “At times of great social transition, we have seen the election of independent third parties, including Abraham Lincoln, who was a member of an independent, third party at the time of the evolution of slavery, and that party came into power on the momentum of that social transformation,” Stein points out, comparing the present-day struggles in America to the fight over slavery of Lincoln’s day. “We are in a similar crisis situation right now, looking at climate, looking at the condition of workers, looking at the ongoing struggle for human rights and justice for people of color and for immigrants, so there is the makings of a powerful social transformation right now, and we could see a similar outcome.

The Massachusetts physician views the economic and climate situations as her path to success, and believes her challenge lies in convincing voters not just to look at those situations in the same way she does (as impending crises) but to convince them to look at those issues at all. “When people get what’s going on, boy do they get mobilized quick, and right now, for a whole lot of reasons, people are sort of poisoned against it, they don’t look at it,” she said. Stein recounted her own “rude awakening” in 2008, when she was already an activist and candidate with “a political mission, but…not about the climate.” The now-climate crusader said it was then she “happened to pick up an article in the Scientific American, which was this report from Greenland, and it just changed my life on a dime to actually see what was happening.”

Stein may rail against “political operatives and corporate pundits,” as she calls them, but they agree on at least one front: the key to spreading her message to a wider audience is the upcoming presidential debates. Despite the requirement to reach 15% in polling averages ahead of the first debate two weeks away, “I don’t think it’s a done deal at all,” she said. Stein says her experience as a gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts shows that once she reaches the debate stage, voters will realize she is their preferred candidate.

“I came out of being a health care provider, so I used to think we had to go out and change people’s minds, and then I actually got into a televised debate. I was running for governor at the time. I got into a televised debate, and just said what I usually said, which went over like a lead balloon in front of the candidates and the moderator,” Stein explained, “but when we walked out of the TV studio, I was mobbed by the press, who told me I had won the debate on the instant online-viewer poll…I had a complete epiphany at that time, because I had always thought that this was marginal stuff, and what I learned when I actually got to the microphone, was that people actually agree with us. It’s just that they haven't quite had the luxury and the time to research the solutions and how we’re going to pull this off.”

And if the Commission on Presidential Debates doesn’t let her onto the debate stage with major-party nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (as appears likely), there’s always a Plan B: a debate between her and Libertarian Gary Johnson, who is also expected to be denied a podium. Stein said that Democracy Now, RT, The Young Turks, and other news outlets have offered to host a debate between the third parties. However, when Wake Up To Politics informed her that Independent candidate Evan McMullin had challenged her and Johnson to a debate, Stein responded with surprise: “Oh cool,” she said. “Great, I didn’t hear about that.”

In addition to being kept out of the primetime debates, Stein faces criticism over a number of controversial remarks she has made on the campaign trail. The Harvard Medical School graduate has been called “anti-science” by some commentators, after telling The Washington Post in July that they are “real questions” over the side-effects of vaccines and a March speech where she proclaimed that “we should not be subjecting kids’ brains” to wireless Internet. Stein again provoked controversy on Friday, when she was widely mocked on the day before her St. Louis stop for proposing a “new inquiry” into 9/11, ahead of the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sunday.

Stein defended herself in response to Wake Up To Politics questions on these issues. “I think this is a question for science to decide, and not for corporate interests to decide,” she said, clarifying her position on Wi-Fi in schools. Stein continued, saying that the classrooms with younger students in many European countries don’t have wireless Internet, deciding that the children “shouldn't be routinely exposed to Wi-Fi for long periods of time.” Stein also cited a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study showing Wi-Fi’s effects on the brains of animals. “This is what our regulatory agencies are supposed to do, is figure this stuff out [and] not be afraid of asking questions,” she said.

Asked about her Friday statement on 9/11, Stein said that not only is an investigation needed to look into what happened on that day – “There’s been a whole book written by members of the 9/11 Commission about what got left out,” she said. “We have these 20 redacted pages that were released that raise continuing questions about the role of the Saudis.” – but also into the days and years after the attacks. “We need to be clear about going forward that our policies coming out of 9/11 have been an utter disaster…Every group that we have fought as a terrorist group is resurgent and is stronger than ever for having been fought by us, because we’re they’re best recruiting agent possible,” Stein said. “So going forward, we need a very different policy, and we also need to understand who was involved in the funding and the training and the planning of 9/11.”

Stein is not always pessimistic - she says "we can use this emergency as a springboard into a more just, sustainable, healthy economy that is within our reach right now" - but she largely paints this election as a life-or-death decision. "This election is not just about what kind of a world we're gonna have," she said Saturday. "It's about whether we're gonna have a world or not going forward."

It provides the stick, the fear of God, and it provides the carrot, understanding how great we can remake the world right now.  

Need to Know

  • Hillary Clinton Cancels Schedule After Health Scare at 9/11 Memorial After weeks of Donald Trump and his right-wing allies whispering about Hillary Clinton's health and questioning her "stamina," Clinton seemed to confirm the rumors Sunday. At a Ground Zero ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, attended by both major-party nominees, Clinton left earlier than expected - with reports and video soon emerging showing her struggling to get into her motorcade.
  • Her campaign did not comment on the early exit at first, leaving Clinton's press pool in the dark as to the reason behind her departure. After those reports began to swirl around, campaign spokesperson Nick Merrill released a statement announcing that the Democratic nominee had "felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter's apartment, and is feeling much better."
  • Later, however, the campaign signaled that it more than that, releasing a statement by Clinton's doctor Lisa Bardack. "Secretary Clinton has been experiencing a cough related to allergies," Dr. Bardack said. "On Friday, during follow up evaluation of her prolonged cough, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule. While at this morning's event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely."
  • Clinton's health issues, whether or not she is recovering, reinforces a number of criticisms of her campaign. As one of the oldest presidential nominees in American history, Sunday's events do raise questions over her health and preparedness for a rigorous campaign schedule, while confirming the whispers of Trump and his allies. However, the health issues also raise questions of transparency: if not for the public exit Sunday, would the campaign have informed the public of Clinton's pneumonia? Probably not, which is why many are calling for both candidates to release full medical records. In addition, calls for the nominees to allow protective pools - where reporters follow the candidates everywhere they go - have been renewed, considering the time that elapsed between her exit and the campaign's statement.
  • Clinton has canceled her events for today and Tuesday as her recovery continues. While her rival Donald Trump may be older than her, Clinton's two days out of the public eye will only reinforce the belief that he is more vigorous and active than her: Trump has two public events and a fundraiser today, all in different states.

Politics Planner

All times Eastern.

  • White House 11:15am Vice President Joe Biden will speak at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina today, addressing an event "highlighting the Administration's investments to support community colleges and businesses that are working together to create pathways to the middle class," according to WBTV.
  • After the event, Biden will speak at a lunchtime fundraiser in Fort Mill, South Carolina for former aide Fran Person's campaign against three-term Rep. Micl Mulvaney (R-SC). Person started working for Biden in 2006, in his U.S. Senate office, moving to the White House with him and serving under the vice president until 2014.
  • 4:10pm President Obama will meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at the White House to discuss their "fall legislative priorities," according to C-SPAN's Craig Caplan. While a spending bill will top the agenda (government funding runs out on Sept. 30), the President is also expected to voice his frustrations over Congress' slow consideration of his Supreme Court nominee and Zika funding plan.
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For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.