Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Shouting match at Texas Libertarian debate

by George J. Dance

April 11, 2016 - The April 8 Libertarian Party of Texas presidential candidates' debate briefly turned into a shouting match, after Libertarian Republic website owner Austin Petersen called former Governor Gary Johnson a "defeatist" and warned the delegates: "Do not nominate this man."

Petersen, Johnson, and the other candidates were responding to a question about the nationally televised presidential debates in the fall, which the Republicans and Democrats monopolize through their bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

Petersen used his reply to assail the Libertarian Party of Colorado, which had refused to officially invite him to its debate due to his opposition to the party's Statement of Principles: "When the state of Colorado decided that they would not invite me to their forum, specifically because they were afraid of what I had to say in their forum, we drove 18 hours that night, straight to Colorado, to give them a piece of our mind, to tell them about liberty and free speech, and to say what that really means.

"So, if you think that, when the presidential debates come around, that I'm going to slink away, even if they don't invite us, even if we don't make the high percentage, you've got another think coming: I will be there. I will be there," he added, to applause.

Petersen went on to say: "Governor Johnson has stated that there is no way a Libertarian wins the White House unless they get into the debates. What kind of attitude is that?" Johnson interrupted, "It's true!", but Petersen continued: "We've got to be champions. Listen: Why not drop out if you don't get into the debates? Because they're not going to let you in, Governor! You need a champion. I'm the Freedom Ninja, and I will fight for liberty, just like I have every day for ten years!"

After more applause, Petersen summed up: "This is a defeatist attitude: He is a defeatist. Do not nominate this man. Nominate the man who will fight for you till the very end.... Do not give in to defeatism: Fight! Do not give in!"

Next up was Johnson, who responded: "No one works harder than I have, having run for Governor twice and having been the Libertarian nominee in 2012. I will tell you, though, that what experience brings to the table, is: I don't do the things that don't work. I still work as hard, but I don't do the things that didn't work, and that was something that I learned through experience. There is no way that a third party wins if they're not in the presidential debates. I am suing the Presidential Debate Commission to bring that about." That earned a 15-second ovation

"And last week I polled at 11% in a national poll," Johnson continued. "That has never happened before, that my name has been included in this. Now, let me tell you: When it comes to the presidential debates, as the rules now stand, you have to be at 15% to be in the presidential debates. Do you think they're going to state that 'You can't be in the presidential debates' tomorrow, and I'm going to give up? Hell, no! They're going to state that maybe two, three weeks before the election. So this is a No-Give-Up the whole time. And if you think I'm going to give up, then vote for Austin!" More applause.

Petersen began replying, "Let me tell you something–," but was cut off by the moderators, who wished to move on to the next candidate, Shawna Sterling. Several minutes of confusion ensued, with moderator Jax Finkel insisting, "Mr. Petersen, you had your say; thank you very much," Petersen yelling, "No! No! No, no, no!", "Wait a minute, guys!", and "I was pressed! I was addressed!", and Finkel responding, "That's not in our debate rules; thank you." Petersen invoked Ronald Reagan's famous line: "I paid for this microphone." Other candidates then jumped in, with John McAfee telling the moderators, "He was addressed," and Marc Feldman telling Petersen to "show some respect and put down the microphone, and let Shawna speak."

When Sterling finally got to speak, she related her own experience of being excluded from a televised debate in Kentucky and suing, concluding that "the only way to beat them is to beat them in court. Johnson is doing the right thing.... Let them know: we're not going to stop, we're going to fight you, we're not going to let you put us down, and we're going to get ourselves into the debate, however and whatever it's going to take."

Petersen later wrote, on Facebook, that he had wanted to "ask Gary" whether the 2012 nominee would drop out if he were excluded from the debate, or "will you continue to fundraise for your lost cause."

Petersen has been attacking Johnson repeatedly through the state Libertarian debates, accusing the former Governor of "fear-mongering" about Sharia Law, berating him for not standing up for the right of the seriously mentally ill to bear arms, and successfully reframing one debate answer by Johnson, about whether businesses could refuse to serve gays, into a statement that Jewish bakers should be forced to bake Nazi cakes.

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