I’ve known Jill Stein for years. I knew weeks ago that the Senate “Intelligence” Committee was coming after her. I set up this petition to put reasonable limits on Russiagate. But I’ve not heard from Jill, nor had any secret communication from my good friend Vladimir, nor any such nonsense. I criticize the Russian and U.S. governments as they deserve it. Nearly three years ago, Russia tried to secretly hire me to spread its propaganda, and I said no and blogged about it. Although this happened right on Capitol Hill, no Congressional Committee gave a rat’s rear about it. It wasn’t part of their agenda. When I go on Russian media I say the same thing as on U.S. media, though sometimes with a particular focus on criticizing Russia — a nation I’ve never been paid a dime by or worked for as a volunteer.
Why is the U.S. Congress going after Jill Stein? Because no law-enforcement agency could do so, since no probable cause exists to believe she has committed any crime. Neither is there probable cause to believe she engaged in the non-criminal action of shaping her policy platform based on anything she learned from anyone Russian. She went to a Russian media event, something I’ve always refused to do because of people’s fear of just this sort of witch hunt. But she paid her own way. She didn’t take a dime from the Russian government. She didn’t even demand that the Russian government help block a UN resolution on illegal Israeli settlements, as President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign did in order to undermine the position of the U.S. President — something the U.S. Congress seems unconcerned by. Nor did she cut any sort of deal with the Russian government whatsoever. She just attended a public event with a bunch of people who didn’t even speak the same language as each other.
Jill Stein ran the same sort of campaign with the same sort of platform that she had run in previous years, and that other Green Party candidates had run in years prior. She didn’t oppose bombing various countries or subsidizing fossil fuels or leaving people without health coverage because someone in Russia asked her to. She’d had the same positions for years. She didn’t oppose lesser evilism and believe the wisest electoral path to consist of running a better platform and voting your conscience because Putin gave her the idea. She’s thought that way for years.
The reason Jill Stein matters to Russiagate is that it has gone on for a year without finding any solid way to blame Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Donald Trump. The original goal had been to distract the media from the Democrats’ rigging of their primary, and to claim that Russia had stolen and leaked documents to WikiLeaks. Those documents should have been public, as they revealed major abuses of the U.S. electoral system. But there’s no evidence they decided the election, and — even after a year of digging — no evidence that Russia leaked them. And at this point, there’s not much chance such evidence will ever be found. So, what’s needed is a change of subject, a new way in which Russia — not Hillary! — is to blame for a U.S. electoral system corrupt in dozens of ways from the start and contentedly staying that way.
Lesser-evilists who blame “spoilers” would be all too happy to add “Russian collusion” to the rap sheet for Jill Stein, if only to finally justify having taught their kids the word “collusion.” But the idea is patently absurd, and zero evidence exists. However, Congress can harass anyone it chooses. Probably cause is not required.
The reason Jill Stein should matter, and what we should be telling the millions of people who will now hear of her for the first time, is that she entered the U.S. presidential race with a decent and humane policy platform, by no means perfect, but light years ahead of those of the two least popular duopolistic political parties since the invention of polling. In a system with open debates and ballot access and a ban on bribery, fair funding and air time, automatic registration, verifiable counting, election-day holiday, ranked-choice voting, etc., etc., a candidate with a decent platform could run and win. Jill Stein ran in part, I think, so that people would simply hear about such a platform. Hers was a platform dramatically superior to that even of Senator Bernie Sanders.
If you think free college is popular, you should see what young people think of free college and erasing all existing student debt.
If single-payer healthcare with raised taxes (but net savings, if you make it to that fine print) excites voters, how do you think they’d respond to single-payer healthcare with no raised taxes?
If fewer wars and asking Saudi Arabia to do more of the funding and fighting sounds promising, what would you say to no more wars, a 50 percent cut in the $1 trillion/year military spending, no more weapons sales to Saudi Arabia which is doing more than enough killing, thank you, no more free weapons for Israel either, and investment of some of the savings in a massive green energy jobs campaign producing a sustainable energy policy and a full-employment economy?
Senator Bernie Sanders’ domestic proposals got millions excited, but the (unfair and misleading) criticism that he would raise taxes may have been a tragic flaw, and it’s one he opened himself up to by refusing to say that he’d cut the military. Stein proposed to cut at least half of the single biggest item in the discretionary budget, an item that takes up at least half of that budget: military spending. She’d have cut fossil fuel subsidies, as well, and expected savings to come from healthcare, including as a result of cutting pollution and improving food quality. But the big immediate item was the military. Cutting it is popular with voters, but not with Democratic or Republican presidential candidates. Sanders was labeled the Tax Man by the corporate media, while Jill Stein would have had to be attacked in a different way if she ever got mentioned.
“Cutting the military budget is something that we can do right now,” Stein told me back during the campaign, “but we want to be clear that we are putting an end to wars for oil – period. And that is part of our core policy of a Green New Deal which creates an emergency program, establishing twenty million living wage jobs, full-time jobs, to green the economy, our energy, food, and transportation systems, building critical infrastructure, restoring ecosystems, etc. This is an emergency program that will get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. So this is a war-time-level mobilization in order to completely detoxify our energy system, and that means both nuclear and fossil fuel. In doing that, we deprive the empire of this major justification for wars and bases all around the world. So we want to be clear that that emphasis is gone, and goading the American public into war so as to feed our fossil fuel energy system – that ends and makes all the more essential and possible the major cutting of the military budget.”
Which 50 percent of the military would Stein cut? Two places she named that she would start with (there would have to be much more) are foreign bases (she’d close them) and the U.S. nuclear weapons program.
Would she unilaterally scrap U.S. nukes? I asked.
“We don’t even need to do it unilaterally,” Stein said, “because the Russians have been begging to revive the process of nuclear disarmament, which the U.S., in its wisdom, undercut. … The Russians have been persistently trying to restore those nuclear talks for the purpose of disarmament. And that would be step one – is to make major reductions between the U.S. and Russia and then to convene a world forum to put an end to nuclear weapons altogether.”
Those Russian positions were public, not secret.
The “war on terror,” Stein pointed out, has only created more terror, while costing each U.S. household $75,000. “That’s not going to make people terribly enthusiastic for it, particularly when you point out that all this has done is create failed states, worse terrorist threat, whether you look at the Taliban, the globalization of al-Qaeda, the creation of ISIS. This has been an utter, unmitigated disaster, and the massive refugee crisis which is threatening to tear apart the European Union. This is absolutely unsustainable by any count.”
To change U.S. foreign policy, Stein proposed financial reforms unheard of in any presidential debate. She suggested that military and other government contractors should face “pay to play protections” preventing them from “buying their way into policy.” Stein explained: “If you establish that anyone who contributes, who provides campaign contributions, or who lobbies is not eligible for contracting with the government, the minute you break that umbilical cord, then the industry loses its power to corral Congress and dictate foreign policy.” Stein said such protections could also block U.S. government facilitation of weapons sales to foreign buyers.
That position is sure to endear Stein to Senatorial Inquisitors.
“War profiteering should not be allowed,” Stein explained, “in the same way that energy profiteering is not compatible with our survival.” Ultimately, the big profits, Stein said, are in healthcare: “We spend a trillion dollars plus on the military industrial complex every year, but we spend three trillion and counting every year on the sick care system, which doesn’t make us well. It just enables us to tread water while we cope with these disastrous health impacts of the war economy and the fossil fuel economy.”
Stein did not hesitate to highlight differences when I asked her about Bernie Sanders. She cited his “support, for example, for the F-35 weapons system which has been an incredible boondoggle.” While Sanders would keep killing with drones and “fighting terrorism,” Stein called “fighting terrorism” an oxymoron and pointed to counterproductive results: “Terrorism is a response to drones that sneak up on you in the night and to night raids and this is where we recruit and we enable ISIS and al-Qaeda to continue expanding … something Bernie hasn’t quite gotten straight by saying the solution here is to turn the Saudis loose; the Saudi’s need to ‘get their hands dirty’.”
“We can actually begin to rein in the Saudis with a weapons embargo and by impounding their bank accounts,” Stein said, outlining a policy that could have saved countless lives now lost in Yemen.
The same goes for Israel, she added, stressing the need to respect the law. Should the United States join the International Criminal Court, I asked. “Oh, my god, of course!” was Stein’s reply. “And the treaty on land mines?” “Of course! My god. Yes. … There are all sorts of treaties that are ready to move forward. In fact the Soviets and the Chinese have been prime movers in expansion of treaties to prohibit weapons in space and to establish the rule of law in cyberspace.”
So, what would President Jill Stein do about ISIS? She answered that question with no hesitation: “Number 1: we don’t stop ISIS by doing more of what created ISIS. This is like the elephant in the room that none of the other presidential candidates are willing to acknowledge, even Rand Paul, I might say, surprisingly. So we don’t bomb ISIS and try to shoot ISIS out. We’ve got to stop ISIS in its tracks by ending the funding of ISIS and by ending the arming of ISIS. How do we do that? We do that with a weapons embargo. And so the U.S. can unilaterally move forward on that, but we need to sit down and talk with the Russians as well, and Putin tried to do this.
“You know, Putin, our arch enemy Putin, was actually trying to create a peace process in Syria. … We need to begin talking with Russia and with other countries.”
What Stein was proposing here, I should note, stands in stark contrast to Russia’s actual approach of bombing Syria.
“We need to build on our relative détente with Iran to engage them, and we need to bring our allies into the process. Right now, the peace process, as I understand it, is held up by, guess who — Saudi Arabia, who wants to bring in known terrorist groups as the representatives of the opposition. The Saudis should not be defining the way forward here … Our ally Turkey needs to understand that their membership in NATO or their position with the U.S. and other allies around the world should not be taken for granted, and that they cannot be in the business either of funding ISIS and related groups through the purchase of their oil [or of] shipping weapons. They also need to close down their border to the movement of the militias.”
Stein was sounding an awful lot like the leader of the Labour Party in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, and I asked her about him. “I have already met with Jeremy Corbyn,” she said, (Egad! Will there be hearings?!) “when I was in Paris for the climate talks, … and we had a surprising amount of time to talk and we agreed completely on collaborating on this ‘peace offensive,’ which is the name we have given to our solution to the problem of ISIS. Peace is not passive. We need an active, interventionist program based on peace which means to stop the flow or arms and money, etc. So, we’ve already agreed that we see eye-to-eye on foreign policy.”
But Corbyn is in office with a shot at becoming prime minister. With the U.S. public completely sold on the hopelessness of third-party bids, at least by non-multi-billionaires, what was Stein’s plan for actually becoming president?
“First of all,” she said, “there are 43 million young people and not-so-young people who are trapped in debt, in student debt. My campaign is the only campaign that will be on the ballot that will abolish student debt. We did it for the bankers who plunged us into this economic crisis that persists in spite of what they say. And they did that by way of their waste, fraud, and abuse. Yet we bailed them out to the tune of $16 trillion and counting.
“So, isn’t it about time we bail out the victims of that waste, fraud, and abuse — the young people of this country whose leadership and whose civic engagement is essential for blazing the trail to our future? It has always required a fresh generation to re-envision, you know, what our future looks like. So, we need to bail out the young people, for their benefit and for ours. That can be done through another quantitative easing which is relatively simple, does not cost us, essentially expands the money supply in a way that works as a stimulus to the economy, unlike the bailout that they provided to Wall Street which has only created a stimulus for more reckless gambling – waste, fraud, and abuse. … I have yet to find a young person in debt who doesn’t become a missionary for our campaign the minute they learn that we will cancel their debt. … The 43 million young people – that is a plurality of the vote. In a three-way race, that’s enough to win the vote.”
Stein also pointed to 25 million Latinos who, she said, “have learned that the Democrats are the party of deportation, of night raids, and of detention, of refugees who are fleeing a crisis in their home countries that we created. How? Through NAFTA, though illegal coups and CIA-sponsored regime changes, and through the drug wars. … If people want to fix the immigration problem, the answer is, ‘Stop causing it.’”
But would Stein be in the debates for the general election? “In my experience,” she told me, “all you have to do is have a real conversation, have an open mic, a true presidential debate that actually allows presidential candidates to debate who have broad enough support that they are on the ballot for a majority of Americans and could numerically win the election. We are challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates in court and we will be challenging them soon with a direct action campaign, so stay tuned, because the American public deserves to know about the issues. The American public deserves the right to vote. And they have a right to know who they can vote for and what they are voting about.”