For domestic politics, refer to the foreign bureau


This is decreasingly surprising, but Al Jazeera is picking up where the more traditional American news organizations are failing. In this case, I’m referring to our third-party presidential candidates — I know! Can you believe we have those? — and the debate they held last night in Chicago:

Tuesday’s debate was hosted by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, a group promoting a more open electoral process, and moderated by talk show host Larry King.

“It’s a two-party system, but not a two-party system by law,” King said. Obama and Romney were also invited, but declined to attend.

The participants included former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, former Virginia congressman Virgil Goode, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who ran against Romney in Massachusetts in 2002.

When asked about the Pentagon’s budget, during the debate, all four candidates agreed that military spending should be cut. Goode was perhaps the most circumspect; the other candidates called for big cuts.

For instance, Johnson said military spending should be cut by 43 per cent.

Goode, who voted to authorise the war in Iraq in 2003, said: “If I’m elected president … part of the cuts have to be in the Deparmtent of Defence. We cannot do as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan suggest. I support a strong defence but we need to retrench rather than being the policeman of the world.”

In response, Johnson said: “The biggest threat to our national security is the fact that we’re bankrupt.” He supports a 43 per cent reduction in military spending – 2003 spending levels, he pointed out.

Stein, the Green Party nominee, said: “A foreign policy based on militarism … is making us less secure, not more secure. We need to cut the budget and bring the troops home.”

I have to say, I really like the tenor of these statements, even if I’m not personally persuaded yet that, say, a 43% military budget reduction is exactly what we need to do at the moment. (I’m not a priori against it, either. But 43% is a very big number.)

It’s truly a shame that the only networks to broadcast the event live were Al Jazeera and Russia Today.