It’s not a debate. It’s a forum. But NBC News is bragging that it will have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the air and “on the same stage” September 7 in New York. Of course, being “on the same stage” hardly matters if it’s at different times. It’s being called a “Commander-in-Chief Forum,” and the audience will be the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Servicepeople will be allowed to ask questions of the candidates, but their main question is, why isn’t the candidate they really want—Gary Johnson—going to be included?


IAVA made the announcement August 18.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will host both major party presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, for a live televised primetime forum to focus exclusively on issues the next president will have to confront as Commander-in-Chief. . .

“IAVA is proud to lead this historic event for our veterans community and all Americans,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of IAVA. “On the cusp of the 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, New York is a fitting stage to give voice to American veterans and service members that are all too often shut out of our political debate. IAVA members world-wide, 93% of whom say they’ll be voting in November, and many deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, are ready to hear from the candidates and hold them accountable. IAVA is honored to join with NBC on this significant event that will ensure that America’s next Commander-in-Chief, at least for one night, addresses our nation’s moral obligation to support and empower its 22 million veterans, our servicemembers and our military families.”

Of course, this year, politics is the new entertainment, so Variety says it’s another way for the media to get into the act.

NBC and MSNBC will simulcast a primetime forum featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump answering questions about national security and the military, in yet another example of TV-news outlets testing different methods to present Presidential candidates at a time of extreme viewer interest in politics.

Three debates involving the candidates and one involving candidate for Vice President are set for the weeks ahead by The Commission on Presidential Debates. Those events, however, are open to all media and it is expected that all major broadcast and cable news networks will broadcast them, along with C-SPAN, the public-affairs cable outlet. By aligning itself with the non-profit veterans; group, NBC News and MSNBC are able to broadcast an event featuring Clinton and Trump limited to their own air.

As we noted elsewhere here, a poll shows that Libertarian Gary Johnson is the candidate of choice for active military personnel. (Also see the Reason quote below.) So it’s not surprising that servicepeople are objecting to the two-candidate forum format, according to Military Times.

A small but vocal contingent of military veterans is lobbying one of the nation’s largest advocacy groups to invite Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson to its nationally televised forum with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. . .

Johnson, who served as New Mexico’s governor from 1995 to 2003, has become a source of intrigue during an election season in which many potential voters say they are unhappy with the major party choices. Recent national polls show Johnson receiving between 9 and 12 percent of the vote come November, and his popularity is surging among active-duty military personnel and those who’ve served since 9/11, according to Dylan Milroy, a Marine Corps veteran who is leading the cause to have Johnson added to IAVA’s Commander-in-Chief Forum.

“I would understand,” Milroy said, “if Johnson was on just 30 or 40 state ballots and had no experience or chance of winning. But that is not the case.”

Johnson, he added, “is the only candidate with a sane foreign and intervention policy. There is nothing American about these massive government policies and programs that the Clintons want to fund with trillions of more tax dollars. There is also nothing American or honorable about Trump wanting to carpet bomb anyone that throws a pebble at our boots.”. . .

A spokesman for IAVA said the organization is looking into the issue but declined to address additional questions.

Not surprisingly, Libertarians are also pushing to have Johnson included, according to Libertarian source, Reason.

Including Johnson in the forum would present an undeniable foreign policy alternative to the major party candidates, who at their recent respective political conventions did their best to outdo each other on selling the virtues of how hawkish their administrations would be. Trump and Clinton would be forced to explain to an audience loaded with service-people who have suffered through repeatedly failed military interventions why they — and not the non-interventionist Johnson — truly have their best interests at heart.

A recent unscientific poll of over 3,000 active military members conducted by Doctrine Man found Johnson trouncing the two “serious” candidates, with Johnson polling at 38.7 percent, Trump coming in at 30.9 percent, with Clinton bringing up the rear with 14.1 percent, according to The Hill.

It also appears that the military, much like the rest of the American voting populace, is completely turned off by both major party candidates. A recent Military Times poll of 2,000 active service-people found 61 percent stating they were “dissatisfied or strongly dissatisfied” with the idea of Trump as president. For Clinton, the level of dissatisfaction jumps to 82 percent. That same poll indicated that 13 percent of those polled intended to vote for Johnson in November.

Why is Johnson being ignored? The Libertarian Republic says IAVA is hiding behind an irrelevant rationalization.

IAVA is not including the Libertarian candidate in this forum. Paul Rieckhoff, CEO/Founder of IAVA, issued a blanket statement to those who asked him about Gary Johnson on his Facebook page.

The historical standard for general election meetings between candidates is to include those who meet a threshold of 15 percent in five national polls leading up to debates and occupy enough spots on state ballots to chart a path to the White House. Currently, Gary Johnson does not clear this bar, but we will continue to monitor his candidacy.

While true that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) does require a candidate to reach 15% in the polls to be included in their debates, the IAVA Forum is not hosted by the CPD, and Mr. Rieckhoff does not have to play by their rules. If the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America truly cared about the people they represent, they would give a voice to their constituents’ top choice.

It’s probably too late to include Johnson now, since both the other candidates would have to agree, at this point. On the other hand, would either of them be willing to walk out and let the other two pitch active military, veterans, and all their families? Of course, those in the audience can certainly complain, and the forum would be the perfect time to do it.

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