On the campaign trail, September 2012

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The following is the eleventh in a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2012 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after a brief mention of some of the month's biggest stories.

In this month's edition on the campaign trail: Wikinews chronicles three of the lesser-known speakers at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, a controversial pastor and write-in candidate talks to Wikinews about the unrest in the Middle East, and the ballot-qualified American Third Position Party (A3P) presidential nominee travels to Iran to meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


September opened with the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the convention's first night, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivered the keynote address, the first Hispanic-American to do so. He discussed the communitarian spirit of the United States and reflected on how his mother "fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone." The speech was compared to Barack Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and garnered speculation that he would seek higher political office. First Lady Michelle Obama also spoke that night, discussing her husband on a personal level. On the second day, a ruckus ensued as Democrats moved to re-include "God" and support of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in the party's official platform after removal of the items drew criticism leading up to the convention. That night, women's health advocate Sandra Fluke and Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren each spoke before former President Bill Clinton took the stage to deliver a lengthy, policy-filled speech. In it, Clinton defended Obama's economic policies, arguing that no previous president, including himself, could have fostered complete recovery this soon in the same economic climate. He concluded that the election was ultimately a choice between the "winner-take-all, you're-on-your-own society" of the Republicans and the "we're-all-in-this-together society" of Obama. On the final night, Vice president Joe Biden spoke before President Obama addressed the convention to officially accept the party's nomination. In his acceptance speech, Obama asked voters to allow his administration to "finish what we started", arguing "it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades" and Republicans offer only policies that have previously failed.

Castro delivers the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Image: DemConvention2012.

Foreign policy emerged as a major campaign issue after the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya came under attack on September 11, resulting in the deaths of four Americans including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. Allegedly, the attacks were the result of protests against a YouTube video trailer for the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims, which the Obama administration condemned in the aftermath of the attacks. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized President Obama for the response, arguing he "was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions." An Obama spokesman expressed "shock" at Romney's response, accusing him of "launch[ing] a political attack". Shortly thereafter, Romney also criticized Obama for being unable to find time to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama then had an hour-long phone conversation with Netanyahu. Later in the month, Netanyahu appeared before the United Nations General Assembly with a cartoon of a bomb, voiced his concerns that Iran would attain enough enriched uranium to make a bomb by the summer of 2013, and called on the world to act. Obama and Romney each spoke with Netanyahu. Each candidate expressed similar sentiment in favor of further sanctions against Iran.

In mid-September, Romney received negative publicity after the magazine Mother Jones released a video of a fundraiser at which Romney alleged, "there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what ... [because they] are dependent upon government". He then said his "job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Romney's running mate Paul Ryan distanced himself from the remarks, which he labeled as "inelegant". Obama remarked in response, "We don't want an inside job in Washington, we want change in Washington...It can't happen if you write off half the nation before you even took office." The Romney campaign hoped to shift focus from the video to newly-emerged 1998 footage of Obama in which he advocates redistribution of wealth. Additionally, Romney released his 2011 tax returns, as promised earlier in the year. The returns showed he paid $1.95 million out of the $13.7 million he earned on investments. However, less positive news continued for the campaign as September came to a close. Paul Ryan received boos while discussing the proposed repeal of Obamacare during a speech before an AARP forum, which President Obama also addressed. Plus, Obama increased his lead in the polls with Gallup showing a six point Obama advantage, 50 percent to 44 percent in a September 26 poll, up from the 46 percent to 46 percent tie prior to the publication of the Romney video.

Nevertheless, Obama was not the only candidate rising in the polls at the end of September. Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, rose to six percent support in a late September Reason-Rupe poll, up from the 4.3 percent showing earlier in a JZ Analytics poll. The Johnson campaign also increased activity. With the presidential debates looming, the campaign filed suit against the Commission for Presidential Debates, alleging anti-trust practices for denying access to third party candidates. With many polls still excluding Johnson at the end of September, Obama led Romney 48.7 to 44.6 in the September 30 RealClearPolitics polling average.

Lesser-known DNC speakers discuss their experience

While San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, women's health advocate Sandra Fluke, and Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren all formally introduced themselves to the national audience at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, they were not the only figures to do so. Small business owner Bill Butcher, firefighter Doug Stern, and mother Stacey Lihn were among the "everyday people" the party invited to address the convention and the nation. Wikinews reached out to these three to learn more about their DNC experience and the process of the convention.

Port City Brewing Company owner Bill Butcher.
Image: Bill Butcher.

Butcher, owner of Port City Brewing in Alexandria, Virginia, says he received the invitation after the Democratic Party found him online while searching for someone who had started a small business during the administration and benefited from its policies. Butcher was able to establish Port City Brewing after obtaining a loan through the SBA loan program, part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (The Stimulus).

In preparation for his speech, Butcher worked with Obama speechwriters and rehearsed the morning before. Though he admits to being nervous, he discovered that fellow speakers backstage felt similarly. To break the ice, Butcher opened his speech with a joke, apologizing to the audience for not handing out free beer. He then turned to policy, defending Obama as "a president who's on my side ... [who has] kept middle class taxes low...[and] has fought for small-business owners". According to Butcher, the speech was received positively, even among his Republican friends, who felt it "cool" that their buddy had addressed the DNC.

Fire fighter Doug Stern.
Image: Doug Stern.

Like Butcher, Stern, a firefighter and member of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), also received bipartisan praise for his speech. As a union advocate for the repeal of Ohio SB 5, which limited the collective bargaining rights of Ohio's public employees, Stern feels the party selected him due to his visibility. Because he received word of the invitation just days before the event, Stern did not have much time to prepare. Rather, he viewed YouTube videos of Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Ronald Reagan to find the right style for delivery. Nevertheless, according to Stern, the best input came from his twelve-year-old son, who advised him that delivering a DNC speech was not such a big deal, since "you give speeches all the time."

In the speech, Stern introduced himself as a former Republican, but held that as a member of the middle class and as a public employee, the "party left people like me." He applauded the Obama administration for continuing federal grants to fire fighters, and characterized Obama as someone who "respects middle-class workers like me and my family." Fellow fire fighters, including those of different political stripes, commended Stern on his remarks, and about a week after the speech, Stern met President Obama in Cincinnati, where he received congratulations. Despite the recognition from his peers and presidential praise, the reception of Stern's son was paramount. While watching a line from the speech replayed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the 12-year-old admitted to his father that despite his previous comments, speaking at the DNC was "pretty cool."

Stacey Lihn with her daughter Zoe at the Democratic National Convention.
Image: Caleb Lihn.

Similarly, for Lihn, the night held a special significance due to her family. Lihn, a mother of two daughters one of whom, Zoe, suffers from a congenital heart defect, previously worked with the Obama campaign in March to produce a video documenting how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had helped her family pay for her daughter's medical expenses. Looking for someone to discuss health care reform at the convention, the video's producer called Lihn and invited her to speak.

Like Butcher, she rehearsed her speech in the morning prior, finding this to be more emotional than the actual delivery itself. In the heartfelt speech delivered with her husband and daughter onstage, Lihn articulated her appreciation of Obamacare and the fear that the election of Mitt Romney and possible repeal of Obamacare would prevent needed care for her daughter. After the speech, Lihn embraced First Lady Michelle Obama in what she fondly recalls as "a genuine hug — mother to mother." Others appreciated the speech as well. Ed Pilkington of The Guardian wrote that it was not only "one of the most moving moments of the Democratic national convention ... [but] possibly of the entire 2012 presidential race".

For Lihn, despite the acclaim, she was simply speaking as one of many: "Our story is but one of thousands and I knew that, standing up on stage speaking, that I was speaking for all of the parents who've walked in my shoes. I felt the strength of the many babies born with Zoe's heart condition who weren't as fortunate as she and passed away before the age of two. I support the ACA [Affordable Care Act] and will continue to do so for those whose voices cannot be heard."

Wikinews interviews write-in candidate connected to Middle East turmoil

Pastor Terry Jones in March 2011.
Image: Mark Taylor.

Wikinews caught up with Dove World Outreach Center Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida. Jones, a write-in candidate for president, is best known for his anti-Islamic activism, which has sparked protests across the Muslim world.

Jones leads an anti-Islam march in Washington, DC.
Image: Mark Taylor.

Jones first gained notice in 2010, after threatening to burn a Koran at Ground Zero on the ninth anniversary of the [[9/11 attacks}]]. The announcement prompted protests in the Middle East, causing President Obama to request that Jones not partake in the activity. He obliged, but later burned a Koran in March 2011, leading to violent protests in Afghanistan including an attack on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Mazar-i-Sharif, which killed at least 30 people.

Recently, Jones has received mention for promoting the film Innocence of Muslims, whose trailer allegedly inflamed riots in Egypt and Libya on September 11 due to its portrayal of Muhammad. During the riots, the American embassies in the two nations were breached, leading to the deaths of four Americans in Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Jones told The Daily Caller he had remained in contact with the film's director Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who was jailed September 28 on charges of violating probation. Jones's involvement with the film has led to warrants for his arrest in Egypt, where authorities want to try him for insults to Islam, spreading lies, and harming national unity. Death is a possible penalty for such offenses. Nevertheless, Jones holds that Egypt "would definitely be better advised to put Muhammad on trial."

With Wikinews, Jones discusses ballot access, the Innocence of Muslims, and how he would handle the riots in Egypt and Libya as president.

((WSS)) In which states have you attempted to gain ballot access?

Pastor Jones: Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Alabama, Oregon, Iowa, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wyoming

((WSS)) What are your thoughts on the film trailer for the movie Innocence of Muslims? Should the filmmaker bear any responsibility for the anti-American protests across the Muslim world?

Pastor Jones: According to many Islamic experts that I have talked to, and the studies that I have done myself, the trailer is very accurate. Muhammad led a very perverted life and a very violent life. On his deathbed in 632, he gave the command to his followers to cleanse the Arabian Peninsula of all unbelievers. That is what Islam has been doing for the last fourteen hundred years, killing, murdering and raping anyone that dares to have a different opinion or follow a different religion.
Absolutely not. In fact, what we have done is we have again demonstrated that Islam in its roots, in its foundation is a violent religion. The Koran is a very violent book. It promotes violence. As I said, Muhammad led a very violent life. In the last ten years of his life he had seventy-eight raids on other villages where he killed innocent people, civilians. It was not even an act of war. It was simply genocide. It was simply the killing of anyone who disagreed with him. It is the time that America and the world stands up and sees the dangers of Islam, the dangers of radical Islam.
As far as we are concerned, as far as our efforts are concerned, we are going to continue to press forward. We are going to continue to raise an awareness of the dangers of radical Islam. The western world must stop appeasing Islam or Islam will continue its acts of terror.

((WSS)) What is your response to President Obama's reaction to the protests and attacks on the U.S. embassies? Was Governor Romney's criticism of that reaction appropriate? If you were president, how would you respond to the events?

Pastor Jones: President Obama is an absolute disaster. As president, he bears some of the responsibility for what is going on right now in the Islamic world. President Obama has shown himself to be pro-Islam, pro-Muslim Brotherhood. Since the Muslim Brotherhood has taken over in Egypt, situations for minorities and Christians have gotten much, much worse. We know that President Obama favors Islam. He appeases Islam. He has welcomed CAIR into the White House. CAIR is nothing more than a suit-and-tie terrorist organization. President Obama and his appeasing of Islam has only given them a green light, opened up the door for them to feel as though they can attack our embassies and feel that absolutely nothing will be done. Even now as he has spent $70,000 of American taxpayers' money to run ads in Pakistan appeasing the Islamic radical community, he definitely bears a responsibility.
Governor Romney, or anyone's criticism, of President Obama's presidency concerning Islam, his economic policies, and many of his policies whether it is immigration or same-sex marriage are indeed justified.
If I were president, my response would be much harsher to the Islamic community. I believe that we should close our embassies in Muslim and Koran controlled countries immediately. We should pull our people out of those countries. We in the west must realize that Islam is not compatible with western society. It is not compatible with western thinking because Islam is missing the basic elements of a free western society. Those elements are freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. Islam has continued to prove over and over and over again that it does not tolerate any criticism of Muhammad, the Koran, or Sharia. It has absolutely no tolerance of any other religion. Because of its past history and the past fruits of the religion, Islam and western society cannot coexist. This is why we should close all embassies in Koran and Islam controlled and dominated countries.

A3P nominee meets with the President of Iran

Filmmaker Merlin Miller, the presidential nominee of the American Third Position Party (A3P), attended a film festival in Tehran, Iran early in September, during which he spoke to an audience that included Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After the speech, Ahmadinejad invited Miller to a private meeting, which lasted about twenty minutes. This was the first time a U.S. presidential candidate met with Ahmadinejad, a controversial figure who has called for the dissolution of Israel, questioned the validity of the Holocaust, and spurred Iran's nuclear program, which the U.S. and Israel allege is not for peaceful purposes.

Merlin Miller shakes hands with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Image: Merlin Miller.

In contrast to such allegations, Miller tells Wikinews that his impression of Ahmadinejad was as "a humble man who deeply cares about promoting truths and the best for his people — including peace." During the meeting, he gave Ahmadinejad a copy of his 2001 film Jericho and his book Our Vision for America. According to Miller, Ahmadinejad wanted it to be communicated to the American people that "Globalists and Zionists falsely portray Iran, as they seek conflict between nations" and that Iran actually desires peace. Miller says that though Ahmadinejad probably did not know much about the specific A3P presidential campaign and platform, he was "aware of the how Zionist interests control our two major political parties" and "was intrigued that alternative voices in America are starting to challenge the injustices of our current political system and the propaganda of our mainstream media."

The A3P, which was founded in 2010, is among those "alternative voices". Its program calls for a tougher approach to crime, economic nationalism, higher education standards, environmentalism, strengthening of the family unit, a non-interventionist foreign policy, opposition to "third world" immigration, border security, and preservation of "white identity".

Critics such as the Southern Poverty Law Center accuse the A3P of being a white supremacist organization, a charge that Miller denies. Miller appeared on Iran's Press TV, and discussed the use of the term on his Wikipedia profile, which he claimed to have unsuccessfully attempted to change. He argued that the label likely stemmed from his "criticism of Zionism, of Jewish control of [the U.S.] media, [and] of [the U.S.] foreign policy, which is Israel first".

Miller and the A3P have attained ballot access in Tennessee, New Jersey, and Colorado, and have additionally qualified for write-in status in Maryland and West Virginia.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.