On August 3, CNN hosted their second Libertarian Town Hall with nominees Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. Although we have not seen these nominees in a primary debate, we thought the town halls should receive The Women’s Debate treatment and be analyzed for their coverage of women’s issues.

Our grade: F. In approximately 70 questions, only two questions were asked about issues that disproportionately affect women. One of these was about the right to choose, the other about prostitution. If we stick to our metric that the question not mention abortion or Planned Parenthood, the math adds up to just one question. As per usual, women’s issues in this election are defined by the narrowest terms.

The Questions

1. During the first town hall on CNN (June 22, 2016)

Governor Johnson, on your website, you state that a woman’s right to choose is the law of the land, and that if a woman wants to exercise that right, she should be able to do so without being subject to persecution or denied health care access. However, states like Texas continuously put laws in place that restrict abortion services, as well as clinics. As a Libertarian, what do you view as the federal government’s role in ensuring a woman’s right to choose in every state?

Watch it, and Governor Johnson’s answer, here. Review the full transcript here.

2. During the second town hall on CNN (August 3, 2016)

Hi, Gary. Embracing a Libertarian policy framework usually involves examining our society’s vices, and we hear a lot about the legalization of marijuana, but we don’t hear a lot about more hardline Libertarian positions such as the legalization of sex work in the United States. How do you — where do you fall on some of those more hard lined policies?

Watch it, and Governor Johnson’s answer, here. One could argue this question might not really qualify, since the question was only listed as an example of hard lined Libertarian policies. Review the full transcript here.

Seeing Double

While we noticed some repetitive patterns in the questions of the primary debates, the Libertarian town halls seemed to mirror each other more starkly. (Note: the repetition may just seem starker since it’s much easier to compare 70 questions than 700 questions). However, every opportunity to get to know a presidential nominee and his or her policy agendas is crucial, and more so when it’s a party that has been relatively ignored, and therefore untested. Early in the night, Governor Johnson mentioned his hope that they would be polling at 17% after the town hall, 2 percentage points over the minimum needed to participate in the official presidential debates. With that kind of exposure on a national stage, every minute and every question counts; undemanding questions that can’t elicit substantive policy answers waste space that can be given to largely-ignored issues that disproportionately affect women and their families. Especially when exploring a party platform that both champions a woman’s individual liberty AND the reduction of government size and spending (which could affect the our nation’s poorest, 70% of whom are women and children).

Here is just a sampling:

Fundraising
First Town Hall

6. Money is going to be an obstacle for you, as well. Right now, I believe last count a disclosure was $175,000 grand on hand. How can you raise the money to be effective in a race of this magnitude?

Answer from Weld: If you can’t sell yourself or your candidate, what can you sell?

Second Town Hall

30. Donald Trump announced today he raised $80 million dollars last month. Hillary Clinton raised $90 million dollars. How do you compete with numbers like that? I think your last filing that I looked at today said you raised a total of $1.4 million dollars since you announced, not last month, since you announced. How do you compete?

Answer from Weld: If you can’t sell yourself what can you sell, you know?

Why people should vote for, like, have “good feelings” about the Libertarian ticket
First Town Hall

2. So the proposition for you, Governor, is for the people who have negative feelings about Trump and Clinton, why should they be positive about your ticket?

Second Town Hall

31. I’m not going to vote for Donald Trump and I’m not going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Why are you a better choice for somebody like me?

29. I’m a Bernie supporter, and I’m disappointed about the prospect of voting for someone else, but I’ve decided that I have to vote for someone that aligns with my values. How are you similar to Bernie Sanders, and what would you say to win my vote?

A wasted vote?
First Town Hall

25. Given the uphill battle you face as a third-party candidate, what assurances can you give to undecided voters or what steps are you taking to ensure that your campaign isn’t just a spoiler campaign, but is, in fact, a campaign that can be competitive and that can actually have a chance at winning in the fall?

Second Town Hall

17. So, what is your response to the idea that a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote, or helpful to one of the two major party candidates, and why is a vote for your ticket not a wasted vote?

What the nominees think about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
First Town Hall

4. Hillary Clinton went first. And fundamentally the argument that she made is that Trump’s business pedigree is a farce, that he’s not a good businessman. You founded and ran your own successful business in construction. What is your assessment? Do you agree with Clinton when she says Trump is not a legitimate businessman, it should not be seen as a plus?

5. Big issues, but obviously your assessment of the state of play is relevant, also. The return from Trump was that Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person to ever run for president. Is that a view that you would embrace?

8. Governor Johnson, let’s do some word association here. I’ll say the name, you hit me with the first thing that comes to mind. Remember, we’ve got an audience here and a lot of people watching out there, as well…. Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump?

26. If you were to see, Governor Johnson, because you were not as open in your disclosures about how you feel about the particular candidates, if it were to come to bear fruit that you saw that you were hurting Clinton or you were hurting Trump and that that was your role in this election, how would you feel about that?

Second Town Hall

7. Governor Johnson, you originally said that if you had to describe Hillary Clinton in one word, the word you would use was beholden. Who’s she beholden to?

8. Governor Weld, I know you’ve known Hillary Clinton for a long time. I think you shared an office once long ago. Do you agree with that assessment? Is she beholden?

9. When you were asked to describe Donald Trump in one word, the word you picked was “huckster.” Do you still — is that still the word you would use?

35. Last Sunday, Secretary Clinton gave an answer to Chris Wallace about her emails that fact- checkers said was not true. Given that, do you understand why some 64 percent of registered voters find her untrustworthy?

18. But you both talked about your displeasure with the Trump campaign. If, at the end of the day, you pull away enough Clinton votes to actually give the presidency to Donald Trump, would that be OK with you, governor?

Black Lives Matter
First Town Hall

31. It has been repeatedly sated by numerous Libertarian candidates in the media that they respect but do not endorse the Black Lives Matter movement. Others have said that they do not support the movement for black lives entirely. Where do you stand on supporting, protecting, and upholding the human and civil rights of black people and people of African dissent in the United States and across the diaspora?

Second Town Hall

33. As a white man in America, how do you feel about the Black Lives Matter Movement?

Can you cut government spending without weakening the military?
First Town Hall

21. I understand that if elected, Governor, your plan is to reduce the federal budget 20 percent across all departments. So my question is, how do you balance maintaining the world’s most dominant military force while attempting to eliminate wasteful spending?

Second Town Hall

10. And how do you plan on keeping our citizens safe and fight threat while downsizing our military force numbers?

Syria/Foreign intervention
First Town Hall

22. Do you believe that there should be U.S. military intervention in Syria, given the context, which is without U.S. help, it does not seem that they can get it done?

And a follow-up, #23. Libertarians are seen as isolationists. You started off tonight by saying, “we’re going to redefine that. We’re going to help you understand it, because that’s not true.” But where do you then see a role for U.S. military in the world, on all the various theaters right now, where we’re involved?

Second Town Hall

13. But, traditionally, Libertarians, you know, are not about intervention in foreign lands. If — you know, dealing with Syria, dealing with ISIS, doesn’t that require boots on the ground?

Gun control
First Town Hall

9. You said America would be safer if it was easier to buy guns and if more people carried them, especially out in public…How would making it easier to buy guns with minimum requirements, especially unnecessary military rifles, how is that making it easier for us?

Second Town Hall

15. My question is do you think that civilians in the United States should be allowed to purchase and own semi-automatic weapons like AK-47’s, or AR-15’s?

Is it déjà vu for you too?

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