Vets lobby to get Johnson on stage

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Hundreds of military veterans are demanding that Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson be included in a televised presidential forum hosted next week by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
The veterans group’s social media pages have been flooded with calls from veterans to allow Johnson onstage with Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton ever since the Sept. 7 forum was announced.
{mosads}Veterans have left voicemails and sent emails to the non-profit, which boasts nearly 190,000 members, according to the official IAVA website.  
Others have protested by giving the group a one-star rating on its Facebook page. Its rating plummeted from a 5.0 last month to 2.4 stars by Thursday. 
One veteran is organizing a protest at the site of the forum, which will take place in New York City. Another said she emailed the group’s financial donors to ask them for support for inviting Johnson. 
Yet another has created a petition that calls for taking away the veterans group’s tax-exempt status on the basis that it is not acting in a non-partisan manner. The petition so far has more than 1,700 signatures.
For Johnson to get into the formal presidential debates, he must reach 15 percent in an average of five national public polls selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Johnson is polling in double-digits in some polls, but has yet to reach that level. 
The veterans group on Wednesday said it had invited Johnson before clarifying it would be for a “separate” forum. 
“Though Mr. Johnson still does not meet the historical standard for general election meetings between candidates set by the Presidential Debate Commission, IAVA took the extra step to develop our own, more inclusive threshold for a series of ‘Commander-in-Chief Forums,’” said the group’s founder and CEO, Paul Rieckhoff. 
“We appreciate the patience of our members as we carefully underwent this important process. We have now reached out to Governor Johnson’s campaign to invite him to participate in a separate Commander-in-Chief Forum event.”
Reickhoff also noted that Johnson and Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee for president, do not have policy pages on their websites dedicated to veterans issues.
“IAVA also believes we have a responsibility to inform our members that, as of today, neither Gov. Johnson nor Dr. Stein has even posted a veterans policy section on their website,” he said.
While it is unclear how many veterans support Johnson, Trump and Clinton have not done themselves any favors with the military, some veterans say. 
A number of veterans groups and military families were turned off by Trump after he insulted the Muslim parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq after they appeared at the Democratic National Convention to speak out against him. 
Clinton also has some baggage among the military community, who see her mishandling of sensitive information as a violation of basic cybersecurity rules they have to adhere to. 
Some veterans also see Clinton as responsible for the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks, during which two veterans were killed. Republicans have continuously hammered the Democratic nominee on both throughout the campaign season. 
An unscientific Military Times survey published in July showed that of 1,915 active-duty troops, reservists and National Guard personnel who are subscribers to the news site, 23 percent said they would vote third party. A little more than 13 percent said they would back Johnson, compared to 20.5 percent supporting Clinton and 49 percent supporting Trump. 
Another survey hosted by popular military website Doctrine Man published in July showed that of 3,556 veterans and family members, 38.7 percent of active duty respondents favored Johnson, versus 30.9 percent for Trump and 14.1 percent for Clinton. The survey was conducted via online polling. 
“Include everyone who will be on the ballot, I’m really tired of being told I have only two choices,” one veteran, James Hopper, wrote on IAVA’s Facebook page.
“IAVA please include third party candidates in the debate. I didn’t bust my ass as a super duper paratrooper to be limited to two lousy candidates for president,” said another, Austin Anderson.
The Times survey showed that both Trump and Clinton remain unpopular, even among those who intend to vote for them. It said 28 percent of those who were planning to vote for Trump were “dissatisfied” with him. 
Army veteran Paul Andrews said his vote for Johnson began as a vote against Trump and Clinton. 
“I started off as a Never Trumper, and then I realized I was also Never Hillary,” said Andrews, who volunteers for Johnson’s campaign as Ohio assistant director. 
“I feel that they represent the worst that politicians offer,” he told The Hill. 
Many veterans self-identify as libertarians who believe in small government, using military force only when necessary and reducing wasteful military spending. 
A 2014 Times survey showed that the number of troops who identified themselves as Republican were dropping, and those identifying themselves as libertarian or independent was rising.
In 2012, the presidential campaign of then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a staunch libertarian, took in more than four times the donations from individual active-duty military voters and Pentagon employees than the three other Republican candidates combined, according to one report.
Johnson has pledged to balance the budget, cut military spending by 43 percent down to 2003 levels and reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal. 
Veteran supporters say that falls right in line with their views. 
“You have to understand, he’s not for a smaller military — he’s not for lesser military might…For years the Pentagon published proposals to go in and cut costs and simplify the military, to go and function in the wars that we fight today,” Andrews said. “He just wants to go and implement what the Pentagon has asked for.”
“Government should be small and like the saying goes, ‘Stay out of our pocket books and our bedrooms,” Mark Addison Chandler, a 1999 West Point graduate, and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who supports Johnson, told The Hill.  
Johnson may also have other personal appeal to military voters. 
“Gary Johnson’s Father was in the 101st Airborne. Give a Veterans son a break. He has closer ties to the military than either of the duopoly (both of whom have proven to be huge OPSEC threats),” wrote Thomas Gammill on IAVA’s page. 
Johnson also scored points as the only presidential candidate to do 22 pushups to raise awareness for the statistic of 22 veterans who commit suicide each day. 
“Let us hear from the sane candidate, the one who actually cares,” wrote Erica Harmon. 
“And he is the only candidate that can do 22 push-ups!” added Jeff Downey. 
Tags Afghanistan War Donald Trump Gary Johnson Hillary Clinton Iraq War Veterans
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