By J.Tony Lino
The most newsworthy thing about Friday’s Asian American Pacific Islander Presidential Forum in Las Vegas is that it took place.
Said to be the largest political town hall of Asian Americans, the event organized by APIAVote and focused around the concurrence of both the Asian American Journalists Association and National Association of Asian American Professionals conventions, drew about 3,000 people, and featured a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
But the juiciest actual news bit may have come from Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson who admitted to his personal marijuana use.
“Last time I took marijuana was about three months ago,” Johnson said to some of the loudest cheers at the entire event. Johnson said he took an edible. “I don’t want in any way to take away from a person’s right to use these products.”
The Libertarian candidate did not say whether marijuana use or his general ignorance prevented him from accurately saying what the acronym “AAPI” stood for.
Libertarian Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein were the only ones actually on the presidential ballot present to make their pitch directly to AAPI at the town hall.
Stein boasted of a Green New Deal and said her party took no money from corporations, lobbyists or SuperPacs. She called herself an “honest broker” who’s made no secret deals. “Democracy needs a moral compass,” she said.
Later she correctly said what “AAPI” stood for. But there were no questions on Stein’s controversial stand against vaccination. Nor did she mention it.
The lesser candidates got the benefit of speaking in a conversational Q&A with moderator Richard Lui of MSNBC.
But since neither of the two major candidates showed up, their surrogates were allowed to speak from the podium.
Former President Bill Clinton, seemed campaign weary, but still managed to deliver a talk that was at times more philosophical than a standard stump speech. He urged Asian Americans to show up to vote “big time everywhere” in order to counter the politics of fear that is dividing our country.
“Every time you do, you remind people that E Pluribus Unum (in many one) is not just a slogan, it’s a way of life,” said Clinton. “You remind people that the eternal effort to make our union more perfect means expanding the definition of ‘Us,’ and shrinking the definition of ‘Them’.”
Clinton said this election is “about what kind of country we’re going to be.” He said the central metaphor was “walls or bridges,” and that Hillary’s election would mean a better world with prosperity broadly shared, and declining inequality.
He said Hillary promises a comprehensive immigration plan in the first 100 days. “We’ve played politics long enough,” Bill Clinton said, calling immigration was the “meal ticket” to the 21st Century.
Clinton almost got out of the hall without having one question asked about Hillary’s email problem.
When a question was posed, Clinton fought off the exit music to answer and defend his wife.
He said there was a different, stricter standard applied to her as opposed to other career diplomats, and that the state department and security agencies had different classification systems.
“These things were never resolved,” said Clinton. “It’s too complicated to explain to people, but basically do you really believe there are 300 career diplomats because that’s how many people (were on ) these emails. All of them are careless with the national security? Do you believe that? Forget about Hillary. Forget about her, is that conceivable? If it were that important shouldn’t we have all heard about that earlier? Or shouldn’t there have there been some instant resolution of this? And if it were something to worry about would President Bush 41’s national security advisor Adm. Scowcroft endorse Hillary?”
The Trump campaign was represented by surrogate Sean Reyes, Utah’s Attorney General. A Republican and a Filipino American, Reyes spent more time ingratiating himself than defending Trump.
He did not talk about Trump’s remarks threatening violence toward Hillary Clinton, nor his recent comments saying President Obama was the founder of ISIS.
Reyes did clarify Trump’s recent remarks against Filipino immigrants. “He welcomes law abiding Filipinos,” said Reyes, who did not stay to answer questions.
He left the stage after ending his speech with a rap song.
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