Lake Charles, Louisiana hosted the first ever Independent Presidential Forum with ten Presidential candidates participating. I greatly looked forward to the January 28 event and got into high gear for debate preparations. The questions would come from these topics: the availability and affordability of healthcare, the economy, the possibility of future terrorist attacks in the United States, the Social Security system, the size and power of the federal government, the way income and wealth are distributed in America, hunger and homelessness, crime and violence, illegal immigration, drug use, unemployment, the quality of the environment, the availability and affordability of energy, race relations, climate change, police reform and foreign policy. Quite a list!
I loved the challenge of getting my responses down to 90 seconds – the given time limit. A snowstorm and surprisingly cold weather in North Carolina made staying inside (at a gracious friend’s house) for four days quite acceptable. We had many lively dinner conversations about policy especially the connections between a 21st century economy and infrastructure, transportation and education. We also talked about the root causes of homelessness and how public policy could – and mostly has not – make a difference in America. For feedback on other topics, I turned to my “kitchen cabinet” — my network of unofficial advisers with policy and practical expertise on a wide range of Presidential issues including: foreign affairs, intelligence, defense, tax policy, government acquisition, Medicare and Medicaid, the environment and sustainable energy.
Throughout the week, I had several private conversations as I decided which states to run as an individual independent candidate and where I would “actively seek the nomination of” specific third parties. I decided not to make these conversations public until after the debate even though I learned later there was already some information available on the Internet. I also decided to hire a videographer to film just me at the Debate so my campaign would have updated and professional video clips.