Medea Benjamin is a well-known activist and founder of multiple non-governmental organizations that promote peace and human rights. Founder of Code Pink and married to activist and Global Exchange founder Kevin Danaher, the outspoken 60 year old made headlines yesterday when she — somewhat loudly — protested against President Obama’s national security speech and his foreign policy stance.
Ian: Hi this is Ian Kar from heavy.com
Ian: So lets get started. I’m sure you’re very busy. So my first question is: Obviously this wasn’t your first protest of a major event. Why do you think you keep getting invited to these big speeches and events?
Medea: I think some people give me invitations to these things because they want me to speak out. Sometimes I just sign up for events. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to sign up for these events. Sometimes we kinda just slide into these events. A part of the reason for me because I’m polite and I’m a woman. As I get older, I think there might be more privileges that come with age.
— CODEPINK (@codepink) May 23, 2013
Ian: Was your protest planned out or was it a spontaneous reaction to the president’s speech? Was it preconceived?
Medea: Well, I really went in with an open mind and actually anticipating some major policy shifts that I would be very excited about. These are issues I’ve been working on for years now and I want changes in the policy. I was hanging on every word the president said, but there weren’t any anticipated significant shifts. I was prepared to speak out but I wasn’t convinced it was necessary or appropriate until I heard the entirety of the speech.
Ian: How did you feel about the president’s response to your comments as well as the audience?
Medea: Well the president is a great politician. That’s how he came to be president. He gives very good speeches and he’s a great people-person. He was very nice when acknowledged my passion for these issues. It was interesting when he didn’t agree with me because if you look at what I said, its hard to disagree with most of what I said. I love my country and the rule of law. The others were questions but I think it in terms of the audience was clapping to shut me up. Yet, I refused to leave when the people from the base and FBI and Secret Service. I think the audience thought that would the end until the president started engaging with me. That’s when I thought I had the chance for more interaction.
Ian: It was really difficult to hear you on TV. Could you give me a summary on what you wanted the president to know?
Medea: I focused on Guantanomo when I told him the commander-in-chief should handle the hunger strike. He could release them immediately and mentioned Shaker Amer. The last thing, as I’m being pulled out, was whether President Obama should remove drone control from the CIA and end the signature strikes that killed people and end the suspicious activities. Was he going to tell the people in the Muslim world that their lives were as precious as one along with apologizing about their lost loved ones? Also, he was a constitutional lawyer and he should start following the rulebook.
Ian: Why weren’t you escorted out of the event after the first protest?
Medea: They tried too and but I said I would start yelling. I yelled I was having an interaction with the president and that they would be in big trouble if they moved me.
Ian: Who pulled you out? Was it the Secret Service?
Medea: The Secret Service, members of the National Defense University, and the FBI.
Ian: Okay, we saw some pictures escorting you out. It looked like they were a little rough.
Medea: They were not too bad. They were firm but not in an abusive kind of way.
Ian: Ok. This wasn’t the first time. In Pakistan and Bahrain, you were deported for protests right?
Ian: I just wanted to clarify. What are your biggest concerns about the Obama administration?
Medea: My biggest concern around the foreign policy issues are that we are continuing on this path of seeking a military solution for problems that don’t need a military solution. Are you asking this beyond foreign policy or just foreign policy?
Ian: In general. Not only foreign but domestic as well.
Medea: To finish on the foreign policy, I think the military, CIA, and Homeland Security have a disproportionate amount of the budget and power and that the diplomatic arms of the government have a small amount of power, like the State Department. That should be changed. I also am concerned on other issues but I think the president has disappointed us on the global warming issues and not pushing for stronger policies that would have broken up the banks. This would have helped on the accountability issues and help people with foreclosures and students who can’t pay their debts. It’s all about the redistribution of resources.
Ian: Do you think Obama has disappointed Democrats with the promises he made running for office? How do you think liberals and Democrats feel about his work as president?
Medea: I think there are some Democrats who continue to totally defend the president and tend to be the ones who are committed to politics. When asking people who are more connected to the issues, they tend to be disappointed in him. People don’t want to blame him as an individual but I don’t want to do that either. I think its more about the power of corporations, the power of the military complex, all of these issues play a huge role in party politics. I think there are Obama enthusiasts who have lost their enthusiasm for him.
Ian: Did you vote for Obama in ’08?
Medea: No I didn’t [She actually did vote for Obama in ’08, as she clarifies below]
Ian: What about ’12?
Medea: I didn’t vote for him in ’08. Oh wait, I did vote for him then but didn’t in 2012.
Ian: Why did you change your mind?
Medea: I was disappointed with his policies. I voted for the green party candidate.
Ian: Ok great. Thanks a lot for speaking to me and I hope you have a great day.
Medea: Alright. Bye.