‘Next Ron Paul’ Bids for Libertarian Support

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Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 6:00 am
Gary Johnson (left) is introduced by Nick Gillespie on Tuesday night. (Photo by David Weigel)

Gary Johnson (left) is introduced by Nick Gillespie on Tuesday night. (Photo by David Weigel)

The Tuesday night meet-and-greet with former Gov. Gary Johnson (R-N.M.) was supposed to draw a bigger crowd. More than 10 people who’d RSVP’d for the event at Reason magazine’s Washington, D.C. offices had begged off, on account of the fresh snow that had started to build on the drifts piled high for nearly a week. That gave the few dozen attendees time to shake off the snow and sample the Whole Foods catering and open bar as they chatted with the affable Johnson. It also gave Nick Gillespie, the editor of Reason.com, an opening for a joke.

“Just so you know, Gary is already having an effect,” said Gillespie, bringing a microphone to members of the crowd who were asking questions. “The federal government has announced it’s closing tomorrow. So if you stay here all week, we might balance the budget.”

[GOP1]Johnson, dressed in a blue business suit and standing behind a logo-less podium, chuckled at the gallows humor. The crowd of libertarian activists and a few journalists laughed along. Johnson’s fans included staffers at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the libertarian think tank that’s planning lawsuits against NASA over global warming science, and the Marijuana Policy Project, whose 15th anniversary gala Johnson had spoken at last month. His short presentation and Q&A, a variation of a presentation he’s giving all over the country, rolled out the new three-point economic plan of his Our America organization: deep spending cuts (including cuts to entitlement programs), a flat tax, and less federal regulation of business and immigration.

But what could Johnson do that Tea Party groups and D.C. conservatives weren’t doing already?

“Obviously, he’s going to run for president in a couple years,” said Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economics professor who’s helping out Our America and who came to D.C. to participate in the Q&A. “So that’s one thing that differentiates this from some of the groups that are just putting out statements.”

Since launching Our America late last year, Johnson has been admirably blunt about his intentions. He won’t announce anything yet, but he’s seen what it takes to mount a libertarian-leaning Republican presidential bid, and he’s laying the groundwork to do so. He’s “showing up to speak to whoever asks me,” he says, which means he’s spending much of the most snowy week in 111 years of Washington, D.C.’s history doing media interviews and talking to libertarian groups. In two weeks, he’ll be back to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. And on paper, Johnson is a more spotlight-ready libertarian hero than Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), famous more for his personal lobbying for marijuana legalization (it’s one of Our America’s agenda items) than for a return to the gold standard.

“Right now, we’re where we’d thought I’d be a year from now,” said Johnson in the Q&A. “On the one hand, that’s bad, because it tells you what a state this country is in. Things are worse than we’d thought they’d be. But you’ve also got an energy out there and a desire for something new.”

The effect of the sped-up schedule was on display Tuesday night. Johnson knocked some questions out of the park, arguing that he’d helped change the way voters in New Mexico thought about marijuana after he controversially came out for legalizing and taxing the drug. “When I announced that, my approval rating fell from 58 percent to 28 percent,” he said. “I went all over the state explaining my position. When I left office, my approval rating was 58 percent.” But he responded more generally to other questions, letting Miron flesh out some of his answers. When Reason senior editor Katherine Mangu-Ward asked what Johnson thought of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) alternative budget, a flashpoint for debate among D.C.’s liberals and conservatives, the governor threw up his hands.

“Actually,” said Johnson. “I’m not familiar with it at all.”

“Do you think that it’ll pass, then?” joked Gillespie.

In other answers, Johnson revealed economic policy stances in line with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party, but social stances more popular with the left. He told reporters that he supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and supported “gay unions,” but not gay marriage. He’s pro-choice “up to the point of viability.” On a day that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and other conservatives joked that the heavy snow was disproving global warming, Johnson only cricitized environmentalists for being heavy-handed.

“For argument’s sake,” said Johnson, “global warming is happening, it’s man-caused. That given, I think the effects of it are grossly exaggerated and I think the amount of money we’re looking to spend on it is grossly, grossly misguided.”

Our America is a 501(c)3 non-profit group, not a PAC like the ones chaired by Mitt Romney or Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.), and not a 527 like Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions, even though it shares office space with Johnson’s political strategist’s firm. So far, it’s a vehicle for Johnson to tour the country and put his ideas in one place, rather than a way to build his national standing by giving money to Republican candidates. That didn’t prevent him from taking a swipe at the people he might debate if he entered the 2012 race.

“Without exception,” Johnson told TWI, “the current presidential candidates — if you took the 10 or so likely candidates — if you put a piece of cardboard up over their likenesses, if you disguised their voices, you wouldn’t know which is which.”

He poured some cold water on the idea that the GOP had proven itself ready to run the country again, knocking the party for opposing Medicare cuts as a tactic in the debate over health care reform. “It would be a mistake to take Scott Brown’s election for a mandate for Republicans,” he told TWI. “I think people are so angry at everyone in office that they’re willing to vote anyone out.” And he criticized Republicans for supporting the continued wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (“I don’t think any of them could explain why we’re there”) and not coming out against torture.

Nonetheless, he ruled out a third-party bid. “I’m a Republican and I’m going to stay a Republican,” he told TWI.

Johnson also criticized Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), his successor back home, on the grounds that he’d added more than 4500 jobs to the state payroll after Johnson cut 1000.

“I’d argue that there’s no area of government that’s improved because of these 4500 stones he threw into the machine,” said Johnson. “And that’s just the ‘E.’ I can go A to Z if you. He bought himself a jet — that’s the ‘J.’ He bought himself a train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe — that’s the ‘T.’”

That sort of political point-scoring was a factor missing from Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential bid, a long-shot effort that most libertarians supported — many with reservations — despite being frustrated by the candidate’s lack of commitment to a grueling campaign schedule. Paul had blanched at skipping work in Congress, leading him to schedule fewer campaign events. That’s a problem that the independently wealthy Johnson — he sold his construction company 11 years ago — doesn’t have. His job, he explained, is “getting out there.”

“I talked to the staff of Ron Paul’s New Hampshire operation,” said Ronald Nielson, the president and CEO of NSON Opinion Research, who worked on Johnson’s 1994 bid for governor and has returned to help him work on Our America. “He didn’t really go there. You know, he’d go once in a while, but it wasn’t a really organized effort. They told me that they’d organize events, and he’d cancel. They’d organize trips, and he’d cancel. They’d organize four events and he’d show up for one of them. I don’t know what that was about, but that’s not what we’re doing.”

As the Reason event wound down, Johnson’s listeners moved closer to the open bar and assessed his performance. He needed some polish on economic issues. He needed to transfer the passion he had on ending the war on drugs to other topics. How, they wondered, would he compete with other Republicans? Talking with TWI, Johnson suggested that he was on his way.

“The support that I’ve found surprising is sitting down with what would be described as right-wing Christian Republicans and finding support,” said Johnson. “That’s been a surprise.”

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Comments

19 Comments

republicanbalck
Comment posted February 11, 2010 @ 6:18 am

Ron Paul you don't motivate the people like the republican party motivates the tea party. Its funny that all of a sudden people take up the concerns of Ron Paul but don't support him — more and more it seems that the republican party is the true benefactor in this tea party movement not independents like Paul. They never prop up a democrat but always a republican not even Nelson the pro life blue dog dem, but they will BROWN a pro-choice liberal. Check out this story

http://bit.ly/bMdX8e which shows the motivation behind the tea party


uberVU - social comments
Trackback posted February 11, 2010 @ 6:37 am

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by TWI_news: ‘Next Ron Paul’ Bids for Libertarian Support http://bit.ly/c5lgqS...


WmHarris
Comment posted February 11, 2010 @ 7:45 am

One need not travel to China to find indigenous cultures lacking human rights. America leads the world in percentile behind bars, thanks to the ongoing open season on hippies, commies, and non-whites in the war on drugs. Cops get good performance reviews for shooting fish in a barrel. If we’re all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home? Peace on the home front would enhance global credibility.

The drug czar’s Rx for prison fodder costs dearly, as lives are flushed down expensive tubes. My shaman’s second opinion is that psychoactive plants are God’s gift. Behold, it’s all good. When Eve ate the apple, she knew a good apple, and an evil prohibition. Canadian Marc Emery is being extradited to prison for selling seeds that American farmers use to reduce U. S. demand for Mexican pot.

The CSA (Controlled Substances Act of 1970) reincarnates Al Capone, endangers homeland security, and throws good money after bad. Fiscal policy burns tax dollars to root out the number-one cash crop in the land, instead of taxing sales. Society rejected the plague of prohibition, but it mutated. Apparently, SWAT teams don’t need no stinking amendment.

Nixon passed the CSA on the false assurance that the Schafer Commission would later justify criminalizing his enemies, but he underestimated Schafer’s integrity. No amendments can assure due process under an anti-science law without due process itself. Psychology hailed the breakthrough potential of LSD, until the CSA shut down research, and pronounced that marijuana has no medical use. Former U.K. chief drugs advisor Prof. Nutt was sacked for revealing that non-smoked cannabis intake is scientifically healthy.

The RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) allows Native American Church members to eat peyote, which functions like LSD. Americans shouldn’t need a specific church membership or an act of Congress to obtain their birthright freedom of religion. God’s children’s free exercise of religious liberty may include entheogen sacraments to mediate communion with their maker.

Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate any governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? The Mayflower sailed to escape coerced conformity. Legislators who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction.

Common-law holds that adults are the legal owners of their own bodies. The Founding Fathers undersigned that the right to the pursuit of happiness is inalienable. Socrates said to know your self. Mortal lawmakers should not presume to thwart the intelligent design that molecular keys unlock spiritual doors. Persons who appreciate their own free choice of path in life should tolerate seekers’ self-exploration. Liberty is prerequisite for tracking drug-use intentions and outcomes.


John McMenimon
Comment posted February 11, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

I am really excited by the prospects of a Johnson candidacy in 2012. I think he is right about the other possible candidates being cardboard cutouts. Have we really gotten to the point where we cannot come out with bold, fresh ideas (like Johnson's economic plan) without being portrayed as a fringe candidate ? We voted against John McCain, Hillary Clinton, etc. in exchange for a “Blank Slate hyping hope and change.” Do we really want former Governor “Hopey-Changey” to replace him? We have to do better! This lowest common denominator type of politics stinks and is ruining our country!


The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : Lunching With Gary Johnson
Pingback posted February 11, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

[...] Weigel has more on Johnson, from a Reason event earlier this week. StumbleUpon| Digg| Reddit| Twitter| [...]


CommieBlaster
Comment posted February 11, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

FLASH!!

This Brand New Video Blows a Huge Gaping Hole in Obama's Cap and Tax Scheme and his Claims of Global Warming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVm5-6H_sH4


Darryl Schmitz
Comment posted February 11, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

We need to purge Washington of the plague of elected people who casually ignore their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. If the Constitution needs to be amended, well then AMEND IT. Otherwise, OBEY IT.


02/11/10 Gary Johnson Daily News Roundup « Johnson For America Blog
Pingback posted February 11, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

[...] ‘Next Ron Paul’ Bids For Libertarian Support — The Washington Independent [...]


Former NM conservatarian governor preparing 2012 run
Pingback posted February 12, 2010 @ 11:46 am

[...] Weigel of the Washington Independent reports: Since launching Our America late last year, Johnson has been admirably blunt about his intentions. [...]


Archie
Comment posted February 12, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

The more the merrier. Throw them all in the blender, press start, and see what comes out the spout.

Today's libertarians are a disgrace to the founders of the movement, but they are certainly better than Obama's zombie crowd. Perhaps they can stumble around for a few more decades and discover some basic dance steps that will get them noticed.


andygra
Comment posted February 14, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

Having suffered for eight years with Gary Johnson in New Mexico, there is a reason that he was referred to as “Governor NO”. A lot was left to be accomplished by Bill Richardson and the TRAIN will reap rewards in years to come.


andygra
Comment posted February 15, 2010 @ 3:38 am

Having suffered for eight years with Gary Johnson in New Mexico, there is a reason that he was referred to as “Governor NO”. A lot was left to be accomplished by Bill Richardson and the TRAIN will reap rewards in years to come.


Jeffrey Miron » Blog Archive » Will the Republicans Nominate a Libertarian in 2012?
Pingback posted February 23, 2010 @ 11:49 am

[...] in 2012 is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico.  You can read about him here and here.  Full disclosure: I have been working with Johnson on his economic program. Categories: My [...]


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Comment posted July 26, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

We need to purge Washington of the plague of elected people who casually ignore their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. If the Constitution needs to be amended, well then AMEND IT. Otherwise, OBEY IT.


lv
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

nice work


Discount Louis Vuitton
Comment posted August 20, 2010 @ 2:37 am

If the Constitution needs to be amended, well then AMEND IT. Otherwise, OBEY IT.


netflicks movies
Comment posted September 27, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate any governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? The Mayflower sailed to escape coerced conformity. Legislators who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction.


RON PAUL IN TESTA FRA I CANDIDATI PAPABILI ALLA PRESIDENZA USA | Movimento Libertario
Pingback posted March 7, 2011 @ 11:52 am

[...] Gary Johnson viene da molti considerato l’erede politico di Ron Paul (e sicuramente la prima scelta da sostenere qualora il Dottore non dovesse correre alle elezioni presidenziali), egli è da sempre favorevole ad una legislazione che depenalizzi l’uso della marijuana, per una riduzione della presenza dello Stato nella vita dei cittadini, e per una politica estera non interventista. [...]


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