Wikinews interviews former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party

Monday, November 5, 2012

With the U.S. presidential election looming, former New Mexico governor and current Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson spoke with Wikinews reporter William S. Saturn on an assortment of economic, foreign, and social issues. In the interview, Johnson makes his final plea to voters before they cast their ballots on Election Day, November 6.

Gary Johnson.
Image: Gary Johnson.

Though a member of the Libertarian Party in the early 1990s, Johnson was elected and re-elected governor of New Mexico in 1994 and 1998 as a Republican. During his governorship, he vetoed over 750 bills, more than all other then-governors combined, and left the state with a $1 billion budget surplus. He briefly ran for president as a Republican in 2011 before rejoining the Libertarian Party to seek its 2012 presidential nomination.

After winning the nomination this past May, Johnson has campaigned throughout the nation espousing the Fair Tax, spending cuts across the board, a repeal of Obamacare, an audit of the Federal Reserve, a non-interventionist foreign policy, an end to the Drug War, and legalization of same-sex marriage. He and his running mate, Judge Jim Gray of California, have attained ballot access in all U.S. states except Michigan, where he is a write-in candidate, and Oklahoma. Nationally, he has received four percent registered-voter support in the past two CNN/Opinion Research Polls that included him with President Barack Obama, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. It is the campaign's goal to reach five percent on Election Day, which will enable the party to receive ballot access and federal funding on par with the two major parties.

With Wikinews, Johnson discusses the federal budget, education, entitlements, the Syrian uprising, Mexican Drug War, same-sex marriage, the Libertarian Party, and his political future.

Economic matters

 ((William S. Saturn )) :You say that as president, you would propose a balanced budget "not five or ten years down the road" but in 2013. Realistically can that budget pass, especially with a Congress hostile to your proposed spending cuts and tax plan?

Gary Johnson: I would suggest that if I'm elected president promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013, and also promising to veto any legislation where expenses exceed revenue, even though they would override my veto, I'm going to suggest to you that spending will be lower with those two promises kept than any other scenario you could possibly come up with.

 ((WSS )) You also propose decreasing federal education spending including decreases in Pell Grants and loans for college students. Is that correct?

Johnson: Well the reason being is that because of guaranteed government student loans that is the reason why college tuition is so high. It's an artificial market. It's not a market made up of supply and demand. And it's a market where kids are going to school because they're guaranteed a government student loan and because of that, the vast institutions of higher learning, colleges and universities are immune from pricing much much dramatically lower than they would have to price themselves at if government student loans did not exist. And of course you wouldn't cut students off that are currently receiving student loans. And that isn't to say that government student loans would go away. It's just that you wouldn't make government the guarantor of those student loans.

 ((WSS )) So it wouldn't be an immediate cut?

Johnson: Well it would be immediate...You know it's not really a cut because student loans are student loans. You can't escape a student loan even under bankruptcy. So these loans are going to get paid back but the argument is is that student loans, government-guaranteed student loans are a direct cause of tuition being as high as it is.

 ((WSS )) Okay. I have a question here about entitlements: During the Tea Party Republican Party Debate on September 12, 2011, one of which you were not invited to, Wolf Blitzer [the debate’s moderator], he provided the following scenario to Ron Paul, this is what he said, he said:

"A healthy thirty-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it. Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma?"

Now Ron Paul answered that question. If you were at that debate, how would you have responded to that?

Johnson: Well, first of all, I think there are those who are truly in need. So you're talking about a thirty-year-old who doesn't have health insurance; there conceivably could be government step in and it would be state government, not federal government. I really believe that we have to slash Medicare and Medicaid spending; that Medicare is a program that you and I put $30,000 into in our lifetimes and we receive $100,000 plus benefits and by that whatever we contribute in we get back three times, more than three times what we contribute in. So it's not sustainable. Federally funded healthcare is not sustainable. So with that said, I would leave it to the states to draw new lines of eligibility and when it comes to this hypothetical kid that you're talking about that falls into a coma, I'm believing that state governments will come up with a program to address that kind of individual.

Foreign affairs

 ((William S. Saturn )) Let's shift to foreign affairs. On your website, you say "America simply cannot afford to be engaged in foreign policy programs that are not clearly protecting U.S. interests." In the case of a humanitarian crisis as in Syria right now, does the U.S. ever have a moral obligation to intervene militarily even if it is not clearly in the U.S. interest?

Gary Johnson: No. To intervene in Syria...Look, we end up supporting a new dictatorship that takes over from the old dictatorship. The results are no better or even worse than the old. So we intervene in the name of humanity, and the result is like I say, more times than not, a situation that is worse, not better.

 ((WSS )) Let's say it's like Hitler's Germany, would intervention be necessary then?

Johnson: Well yeah. The notion of...Well first of all, let me borrow from a Supreme Court Justice that was asked his definition of pornography. [He said] You know what, I can't give you a definition of pornography but I'd like to think that when I see it I recognize it. And so when you talk about humanitarian, when you talk about atrocities, when you talk about genocide, when you talk about the Holocaust, I don't think any of us want to stand by and watch something like that happen. How do you define that? Well as the commander-in-chief, I'd like to think I'd be the first one that would recognize it if it actually was occurring. And of course, as the leader of the United States, I would have to be articulate in that and make my case for intervention. If we were to intervene, first and foremost would be Congress vetting that and actually approving that, but look, I just think that we militarily intervene as a result of our military intervention, but I think we have hundreds of millions of enemies to this country that look for our military intervention that otherwise would not exist. We kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians in the countries where we militarily intervene. Our men and service women end up dying. Our men and service women come back with their limbs blown off.

 ((WSS )) You were the governor of a border state. As president, what would you do to prevent the violence in Mexico from spilling over into the United States?

Johnson: That violence is a prohibition phenomenon. If you legalize marijuana, arguably 75 percent of that border violence with Mexico goes away. These are disputes that are being played out with guns rather than the courts. Forty thousand deaths south of the border over the last four years. These are disputes that are being played out with guns rather than the courts.

 ((WSS )) But as president, would you increase border security or would you keep it the same?

Johnson: No. I would not build a fence. I think there would be less of a need for border security if we had a moving line for immigrants that would want to come into this country and work to get a work visa. So my pledge is I'm going to create a moving line for immigrants that want to come into this country and work to get a work visa. That would entail a background check and a Social Security card so that applicable taxes would get paid. I am espousing eliminating income tax, corporate tax, abolishing the IRS and replacing it all with one federal consumption tax: the fair tax. If we adopt the fair tax, taxes will not be an issue. Whether you're illegal, legal, a visitor to the U.S., or a U.S. citizen, nobody is going to avoid paying one federal consumption tax.

Social issues

 ((William S. Saturn )) Let's get into social issues now. You criticized President Obama for his stance that same-sex marriage be left to the states. With the Tenth Amendment in mind, why should same-sex marriage be a federal issue and why should the federal government mandate that states allow same sex marriage?

Gary Johnson: Well I think that first and foremost that as president of the United States you take an oath to govern under strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution. I would espouse...I would suggest that marriage equality is a constitutionally guaranteed right of Equal Protection Clause that is on par with Civil Rights of the sixties. It's not a states issue, that it's a federal issue and that the federal government should be involved. If you say it's a state issue where 42 states have said that marriage is between a man and a woman. Effectively what you're saying is that 'I'm not going to do anything when it comes to marriage equality', and I take the position that marriage equality is a constitutionally guaranteed right so goes the federal involvement.

Libertarian Party and political future

 ((William S. Saturn )) Okay I'm getting to my final questions here. I want to talk about the Libertarian Party. The first nominee of the Party was John Hospers, who died last year, and he was a supporter of Republican President George W. Bush. The next nominee Roger MacBride also left the party and went to the Republican Party. The 1988 nominee Ron Paul, as we all know, serves in the House of Representatives as a member of the Republican Party, and his son [Rand Paul] serves in the Senate as a member of the Republican Party. Both the 2008 presidential and vice-presidential nominees of the Libertarian Party: Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root have recently rejoined the Republican Party and have both endorsed Mitt Romney for president. In fact, until the end of last year, you too were a member of the Republican Party. So why does it seem Libertarians flock to the Republican Party?

Gary Johnson: I'm not so certain...I think that the tie-in is [libertarian] Republicans are fiscally conservative and socially accepting. That's the, I think, the heading under which most Americans are. I will just tell you that last night, although it did not happen, apparently the Democrats were going to come and protest my speaking at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I guess it was all those anti-gay, anti-immigration, pro-Drug War, pro-military interventionists that were going to show up and protest me.

 ((WSS )) But you admit that there are some Liberty Republicans and that Republicans make up a large portion of libertarians. Is that correct?

Johnson: Well, I think libertarians are libertarians. I mean, the largest political affiliation in the country right now is Independent and I think if you took the pulse of Independents, I think you'd find that majority of Independents are libertarians. I think libertarian-leaning, if you go to that category, if you include Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, I think the majority of Americans in some way, shape, or form describe themselves as libertarian-leaning.

 ((WSS )) Well let's say someone is a libertarian-leaning Republican like Rand Paul in the Senate. Should such libertarian Republicans support you and guaranteeing their vote will go to you rather than voting Republican...Let me rephrase this question... Let's say that a Rand Paul Republican was considering who to vote for and they could choose between guaranteeing their vote would not go to the Republican, which they see as the small-government alternative in the duopoly, rather than voting Republican and ensuring their vote will go to someone who they believe is the small government alternative, should they still support you?

Johnson: Well yeah, because really Republicans aren't small government. I mean, if you go back to the [Vice presidential] debate the other night between [Republican vice presidential nominee Paul] Ryan and [Vice president Joe] Biden, Ryan says toward the end of the debate, he goes, hey, look we're going to increase spending by three percent, they're going to increase spending by four and a half percent, what's the big deal? I would echo that. What's the big deal? There's not a big deal between either one of them and if libertarian-leaning Republicans want to send a message to elected Republican leaders then vote for me that's how you're going to send a message. You're not going to send a message by voting in the status quo. The status quo being much to do about nothing.

 ((WSS )) This is my final question here. The OC Weekly website reported last week that your running mate, Judge Jim Gray remarked during an appearance at Tulane University that you two plan to run again in 2016. Can you confirm whether that is correct?

Johnson: Well, we've created statewide organizations. There's a tremendous amount of interest. What is that going equates when it comes to votes? You know what, I don't know what that's going to equate to votes on Election Day, but I'll just say from my standpoint, William, there's just a whole lot of enthusiasm and I do think that this is the future of politics so I'm staying around here, I think the last thing anyone wants to hear is that I'm going to run again when, you know, this is an election that hasn't even taken place, and I mean the one on Tuesday. [There's] lots of time to be looking at those kind of options.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.