I recently caught up with two-term New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson to discuss his recent appearance at P.A.U.L. Fest, Republican politics, the presidential debates, and the general election. With no shortage of good humor, Gov. Johnson is clearly riding a wave of adrenaline and momentum from this past weekend’s events in Tampa, Florida.
Gary Johnson Interview:
Craig Schlesinger: What was your impression of P.A.U.L. Fest with respect to positive reinforcement from Ron Paul supporters pledging to also support your campaign?
Gary Johnson: I don’t have a sense of where they were prior. I don’t have a sense of whether or not it was a shift, but certainly I don’t know how I could have been received any better.
Craig Schlesinger: After your speech at P.A.U.L. Fest you mentioned that Gov. Romney and President Obama are scared to debate you. Why do you think the establishment press and political class fear your inclusion in the national conversation?
Gary Johnson: [Laughs] Maybe the frightening thing to them is if I actually do well, then where were they these last several years when it comes to what I’ve been doing and reporting on what I’m doing? I think that, probably, their biggest fear is “Holy cow, what if this actually turns out to be something? Are we going to be accountable for not covering it?” [Laughs] Clearly it’s a dog and pony show, it’s much ado about nothing, and shouldn’t it really be about the issues? Paul Ryan balances the budget in 28 years, and that takes into account growth. That’s the boldest Republican? Wow! That’s really not all that bold– it’s not bold at all! But the media makes it out to be that way. If they include me, it really does point out the mediocrity of both parties. In spite of the media not being there, I might have a good showing.
Craig Schlesinger: So you don’t take any solace in the fact that the Republicans nominated such a “staunch libertarian” for Vice President?
Gary Johnson: [Laughs] Yeah, right! We seem to be 180 degrees on most of these issues– and I am talking about Paul Ryan– Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, marriage equality, the drug war, PATRIOT Act, NDAA, an actual balanced budget, FairTax. You can go down the list –Paul Ryan supported banning online poker. [Laughs] That’s a big difference!
Craig Schlesinger: Do you find it amusing that the Republicans are sporting the national debt clock at their convention without the slightest hint of irony?
Gary Johnson: [Laughs] Yeah, I do! We have a $16 trillion dollar debt, $7.5 trillion of that is the responsibility of Republicans, $8.5 trillion is the responsibility of Democrats. It seems a little disingenuous.
Craig Schlesinger: Why do you suppose there is so much misinformation about libertarianism out there? Enough already exists as it is, but Paul Ryan gives out copies of Atlas Shrugged and somehow that automatically paints a skewed picture. Why do you think that is?
Gary Johnson: I just chalk it up to “libertarian” having a “cool” connotation, and so the misunderstood part of it is people trying to label themselves libertarian. Nobody’s shying away from the label. It would be terrific to have an education over what libertarianism really is, which will take place. More people are trying to understand what libertarianism is. And if more people would understand what it is, they would understand that a lot more of them are actually libertarian.
Craig Schlesinger: Looking forward to the presidential debates, regarding the polling, it seems like the Republican primary situation for you all over again– arbitrary exclusion. The vast majority of the national polls aren’t even including your name as an option for voters being surveyed. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to gain inclusion on the national stage?
Gary Johnson: You’re pointing out the reality. Whether or not what we do amounts to anything, we’re not going to take this lying down.
Craig Schlesinger: Will you be filing any lawsuits demanding inclusion?
Gary Johnson: You know I hate to show any hole cards that we might think we have [laughs], but I just want you to know that we’re going to go down kicking and screaming.
Craig Schlesinger: [Laughs] Fair enough. Do you think that the actual polls being utilized are a bit perverse, especially when compared to iSideWith’s survey and sample size of just over two million people (as of Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 9 A.M. EST)? Shouldn’t that be just as legitimate?
Gary Johnson: Yeah, I’m really heartened by iSideWith. I cite that all the time, and I cite it from the standpoint that I think I’m the next President of the United States based on that site. In a very short amount of time people get paired up with the presidential candidate most in line with their views. And the fact that its now two million plus, I wish that was receiving more attention.
Craig Schlesinger: In the context of the general election, what more can you offer to the waning “Ron Paul or nobody” crowd, your resume not withstanding?
Gary Johnson: I think there will be a certain percentage of that following that is “Ron Paul or nobody.” For me it’s about the issues and being the spokesperson for the liberty and freedom movement– and I kind of fall into this by default. If I thought Ron Paul was going to be the Republican nominee I would not have gone down this path. But back in December I didn’t see Ron Paul as the nominee, and so where is the spokesperson for this movement? For all of those people that think it’s Ron Paul or nothing, I would argue that I’m better than nothing. [Laughs]
Craig Schlesinger: [Laughs] Have you had any recent dialogue with Congressman Paul, and can we expect any surprises in the aftermath of the RNC?
Gary Johnson: Well if there are any surprises, I’m not aware of them and we haven’t had any conversations. He asked me for my endorsement in 2008, and I readily gave that endorsement. When I dropped out [of the GOP primaries] I asked everyone that was going to vote for me to vote for him. And in the last debate [I appeared in], I’m asked the question ‘who would your vice presidential candidate be from those that are on stage?’ Well that’s a clear-cut answer: Ron Paul.
Craig Schlesinger: Right on. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and good luck with everything. I’ll be checking in down the road.
Gary Johnson: Great, Craig, thank you very much.
Below are Gov. Johnson’s remarks at P.A.U.L Fest in their entirety:
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
Nice interview! For me, the ISideWith survey was a great starting point for making my decision in the voting booth. The fact that it has a comprehensive list of candidates that concisely reflects their views makes it a great resource.
Someone used the oxymoron 'viable third party.' There ain't no such animal. The Libertarian Party has NEVER earned one electoral vote, their candidate was given one in '72 by some elector, but he didn't earn it. The closest thing to a 'viable third party' was Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party in 1912, and he only garnered a quarter of the popular vote and about 1/6th of the electoral vote. If Libertarians can't even get any significant number of their members elected to state legislatures, how can they expect to win a general election for President. They have been telling me for over 20 years that they're running local candidates not to win, but to 'educate' the electorate—It doesn't seem to be doing them any good.
This is the same kind of bullshit that led to the CPD being founded after the League of Woman Voters refused to be part of the fleecing of the American people any longer. All I know is that if Johnson is not in the debates, there is absolutely no reason for me to watch the two other candidates snark at each other and pretend to disagree when their actions say otherwise.
I (pardon the language) think it's fucking sad that there are people out there advocating offering LESS choice and less information to the American people. An ignorant populace is a pliable populace.
I don't give a damn if you think Gary Johnson WILL win or not (can I borrow your crystal ball?), the mathematical fact is that Gary Johnson and Jim Gray will be on enough ballots that they CAN win. Shutting them out is certainly against the supposed purpose of the CPD
"The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners."
I suppose the best possible information to viewers and listeners would be to ignore any party other than the two from whom their leadership comes from.
The media won't even acknowledge Gary Johnson is in the race. How does that give him a fair chance. He has to fight to try to even get in the polls which he is totally ignored in. Which makes it difficult to know how he is polling. The people they polling only are given the choice of dumb or dumber. What has our country become. Its very sad. Other countries are looking better and better. Politics here is as corrupt as in other countries. If not worse, we are supposed to have freedom of choice here.
I don't understand all the hostility towards having Gary Johnson at a debate. People think he's not a serious candidate because he doesn't have enough support to win, but why would you shut out someone who is on the ballot and is capable to doing the job? He doesn't have enough support because he's never given the chance. If you think having him is a waste of time, think about Obama and Romney talking back and forth about the same things we've already heard.
Is there anything left to do to try and get Gary Johnson into the debates? I have signed the petition and donated but I want to do all I can. We deserve someone to stump Obama and Romney up there..
So you would be happy with just one idiot? We need to get serious about supporting a viable 3rd party. The media is pandering to the Dems and Repbs, too lazy to cover the 3rd party. Gary Johnson has something to say that the Dem/Reps don't. Even if he doesn't win, it's a start, and you have to take the first step. Shame on the media for not giving him (and Ron Paul) their due. Do you really expect anything to change in Washington, even if Romney wins? Same, ol', same, ol'. The lesser of 2 evils is still evil.
He should be in the debates because Gary always brings up issues that concern us all but never get brought up by Ofraud or Rigged. Let's bring our troops home NOW. Repeal the Unpatriot Act and repeal the NDAA. Work on a balanced budget now instead of letting our debt spiral upwards the next 20 years.
How can Gary Johnson rise to that percentage rate when he is shut out? http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6aIpQ4eO9Bk#!
The debates should be open to only serious candidates, otherwise they are wasting the time of the vast majority. There are many candidates on the ballot. This is not India and we don't want anything to do with their form of elections.
Gary Johnson, if he is serious, needs to garner 25% or more of the electorate before wasting our time. He should not be in the debates because he is not a serious candidate with no chance of winning. Independent Virginian voter for Romney 2012.
Lana, we are headed and may already be in the mist of a Fascist state / country. When voting in the primary here in NC I was forced to vote either a straight dem, repub, or Libertarian ticket. As an Independent I told them to give me the Lib ticket. It's a sad state of things here in this country when money can buy a President, change his ideology completely, and cause him or her to throw the masses under the bus so as they can work for their wealthy contributors. I've said it before and I'll say it again, a Romney administration will be a repeat of Hoover only this time on steroids.
Really, then what's there to be afraid of if he cant hurt anything. I thought America was a free country and had freedom of speech. I didn't realize we were restricted by the constitution to have to vote democrat or republican. Wow. So much for the land of of the free. Becoming more of a dictator run country where all our decisions are made for us. If people weren't so afraid of bucking the system or voting this way or that way because they always have done it that way, Gary Johnson could and would win. We would take our country back and our freedoms. Gary Johnson is the better choice. Lived in New Mexico when he was governor. He is a smart man and does what he says. I, for one, am tired of the two party system.
The reason to let individuals like this (third party candidates) to debate is to put the two party franchise on their heals and forced to actually debate about problems and solutions instead of the typical talking point bs they spit out now. The last time their was a real presidential debate was when Ross Perot ran on the third party .. there is nothing about it that is distracting, but should be considered truley revealing of the other two candidates, regardless of the third party candidates chance to win!!
Me, I'd rather see him debate to get the real issues on the table but then I can think outside of the box unlike the media manipulated masses like yourself. Do you really think this country can handle anymore of the 2 party single system of control?
Gary Johnson is right. We are frightened to let him debate, just as we are frightened to let Kermit the frog debate. Both have the same chance of winning (0.0) and would be as time-wasting distraction.
Republicans and Democrats are two wings of the same party. Gary Johnson offers a different set of solutions for this nation’s problems. On the big issues, like war, government over-spending, civil liberties and auditing the Federal Reserve, both Romney and Obama are the same. I think both major parties putt pressure on the networks and the Commission of Presidential Debates to keep Gov. Johnson a silent voice in the race for the presidency out of fear because if Gov. Johnson will cuts federal spending by $1.3 trillion, ends the war in Afghanistan and legalizes marijuana, the industries that rely on those things will cease to make the money. The big boys don’t want you to hear that.
Here's a way educate people on what it means to be libertarian.
Ask people to take the World's Smallest Political Quiz. It's only 10 questions, a great, quick way to chart everyone's political leanings and many will be surprised, they are libertarian! http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz/
If the CPD won't let Gary Johnson or Jill Stein debate, we need to make them. http://www.facebook.com/FreeDebateMilitia
Thanks for the article. It's always a nice surprise to see Gary in the news. I think he's getting a raw deal from the media, and obviously the debate Commission has no authority to blackball a citizen of this country who has done all the necessary work to be a viable candidate and who has the potential to be our president. Who is this commission, that they decide who we are allowed to consider????? They are really nobody, yet they get to influence our elections?! Write to Janet Brown and let her know you think that the Commission for Presidential Debates has NO RIGHT to decide who gets to speak.
Great interview. If he's the guy that will be carrying the torch after Ron Paul I think we all benefit.
Thanks, Amanda! I agree about iSideWith. It's comprehensive survey, list of candidates, and extremely large (and growing) sample size makes it a much more effective barometer than the usual polls with sample sizes between only 1-10k. Now if only people voted the way they "side."