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?: You know I hate to show any hole cards that we might think we have , 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 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: