Earlier today I was on a conference call with former New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate Gary Johnson, where he spoke about the Occupy Wall Street movement and corporate influence in government. He started off by saying that he had visited OWS last night and what he found was that “you got a lot of people outraged over the fact that we have a country that isn’t all that fair.”
When I asked him about Herman Cain’s assessment that OWS protesters were “misguided”, he responded by saying:
“The notion that Occupy Wall Street is misguided, well I was there last night. I don’t know that it’s misguided at all. This country is not equal. We don’t treat everyone equally. I would like to see us focus on the root cause, which is in my estimation politicians that are getting paid off. That’s the corporatism and the outrage.”
When asked about having a specific action plan for the economy, Johnson said that he would make three promises to the electorate. First, he would submit a balanced budget in 2013. Second, he would veto any legislation where expenses exceed revenue. He did not promise that his budget would pass nor that Congress would not override his vetoes, but he justified his position by saying his actions would lead to the largest reduction in spending possible in the current political climate. Finally he promised to advocate for the Fair Tax, which would eliminate all other federal taxes in favor of a national sales tax around 24%.
One moment that had me a little surprised was when he said he was in favor of sending troops to Uganda to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He noted that Congress had authorized such action and that since the LRA was committing atrocities across multiple countries there was a reasonable humanitarian case for military force. He said that unlike President Obama, he would have sent a larger force that would be able to destroy the LRA and that he would make the mission optional for military personnel. He reiterated the point that he was still against intervening in Libya because while the LRA was a cross-national humanitarian crisis (he even used the word genocide a few times) in Libya the US was just taking sides in a civil war.
On campaign finance reform Johnson pushed for more transparency, saying that “there should be no contributions coming in the back door that are not reported.” While supporting transparency, he was against any limits on how much an individual or corporation could contribute to a candidate or group.
When the issue of drug law reform came up, he said as President he would use an executive order to legalize marijuana on the federal level. He also noted that when Prohibition was repealed, alcohol offenders were pardoned and he said that he would pardon those who were convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses.
Johnson may at first glance appear to be a doctrinaire libertarian in the Ron Paul tradition, but a closer look at his stances indicates that he does not toe a strict ideological line. Ron Paul certainly would never authorize US troops to go to war unless America was specifically threatened while Johnson seems to be more interventionist (in some cases) than President Obama. His support of OWS is sort of puzzling when you consider the fact that the movement seeks a larger government role in the economy, yet it seems that his sympathy lies with their passion against the system rather than their proposed solution.
Still he is probably too libertarian to win the Republican nomination. But though his views on issues like marijuana put him outside of the Republican mainstream, he was quick to cite a Gallup poll that said that 50% of Americans favor legalizing the drug. And Johnson’s views on the Fair Tax and his 750 vetoes as governor would no doubt win him praise among the Tea Party. With the country becoming more socially liberal and fiscally conservative, maybe Gary Johnson is closer to the future political consensus than one might think.
Posted by Max Viscio