Gary Johnson: the "Next Ron Paul"?


That's the headline claim in this Politico profile of the former New Mexico governor, who was the first U.S. politician of prominence to come out for legalizing drugs. Excerpt:

Johnson is starting to sound like a mad-as-hell populist with an eye cast on 2012 and the building fury aimed at Washington.

The new face of Republicanism?

"I'm finding myself really angry over spending and the deficit," he said in an interview with POLITICO this week. "I'm finding myself really angry over what's happening in the Middle East, the decision to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. I'm angry about cap-and- trade. And I've been on record for a long time on the failed war on drugs." […]

A libertarian-leaning Republican, Johnson this month launched "Our America," a group that aims to draw attention to the principles of limited government at home and non-interventionism abroad.

But as the subtitle on its website indicates, "The Gary Johnson Initiative" is also designed to elevate the profile of the ascetic and unconventional former governor who is known nationally—if at all—for his support of legalizing drugs.

Johnson is doing little to knock down the idea that he may be looking toward a 2012 presidential run.

"Is there room for something a little different?" he replied to a question about whether there was an opportunity for a new GOP voice emphasizing a different approach. "I'd like to think I'm putting that to the test."

Johnson is extremely cautious in responding to direct questions about his own prospective White House ambitions, citing the legal restrictions on his 501(c)4 group, but he didn't hesitate when asked if he'd soon be seen in such first-in-the-nation states as Iowa and New Hampshire.

"Yeah, you will," he said. […]

Johnson actually endorsed Paul for president last year and he shares some of the Texas congressman's libertarian alarmist views—but without the penchant for gold standard wonkiness. […]

Johnson has no plan to leave the GOP. He resisted a draft effort from the Libertarian Party leading up to the 2000 presidential race and now, while noting his disillusionment with the party's fiscal record during the Bush years, says: "I am still a Republican."

Whole thing here; Our America website here.

From Reason's Gary Johnson file: Jesse Walker flagged the ex-gov's possible 2012 aspirations in April. Michael Lynch interviewed "America's Most Dangerous Politician" in the January 2001 issue, and Jacob Sullum assessed his drug position in 1999. David Weigel flagged Johnson's Paul endorsement in January 2008, and quoted him pooh-poohing Bill Richardson's alleged libertarian bonafides the year before that. More citations at this link.

NEXT: Take It Off

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  1. it is very disgusting article.


  2. If Johnson winds up being the GOP nominee, I *might* be tempted to vote other than Libertarian for president - for the first time in two decades.

    1. Johnson is a Demo in disguise... we know this breed well here in NH.

      1. Do you have any evidence to back up this claim?

        AFAIK, Johnson didn't raise taxes at all.

  3. Johnson has no plan to leave the GOP. He resisted a draft effort from the Libertarian Party leading up to the 2000 presidential race and now, while noting his disillusionment with the party's fiscal record during the Bush years, says: "I am still a Republican."

    And will therefore will sell out his libertarian base at the first opportunity.

  4. I'll vote for Johnson if he runs. A much better candidate than Paul, IMO.

    1. Johnson probably is a better candidate than Paul, but Paul would be a better president.

      If for no other reason, the difference cited in the article, Johnson's lack of gold-wonkiness (that probably applies both to candidacy as presidency).

      1. Yeah, see, I'm no gold bug. 🙂

        1. Neither is Paul (well, he might be that too), he is a competing currency bug.

          1. I like competing currencies; I just don't think it's a big issue. The Fed has done a reasonably OK job compared to other government programs, this recession notwithstanding.

            1. "compared to other government programs"

              Not exactly holding them to a high standard.

            2. "The Fed has done a reasonably OK job compared to other government programs, this recession notwithstanding."

              I suppose if you count debasing paper dollar over 97% since inception of the Fed, the creation and extension of the first great depression (yes, Bernanke acknowledges this), and the massive cartelization of the financial sector culminating in near-systemic capture by a few zenith players as 'reasonably OK job', well, you are free to think so.

              For me, I believe that the Federal Reserve System and it's massive distortion of the entire economy has played a central role in the growth of concentrated statist power and subsequent degradation of markets and liberty. The influence of prime lenders and the anointed industrial complexes they favor with first use of freshly created fiat, the cartelization of the banking and financial system, and the stealth taxation of all dollar-spending humans who aren't first users as a pox on society's house.

              1. The Great Depression happened under the gold standard. Since 1945, US GDP growth has been quite good, and average length of recession has been lower than it was pre-1913.

            3. I feel compelled to forward you to my chart:

              The Rise & Fall of the U.S. Dollar

              The Fed has done a positively catastrophic job at keeping prices stable (which is what it's mission was). But worse than that, it created the conditions for the Great Depression by massively expanding the currency supply during the 1920s, and then directly triggered the stock market collapse by failing to even live up to it's promise to back lower-tier banks... This cycle has repeated over and over, and we've seen 10 recessions since.

              How anyone could say that the Fed has done a "reasonably OK" job in 2009, after being able to clearly witness a Fed-induced bubble economy and it's necessary and predictable collapse.... Grr. No.

              The Fed is by far more important than virtually any other poorly run government entity that exists.

              1. Ah, I didn't recognize you Mr. Malone. I've seen and linked your chart many times. Thank you for creating it.

    2. At first glance I thought you said 'face sit'

      It goes without saying-
      I giggled

  5. I'm gonna fence sit on this one for a while.

  6. I don't know the details of Gary Johnson's views on monetary policy, but The American Conservative reported some months ago that he was anti-Fed.

    1. In his speech at The Rally for the Republic, Gov. Johnson called for ending the fed.

      The speech is on Youtube if you want to see him delineate his pro-freedom views on a range of issues, including his opposition to the Iraq War.

  7. Another Ron Paul? Oh no, not more racist newsletters!

    1. So you not only hate Paul, but anyone even compared to him?

    2. Still hawking the Ron Paul = racist line, Morris?


      1. Morris is a man whose entire supply of intellectual oxygen consists of ad hominem talking points, endlessly regurgitated.

  8. You know, if the newsletters are the worst thing Paul has ever done, then that makes him one of the squeakiest clean politicians in American history. Then again, maybe the newsletters were to deflect attention from the ritual satanic murders. Mission accomplished!

    1. He didn't even write the damn things. If I had to bet who did, it would be Rand as a young passionate moron son.

      1. That seems remarkably unlikely. I think Rand would have been about 15 at the time.

        1. Ah, then I have it wrong, since I thought he would have been older than that by about ten years.

          1. I could be wrong, I didn't check, but Rand is only 46, and I thought the newsletters were actually written in the 80s. A light Wikipedia-ing shows that they were first uncovered in the 1996 presidential campaign, so I figured Rand would have been like 20ish when they were written. I suppose you could be right though, a 20-25 year old could have written them, but I just struggle to see the racism in Ron Paul, so I find it hard to believe that his son would have grown up thinking in such collectivist terms either.

    2. "You know, if the newsletters are the worst thing Paul has ever done, then that makes him one of the squeakiest clean politicians in American history."

      I said much the same thing about Palin (who I'm not a big fan of, but don't hate either). Considering the complete harmlessness of what they tried to pin on her, and that none of it actually stuck, she too has to be squeaky clean...

      ...or else is a legend at hiding her dirt.

      1. Most people haven't done anything terrible because they haven't been given the opportunity. Palin has only had power for a very short time, and did a lot of stupid shit with it. Paul deserves credit for being in the house so long and not getting corrupted, but his isn't exactly a crucial vote most of the time.

  9. I second robc's comment.

    1. The gary johnson one?
      Ron Paul being squeaky clean one?
      The satanic murders one?

  10. Sidenote: From the Time interview with Bernanke:

    TIME: Do you have a mortgage?

    Bernanke: Oh, yes, we refinanced.

    TIME: Oh, perfect. When?

    Bernanke: About 5%. A couple of months ago.

    TIME: Good time.

    Bernanke: Yes. We had to do it because we had an adjustable rate mortgage and it exploded, so we had to.

    1. How bad is his credit that he couldnt get a sub 5 mortgage?

      1. Also, his arm exploded? Everyone I know with an arm has had their rate DROP this year. You know, because they got a good arm, not a crappy one.

        1. Your lack of capitalization or periods on the acronym for adjustable rate mortgage makes me picture Bernanke's arm swelling and exploding like Tetsuo's in Akira. Pretty awesome.

    2. Two points. One, yes, I thought ARMs occasionally went DOWN, and I would think they would've in the current economic situation.

      Also, how can this guy be stupid enough to have an ARM in the first place? He's supposed to be our brilliant economic shepard.

      1. "He's supposed to be our brilliant economic shepard."

        He is none of the above.

        1. Bernanke reconfirmation vote just passed Senate Housing committee 16:7, asshats.

          Do not forget that this reconfirmation of chairman Bernanke is happening even as the FED and Bernanke are stonewalling information that Congress is asking for.

  11. Gary Johnson was a disaster as governor.

    Having a correctish opinion on legalizing drugs don't make him much of a leader or even a manager for that matter.

    1. In what way?
      did taxes go thru the roof?
      did the state go bankrupt?
      did you lose a war with arizona?
      was the state using kelo-type ED all over the place?

      First Ive heard of the NM disaster.

      1. last time i checked he cut government employees by about 20 percent, reformed medicaid, privatized many government functions, cut taxes about 10 times while balancing every budget and almost got a universal voucher system put in place for the k-12 school system. Plus he was against the Iraq war, is critical of the PATRIOT act and wants to end the drug war. This guy is a disaster?

        1. To a liberal, yes, that sounds like a disaster. Sounds like a great governor to me.

        2. I don't know what exactly Neu Mejican has a problem with, since he did not specify. I didn't have a problem with him.

        3. After balancing the budget every year and putting through several tax cuts, Gov. Johnson left New Mexico in the black and Gov Richardson was able to push more tax cuts in 2003 based on Johnson's fiscal legacy.

          In 2003 governors in other states were proposing new taxes to deal with seas of red ink.

    2. I disagree. I am a New Mexican and I thought Johnson did a fine job --unless your yardstick is swelling the public sector and building roads and too expensive train systems and spaceports etc etc etc etc....

      Richardson squandered the tax windfall that the oil boom provided and now he's been forced to freeze all cap spending programs. My small town spent a significant amount of money on the promise of one of these programs and now we're being told
      "sorry". At least under Johnson we would not have faced the bait and switch.

      1. I now live in Arizona, but during Johnson's time I was living in New Mexico. I second your observations.

  12. Time will tell, but having a former Gov out there talking on some stuff we like is better than someone like Romney getting all the press.

  13. Neu Mejican is a liberal, so of course doing all those things you say, eb, makes him a disaster.

    1. Nope, not a liberal.

      1. Perhaps not from where you sit....

        1. Well, I am a centrist, so if you are on the right, I would seem on the left to you. But a liberal would be to my left.

          1. Tell me what specific political beliefs you hold that are not liberal, Neu Mejican.

            Every comment you've made on H&R that I can recall has been from the liberal playbook.

            1. That's not quite fair. Neu is "liberal" a lot of the time, but he's a hell of a lot more independently minded than Tony or Chad, etc.... Or the elusive and legendary Joe.

              1. What's not "fair" about asking Neu to define what beliefs he holds that liberals do not hold?

                Asking sincere questions is not fair?

                It's a question. If Neu is a centrist, he -- or someone else here -- can give some specific examples of things he's said here that a liberal would not say.

                1. No no no... It's totally fair to demand that Neu back up his nonsense... I've done that in the past - but it's not fair to call him a pure liberal, in the same way that say, Tony, would be.

          2. Well, considering I'm on neither the right nor the left....

            You want to be viewed as a centrist as you think that confers a sense of objectivity, then that is your right of course. But, very little of what you write seems "middle of the road" to me.

            Don't get me wrong, I think you are one of the more thoughtful writers here, even though I rarely agree with you. You do, at least, understand that carrots are better than sticks, especially when it comes to energy conservation.

  14. From wikipedia:

    Under Johnson's administration, New Mexico experienced the longest period without a tax increase in the state's history, the rate of growth in the state government was cut in half, half of the state's prisons were privatized, state Medicaid was shifted to managed care, and the state was left with approximately 1,000 fewer employees (with no firings) and a budget surplus.[6] Johnson vetoed 750 bills (which was more than all the vetoes of the other 49 Governors in the country at that time, combined), which earned him the nickname Gary "Veto" Johnson.[6]

    1. Wow... what a disaster!

    2. Goddamn, that just about gave me a boner.

      1. If Johnson gains traction, I'll just have Rahm make up some terrorist shit about him. Problem solved.

  15. State per capita GDP under Johnson (there is a switch in methodologies in 1997, so 1997 has two numbers) in 2000 dollars.

    1994 (baseline): 24.5k
    1995: 24.2
    1996: 24.8
    1997: 26.6 (old) 25.8 (new)
    1998: 25.8
    1999: 27.7
    2000: 27.9
    2001: 27.9
    2002: 27.9

    Um, still dont see the disaster. Economy slowed in early 2000s but those numbers were still going up, my rounding fails to show this. So, NM avoided the recession of 2001-2002.

    1. NM has the largest delta between taxes paid, and federal money coming in in the nation. It's easier to be recession proof when your on the federal teet.

      1. I thought Hawaii had that * honor * all sewn up.


        1. Silly me, I thought Alaska had them both beat. And I thought New York had the biggest delta going in the other direction.

        2. Silly me, I thought Alaska had them both beat. And I thought New York had the biggest delta going in the other direction.

  16. If he gets the nomination, he'll be well posed to beat Obama. Major nominees with very common names tend to beat those with less common names for POTUS. Check it out throughout hx.

    1. Barack beat John rather handily. What kind of name is "John" anyway, never heard of it, sounds like a guy that likes prostitutes.

  17. Well, I'll give Johnson credit for maintaining the highways.

    And gutting the education system.

    I do find it interesting that people are giving the governor credit for the economic situation in the state during his administration.

    1. Im not giving him credit for it, Im saying that had he been a disaster as governor, he would have destroyed it.

      If you dont understand the difference, that is your problem.

      1. This assumes that State per capita GDP is the only metric of success or failure.

        The disaster, from my perspective, was in the education system and the prison system.

        Education is, to me, one of the primary roles for a state government.

        Johnson's focus on budget rather than performance in the education system resulted in a system which was less able to perform an important service.

        Now, that wouldn't be an issue if he was president, I admit, as the federal government has a very limited role to play in education.

        1. Education is a primary role of parents.

          If parents left their kids in bad schools...not my problem.

          Now, if his voucher system* had passed, parents would have been able to more easily make this change, so it appears he tried to fix the education system and someone got in his way.

          *insert standard libertarian disclaimer

          1. First, of all, bullshit. Yes it's your problem, because their kids will grow up without any skills, which means that they're more likely to become criminals or to live off of welfare, which is your problem. Plus there's the whole thing about people who didn't do anything wrong but be born into the wrong family having a much harder time getting the sort of lives they want.

          2. robc,

            Education is a primary role of parents.

            You got that backwards, education is primarily the responsibility of parents. That does not mean that education is not one of the primary roles of STATE and local governments.

        2. "Education is, to me, one of the primary roles for a state government."

          I think I just puked up in my mouth a little.

          1. Yeah I could never vote for this guy.

            1. Is Neu Mejican running for office?

        3. was there an appreciable decline in educational quality, or just a cut in education spending? When I was growing up in California, we were constantly told that the schools were falling apart due to declining spending, but spending was actually increasing through the whole period. It's legit to care a lot about the quality of public schools, but enough people do that they become a favorite target for spending vampires.

          1. For schools, the hit was in quality.

            Prisons: Look up Wackenhut.

            Here's a teaser:

            In New Mexico, two prisons Wackenhut operates have repeatedly erupted in violence and disturbances; the death toll in these prisons reached five in less than one year. Wackenhut activated the Lea County Correctional Facility at Hobbs in May of 1998. Before the end of the summer there were reports of widespread violence at the facility.

            In August a lieutenant at Hobbs allegedly beat and kicked an inmate who was restrained with handcuffs and leg irons. The associate warden for security was removed from his position, two lieutenants resigned, and three guards were reprimanded. A monitor's report indicated that the beating had been ordered by the associate warden, who then attempted to cover-up the incident. Shortly after the report was filed the monitor was hired by Wackenhut to work as a deputy warden at a facility they were planning to open at Santa Rosa.

            In December a prisoner, Jose Montoya, was stabbed to death in the prison barbershop at Hobbs. Eleven days later guards allegedly kicked another prisoner while he was in restraints, causing head injuries. Two guards were fired, two supervisors resigned, and two were disciplined for attempting to cover up the incident.

            On January 13, 1999 Robert Ortega was found dead from stab wounds in his cell. This was the twelfth stabbing since the facility opened.

            In April hundreds of prisoners were involved in a two-hour melee at Hobbs that required assistance of more than 100 law enforcement and prison officers from around the state to lock the facility down. Thirteen guards and one prisoner were injured. Fifteen guards resigned their jobs after this event. A member of a Wackenhut emergency response team flown in from Texas was arrested and charged with beating shackled prisoners at the Hobbs facility days after riot had been quelled. Two other members of the team were administratively disciplined.

            In June a third Hobbs prisoner, Richard Garcia, was stabbed to death in his cell. Two inmates had tricked a guard into opening Garcia's cell door to gain access to murder him in what was described as a gang-related hit. That same month an audit report cited the prison for numerous deficiencies. Wackenhut was not providing a sufficient number of work and education programs; work assignments were for the most part "on paper only." Prisoners were not being classified in a timely manner, and were not scheduled for parole hearings as required by state standards.

            By August it was clear that the same types of problems experienced at Hobbs were shared at the facility Wackenhut had opened in Santa Rosa. A prisoner, Orlando Gabaldon, was beaten to death at that prison by inmates wielding a laundry bag filled with rocks they had smuggled from the prison yard past a security checkpoint. Gabaldon's death brought the total number of homicides at Wackenhut's facilities to four in less than nine months.

            Less than two weeks later an inmate was stabbed during an altercation in the Santa Rosa prison's gym. As guards struggled to effect a lock-down, a Wackenhut guard, Ralph Garcia, was stabbed to death. While prisoners rampaged through five housing units at the prison, Garcia was trying to convince prisoners in one unit to return to their cells. State official charged that Wackenhut misled them while the riot was in progress, assuring NMDC staff by telephone that conditions in the prison that night were uneventful. State police sent to check on media reports of the disturbance were held at the gate for a half-hour before being allowed to enter the facility and discover that a full-blown riot was occurring.

            An independent board of corrections experts called in to investigate the murder of the guard issued a scathing report detailing many failings in Wackenhut's prisons. These alarming defects include poor design and construction; an inexperienced correctional staff; a failure to deal effectively with inmate misconduct; and a lack of adequate monitoring by state authorities.

            Wackenhut's staffing plan at Santa Rosa was very thin, frequently permitting only intermittent patrolling of the housing units by guards who were assigned supervision of multiple housing units. Critical security posts often went uncovered and basic safety procedures were sloppily performed or ignored altogether. On the night that the guard was murdered there were only 18 staff on duty to handle 418 inmates.

            The report also made it clear that New Mexico's public officials must share the blame with Wackenhut. The state's custody classification system was deemed "dysfunctional." It did not take account of information about prisoners' gang affiliations. Prison housing assignments were often made without information needed to separate inmate enemies. Prisoners with serious mental health problems had been transferred to the Wackenhut prisons by NMCD staff who should have known that the facilities were not properly staffed to provide the treatment the prisoners would require.

  18. And I am impressed with anyone who points to NM's prisons as evidence of success.

    Yee - ouch!

  19. Im still waiting for evidence of "disaster".

    Come on Neu, what is it.

    1. Me too. I was there for the Johnson days. NM felt like a refuge from insane things going on all over the country at the time. I'm fully open to Neu Mejican's argument, I'm just not seeing one yet.

      Not enabling the state education system is to me a feature, not a bug.

      As for the problem with the prison system under Johnson, I don't know what the problem is, Neu Mejican doesn't say. He just said it's a disaster.

      1. see above.

  20. My guess is Johnson said something negative about AGW, and Neu has been blinded ever since.

  21. Hey, didn't you guys get the memo that Reason sucks?

    They're funded by the establishment and only pretend to be libertarian. Ask Reason why they are pro Fed, when the Fed is the great enabler of runaway gov't spending and immoral wars. Why does Reason support an institution that is detrimental to the poor and middle class and only benefits the elite? Why do they support this cartel? (hint: the answer is in the first sentence of this paragraph)

    If Reason were truly on your side they'd tell you that you that you can't have true liberty without economic liberty.

    1. Close enough. Drink!

      1. Indeed. He forgot to mention that Hitler reads Reason.


  22. Drug decriminalization is no small matter in a prospective Johnson bid. An admitted former marijuana user whose construction firm was known as Big J, Johnson is a vigorous advocate for decriminalizing drugs ? an issue that no serious presidential candidate has ever embraced.

    Sold. Run Gary Run...

    1. I thought he was an admitted coke user.

      1. I believe his response to a reporter once who asked him if he has experimented with drugs was something to the effect of "why do you keep saying experiment? I knew exactly what i was doing and i liked it!"

        now hes actually a teat toddler... doesnt drink or anything... says it hurt his performance as an athlete... i totally repect someone who thinks drugs are bad personally but still doent want to use force to stop others from doing it if they so chose.

        1. teat toddler? Is that where a hippy keeps breast feeding her kid until he's 3-4 years old?

  23. He's for open borders so that disqualifies him withh 75% of the public right off the bat... plus no one ever heard of him.. Doesn't he know that peace sign on his chest is a HUGE turnoff? Good lord.

  24. According to, Gary Johnson was known for:

    * Vetoing 750 bills (more than all the vetoes of the other 49 Governors combined).
    * Reducing taxes $123 million annually.
    * Cutting the rate of government growth in half.
    * Eliminating the state's budget deficit.
    * Leaving the state government with 1200 fewer employees (without firing anyone).
    * Leaving the state government with all-time high bond ratings.
    * Enacting major welfare reform, which cut government welfare spending by 30%.
    * Shifting state Medicaid to managed care.
    * Bringing the New Mexico state government and the Navajo nation leadership together to finally resolve century-old disputes over water, gaming, and other issues.
    * Privatizing half of the prisons in the state.
    * Shooting down campaign finance legislation.
    * Increasing the percentage of the budget devoted to improving the state's education system.
    * Repealing the Little Davis-Bacon Act, thereby allowing non-unionized labor the ability to be employed in construction of new schools and other public works.
    * Overseeing the construction of 500 miles of new, four-lane highway (designed, financed, built, and guaranteed by the private sector).
    * Running 100% positive campaigns, never mentioning his opponents once in print or ads.
    * Coming from outside of politics with no political machine behind him to beat a former Republican Governor in the Republican primaries and then unseat an incumbent Democrat Governor in the general election by a 10 point victory margin, even at a time when Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2-1 in the state.

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