Libertarianish Politicians: Very Interesting to the Left When Marginalized

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Salon plays a somewhat typical prog-left journalism card, finding libertarianism quite interesting, refreshing, and valuable when posited against "standard Republicans."

Still, this profile of Gary Johnson, a very libertarian-leaning former New Mexico governor and apparent 2012 GOP presidential candidate, does a good job making him sound encouraging and even un-frightening to its intended audience (mostly by gliding over the free market stuff). Some excerpts, with requisite "he couldn't possibly matter" expert opinion:

Gary Johnson…is talking about hookers. 

"It's never been a consideration that I would enlist the services of a prostitute, myself personally," he says. "But if I were to do that, where would I want to enlist that service? Well, it would probably be in Nevada, where it's legal, because it would be safe." 

When's the last time Mitt Romney engaged in a hypothetical like that? But Johnson doesn't even blink. It's not like this is the only topic on which he risks offending the GOP's base. He also favors legalizing pot, supports abortion rights, and opposes the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Oh, and he doesn't go to church. "I don't think you'll ever hear me invoking God in anything I do," he tells me. 

It is an incongruous foundation from which to seek the mantle of a party whose last president, George W. Bush, famously claimed that his favorite philosopher is Jesus Christ. 

Johnson faces other obstacles, too. Aside from his low name-recognition, he has no discernible power base….

"His chances are zero," political analyst Stu Rothenberg says via e-mail. "I'd say that they are less than zero, if there was such a thing. I'd expect his impact to be nonexistent." 

That assessment may prove correct, but it's also worth remembering that the same things were said a few years ago about an obscure Texas congressman named Ron Paul…..

Johnson doesn't bother to hide his disdain for his party's hard-liners. Take the incendiary new immigration law passed in Arizona, for instance: 

"I just don't think it's going to work," he says. "I think it' s going to lead to racial profiling. I don't how you determine one individual from another — is it color of skin? — as to whether one is an American citizen or the other is an illegal immigrant." 

Johnson favors an expansive guest worker program and is uncomfortable with the idea of mass deportations. What about the idea of increasing security by means of a border wall? 

"I have never been supportive of the wall," he replied. "A 10-foot wall [just] requires an 11-foot ladder." 

Up until now, Johnson's main national claim to fame has been his effort, while he was New Mexico's governor, to legalize marijuana. The push failed, but Johnson remains committed to the cause. 

"I have always seen this as a gigantic issue, when you consider what we spend on law enforcement and the prisons," he says. "The fact that we are arresting 1.8 million people a year — and to what end? We have had virtually no effect on this in decades of pursuing current policy. I don't know why we can't accept marijuana use similar to alcohol."

….On foreign policy, Johnson' s views are straight out of Paul' s rhetorical armory. He asserts that "our security is not being threatened" in either Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, he argues, America' s "actions have actually had a reverse impact on our security. We have made enemies out of tens of millions of individuals that maybe we wouldn' t have made otherwise."

The article also points out that Johnson lacks some other qualities and interests that are likely important to the GOP rank and file: he isn't virulently anti-Obama, or pro-Tea Party or Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Reason.tv's Gary Johnson interview: