Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson Just Gave the Best Speech of His Presidential Campaign


Las Vegas—Moments before delegates began casting their ballots to determine the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, Gary Johnson told the crowd at the Red Rocks Resort in Las Vegas that he'd rather be tortured to death than vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

It was one of several lines that brought the crowd to its feet at this year's Libertarian Party Convention. Based on what I've seen from Johnson in the last year, it was the best speech he's ever given: Punchy, firm, loud, politically on point, and littered with applause lines.

It was also improvised.

"You must not know much about Gary," his spokesman told me when I asked for a transcript of the speech, which brought the packed Red Rocks ballroom to its feet half a dozen times. "That was all Gary. All he had up there were a few notes."

Content-wise, Johnson's speech was nothing new. He's talked about winding down the war in Afghanistan, ending the war on drugs, fiscal responsibility, tax reform, GLBT rights, and gun rights at speeches across the country for months. But today's delivery showed Johnson has finally learned how to package those ideas into sound bites.

Some of the punchiest lines:

"Imagine a libertarian president challenging Congress to bring about marriage equality."

"Imagine a libertarian president ending impediments to free markets."

"Imagine a libertarian president challenging Congress to repeal the PATRIOT Act."

"Imagine a libertarian president challenging Congress for meaningful immigration reform."

"The libertarian candidate for president is the only candidate talking about gun rights and gay rights in the same sentence."

"The libertarian candidate for president is the only candidate that's going to be talking about slashing welfare spending and warfare spending in the same sentence." 

"Make no bones about it: The goal here is to win the election."

"Somewhere between 2000 and 2008, Bob Barr fell out of bed, hit his head, and became a libertarian. I'm glad it happened."

"This is not 2008. I don't have any of that baggage hanging in back of me."

And the best line of the speech:

"I was on NPR's All Things Considered yesterday. The question was, 'You're on the torture rack, they're going to kill you, who are you going to vote for? Mitt Romney, or Barack Obama? I said, 'Look, I've climbed Mount Everest. I know how to do what it takes. Take this to the bank: I would rather die.'" 

NEXT: How the LP Votes for a Presidential Nominee

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  1. …and then NPR killed him.

    1. Not defending NPR here, and never have or will, but they are just looking out for themselves… candidates like Johnson would end all taxpayer subsidies to public broadcasting – and rightly so – and NPR isn’t headed by fools… they know their “product” would flounder in the free market.

      1. Why would their product founder in the market? Major market public radio is mostly listener funded. Taking away federal funds would take away some funds for the overpaid management of NPR itself. But the system might be better off without federal funds.

        1. I’d agree with johnl. I think that it would survive and be better if federal funding were cut off. Despite its obvious flaws, I think that NPR is one of the better mainstream news outlets (not that that is terribly high praise). And if they were limited to just contributions from listeners, they’d probably have to get rid of some of the dumber crap they produce.

          1. And if they were limited to just contributions from listeners, they’d probably have to get rid of some of the dumber crap they produce.

            Air America comes to mind. They didn’t survive very long in the talk radio market.

            NPR probably would survive, but there would no doubt be some serious liposuction there and might even devolve into The Thomas L. Friedman Show (I have no idea; I don’t liten to NPR). Even PBS accepts *gasp* corporate funding and they could easily survive without fed funds. Sesame Street alone would keep them in business.

            1. I know, public *barf* broadcasting doesn’t get much of our money, but it’s the thing of the principle that matters.

              IMO, they wouldn’t last if they had to interrupt several times an hour to sell commercials.

              1. Considering government is 40% of the US GDP, I’d say they actually have a disproportionately small influence in public radio. Yeah, some of those institutions are passing on government funding, but my best guess is that not much would change if more money were in the hands of the actual public.

                Now, NPR is rightly afraid that cuts to NPR but nowhere else would mean less revenue, but I don’t think it follows for across-the-board cuts.

  2. Principled non-voting looks like the way to go this cycle.

    1. If it’s so “principled”, why do you decide every cycle? Are principles malleable now?

      And: your one-note anti-everything anarchist schtick is really getting old.

      1. Actually, it would be impossible to be against “everything”.

        1. Fair enough. SIV’s attitude slips into libertarian nihilism, though, which is great if you want to complain without offering a goddamn solution to a problem, but decidedly unhelpful other than as an act of masturbation.

          1. Wasn’t SIV a Bachmann supporter?

            1. That would explain the brain-damage.

            2. I played one on H&R anyway. She was (at least) the 3rd best “libertarian-leaning” alternative in the 2012 GOP field.

              1. She was (at least) the 3rd best “libertarian-leaning” alternative in the 2012 GOP field.

                The “third best” “libertarian leading” Republican got your support over the LP’s nominee?

                O_o ho-kay

                1. My “support” went to the best candidate in the GOP field: Dr Ron Paul.

                2. She was (at least) the 3rd best “libertarian-leaning” alternative in the 2012 GOP field.

                  I TOTALLY agree. And I think Newt Gingrich was the 4th best “libertarian-leaning” alternative! Since Bachmann dropped out, he’s now 3rd best! Just what you wanted, right? The 3rd worse best combination of unlibertarian and unelectable, right?

                  1. Actually Rick Perry or Herman Cain would have beat out Newt for “4th best” but they disqualified themselves. Newt is far worse than Mittens. He is little more than an authoritarian Marxist.

                    1. Newt is far worse than Mittens. He is little more than an authoritarian Marxist.


          2. Kinda hard not to, Randian. We face a bleak future, even if we had a 100% libertarian legislature tomorrow morning.

            1. Nihilism is the easy way out. It’s brain heroin. It’s a way to shut out all thought and just say “fuck the world”.

              And it’s ultimately dangerous and debilitating for the same reasons.

              1. I didn’t say it was impossible to change, but with the Teams in charge it’s damn near that way.

              2. Let me know when you single handedly bring about libertopia.

              3. It’s a way to shut out all thought and just say “fuck the world”.

                That’s not nihilism… that is someone choosing to focus their energies on their circle of influence.

          3. without offering a goddamn solution to a problem,



            It’s going to come from cultural shifts, from people deciding individually that they don’t want to boss their neighbours around, and from paradigm shifts that make the old systems obsolete – such as the rise of Internet destroying the FCC’s iron grip on communications.

            And these shifts will lead statists to reduce the state’s grip as occurred when Ted Kennedy spearheaded the legislation deregulating interstate trucking.

  3. Is there a video of this anywhere?

    1. I was just going to ask this.

      1. So why didn’t you? Will the video be available?

          1. They cut it from that page. The speech started at 3:34 and now the video ends at 3:24. WTF, C-Span?

        1. uh, because when I refreshed, the question had already been asked.

          So where’s the actual video? I can’t find it on C-Span.

          1. Found:…../stop/5498

          2. Found the video. It was a bit buried, there was a second place, the one I found was cut but the other copy is still working.…../stop/5498

  4. If you’d rather die than be forced to vote for Obama or Romney, then you need to chill out a bit.

    Johnson is preferable to any in-group Republican by far, but really only on foreign policy issues. Libertarians and Republicans are in lockstep when it comes to economic policies–which is so encrusted with dogmatism that it refuses to see its failures even as they are happening. Drastic austerity for the poor and fierce protection of the wealthy, right? Legal weed woohoo.

    1. What candidate or party has proposed austerity?

      Can you also define what austerity? Ie., what % of the federal budget would have to be cut for the measure to be considered austerity?

      I had a weird revelation a week or so ago when I realized that I am alive and politically aware during the time when concepts like “fair share” and “austerity” are being completely twisted in something absurd.

      If I have kids, I’m going to end up having one of those moments when I explain “You know ‘fair share’ didn’t always mean what it means today-it wasn’t always only defined by one group in order to demand more from another.”

      “Also guys, “austerity” meant major cuts in spending and not simply small cuts in proposed spending increases. If I wanted to cut actual spending by 50%, that was austerity. If I wanted to reduce a spending increase from 9% over last year to 4%, that was a reduction in spending increase and not even a budget cut much less “austerity”.

  5. ‘Imagine a libertarian president’ doing any of that shit without being cockblocked at every turn by an establishment congress. I’m as excited as the next guy about getting him in the office, but lets not fool ourselves about how much the guy at the top is capable of doing solo. Might have worked in NM, but just a different animal at the national level.

    1. But it would be fun to watch him try. I’d put the over/under on impeachment at 8 months. He’d probably be able to get in 20 or 30 vetoes by then…

    2. For some things like spending or economic growth, yes. But in areas like the drug war or surveillance state or foreign policy, the executive branch has a good deal of power. Plus he seems to have a lot of stamina in his veto arm.

      Not that I think GJ will be elected, but there’s reason to believe a good president would have good results.

  6. Sound like a plan to me dude. WOw.

  7. Damn, that was a great speech. I didn’t know Johnson could speak that well. I hope he gets some debate time with the obamney twins.

    If you’re looking for it, it starts at about 1:21:45.

    1. Here’s a direct link to the video. Great speech, and no Teleprompter!…../stop/5498

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  9. Saying that Gary Johnson gave the best speech ever is like saying you had the best bowl of tapioca ever. It’s still tapioca.

  10. Gary Johnson is just what this country needs! If you like him, check out my website – I’m running for Florida State Representative as a Libertarian. I’ve also been endorsed by Governor Johnson!

  11. Very good article.

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