Hit & Run

Gary Johnson Disputes Rand Paul's Libertarian Cred

"Who's a bigger supporter of liberty?" would make for a great election year debate.

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He's actually reaching for a defibrillator.
Reason

This morning we noted that former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has made it official (actually, he already had announced last fall) that he would again run for the Libertarian Party's nomination for president. He was also in attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday, debating the legalization of marijuana on a panel. His applause line: "Having a debate right now over whether or not to legalize marijuana is kind of like having a debate over whether the sun will come up tomorrow." He also melodramatically keeled over when his debate opponent, former New York Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, claimed that marijuana use dramatically increased people's risks for heart attacks.

He also took a moment to dismiss Sen. Rand Paul's brand of libertarianism of not being very libertarian. Or so CNN says in a weirdly short post that could use a little more context or accompanying video:

While Paul may be the most libertarian-minded candidate in the field of prospective GOP presidential candidates, Johnson said, Paul doesn't fit the libertarian mold on a host of issues: from abortion to marriage equality to immigration and marijuana.

"He's a Republican," Johnson said.

"Great, I mean terrific," Johnson said sarcastically. "I mean, the most libertarian candidate that Republicans may end up fielding."

And then the item abruptly ends with this paragraph that does not appear to be a quote but rather the writer's own analysis of Paul's foreign policy:

Paul has even sidled away from his libertarian foreign policy views, ?shying away from his isolationist views in favor of a more nuanced foreign policy that would better fit the mold of a Republican primary.

And there it just ends without any explanation of what this paragraph even means. Do we have a drinking game or bingo card for poor media descriptions of libertarian or libertarian-leaning political positions? "Isolationist views" is worth both a drink and a corner box on the bingo card. Rand Paul is not an isolationist and never has been. And certainly Gary Johnson is not an isolationist either, favoring a reduction in the size of our military forces overseas, but not necessarily (or as much) in places with a lot of unrest like the Middle East.

It is interesting nevertheless to see Johnson working to differentiate himself from Paul, building on similar comments he made last fall. Johnson's ability to match or exceed his vote total from 2012 (1.3 million votes, one percent of the vote total) will certainly be affected by who the Democrats and Republicans nominate. Paul has a much bigger chance to pull votes away from Johnson than somebody like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush. So that "more libertarian than thou" branding is going to continue as long as Paul is a viable contender. And wouldn't that be an interesting debate to be having during election year?