Libertarian Party on TV: Gary Johnson, William Weld, and Austin Petersen

Johnson stands up for immigrants, Petersen invites #nervertrumpers, and Weld wants to wait for good polls before asking his rich pals for campaign cash.


Libertarian Party presidential hopeful Gary Johnson appeared on CNN this morning (as of posting I have not found the clip online), a decent national place to prove cross-party appeal. He seemed relaxed, no suit and tie polished politico, and it took constant repetition of one silly and pointless question from CNN's Victor Blackwell to get his dander up.

Gary Johnson facebook

Rather than just offer his viewers an opportunity to get to understand who and what this doubtless mysterious to many of them third party candidate Johnson had to offer, Blackwell had to desperately drag it down to a silly outrage game linked to the real star of CNN: Republican Donald Trump.

As I reported here the other day, Johnson's chosen vice presidential partner (the nominees will be selected in separate votes by delegates to the Libertarian National Convention next weekend in Orlando) is former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, a fellow former Republican. Weld in The New York Times characterized aspects of Trump's plan to deport undocumented immigrants as reminding him of Kristallnacht, a violent anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938 throughout Germany and Austria.

Naturally, the most important thing any CNN viewer would want to know about Johnson is: do you stand behind that inflammatory comparison? Blackwell asked it at least three times.

Through the badgering, Johnson highly praised Weld as being a partner "way above" a level he thought he could hope for, saying he puts Weld on a pedestal and considers him the "smartest guy in the room."

Johnson mostly tried to get across, through Blackwell's repetition (Johnson as the aside it deserves eventually declined to advocate that specific rhetoric, while stressing that his experience as a border state governor showed how absurd and damaging any call for mass deportations of illegal immigrants is) the notion that his team represents the "fiscally conservative and socially liberal" choice. He implied even social conservatives might prefer him given he'd be the only candidate genuinely committed to a smaller government role in both our lives and our pocketbooks. His message was all about leaving you alone to live your life and allowing you to keep your money and make your choices.

New Mexico's former governor was winningly humble when discussing his 10 percent in a recent Fox poll, noting that at this point "Mickey Mouse" would likely poll at 30 against that dismal competition, but that Mickey Mouse would not be on the ballot in likely 50 states the way the Libertarian candidate will be.

Another contender for that ballot slot is Austin Petersen, who did a long, 16 minute or so, interview with Glenn Beck yesterday, which can be seen in video form at this Facebook link. Beck's show aired on The Blaze, a place to try to appeal to a particular audience—conservatives possibly disenchanted with Trump.

Petersen defended his pro-life position in libertarian terms—as just protection of human life, for which most libertarians allow a government role—and discusses "theory and practicality" distinctions about open borders and vows to "obey the law" regarding immigration. He will deport violent criminal but wants to incentivize legal immigration by making it less difficult, like "stringent security checks and diseases checks" and then just be naturalized "like my ancestors were."

"I do not want to use fear to expand the power of the executive branch," Petersen said, in response to a long leading question about all the maniacs in the Middle East trying to kill us. But Petersen says he would act constitutionally to deal with actual threats to the U.S., seeking congressional support first. 

He wants to abolish the IRS and replace it with a flat tax, which he thinks might gain us even more revenue, because of low compliance rates with our current progressive system. Petersen keeps the actual authority of the presidency on his mind. When discussing his plans he uses phrases such as "If Congress sends me such a bill" rather than acting like he could accomplish whatever he wants by executive ukase. Regarding the Bundy Ranch situation, Petersen says he'd like to get the federal government out of managing Western land.

Beck and Petersen bonded over their mutual love of Judge Andrew Napolitano, on whose Fox Business Channel show Petersen was a producer. Petersen hyped libertarian movement constitutionalist scholar Randy Barnett as a potential Supreme Court choice, while also sounding enthusiastic about Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz for possible Supreme Court seats, though he said ultimately he'd rather have them in the Senate sending him good legislation to sign.

The L.P., Petersen says, is the last hope for #nevertrumpers and Ted Cruzers, and continues to think he's a natural choice for social conservatives. Maybe, though Petersen's firm support for gay marriage could hurt him there.

Austin Petersen for Prez Facebook

Although Beck said Petersen is "making my heart skip" and "giving me hope there is someone I can pull the lever for" and is "saying all the right things," and despite other reports, Beck's people say there has been no official endorsement of Petersen by Beck.

William Weld, Johnson's vice president choice, appeared with Chuck Todd on MSNBC yesterday discussing his and Johnson's run for the L.P. banner. He said he has been pro-Gary since their days as fellow socially liberal and fiscally conservative Republican governors in the 1990s, bonding over their refusal to "buy into the anti-abortion plank of the Republican platform," believing in "gays and lesbians living happily married openly and peacably" and not "buying into the roundup of 11 million people without proper papers."

As Johnson praised Weld on CNN above, Weld finds Johnson "a force" and reeled off his impressive athletic accomplishments, from climbing the "highest mountain on all seven continents" to Iron Man triathlons, calling him a "real Teddy Roosevelt guy, real Westerner" whose very strength "makes him calm, like he draws straight from the sky almost."

Weld admitted that were his original choice John Kasich getting the GOP nod, he wouldn't be doing this. As it is, though, he thinks there is such a "feeling in the country of disquiet with the two leading candidates" that this year he sees "real political opposition as a game worth the candle."

Admitting to personal friendships with both Clintons, and praising Bill's work with his Global Initiative, Weld can't abide that the Democratic Party's plan "is to spend more than we are taking in, digging ourselves into a hole" that he thinks will destroy job creation, and would be a precursor "for China to be the only superpower in 10 years."

Weld said he could consider putting some of his own money into his campaign, but that wouldn't be so impressive a number. He sees a Johnson-Weld campaign collecting a lot from "going online, small contributors, we may be appealing to millennials" and thinks he could be an in to some some medium-large GOP funder types who he knows personally. He wouldn't think of leaning on them, though, "until we demonstrate prowess in the polls. I don't want to make an ask before there's good poll standing behind it."

That's polite of Weld toward his rich Republican pals, but perhaps confusing carts and horses since good seed money might be necessary to get the message out enough to guarantee good poll results.

[L.P. on TV bonus update] Just plain forgot this on first posting, but a lot of people seem happy to see Rachel Maddow on MSNBC dedicating an interestingly interminable 11 minute segment to the happy message that a Libertarian Party option will be on the ballot, and has some chance of being a real threat to Trump and Clinton. Enjoy her delightfully pointless "remember these three numbers…" framing of her smug telling you the real story.