Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson: Running for President Without William Weld Would be Like Running a Marathon with a Broken Leg

"I will not be elected president of the United States if Bill Weld is not my vice presidential pick. It's not going to happen. It's just that simple," says Johnson at the Libertarian Party convention today.

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An exaggeratedly bearded man with a boot on his head is attacking former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson with a giant toothbrush in Orlando. Johnson is taking it in stride.

Gary Johnson for President Facebook

It takes, one imagines, a sense of humor to run for the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party and Johnson mugs along as the living national political satire who calls himself Vermin Supreme forces Johnson to admit he would give zombies the right to vote.

After shouting to the phalanx of TV cameras circling Johnson that this stance was clearly ridiculous, Supreme announces his name loudly and says "I am not representative of the Libertarian Party!"

I'm still not sure where Johnson thinks he was going, but he stops every few feet to talk to friendly delegates. I can't always hear what he says, but once overheard him pressing a woman: "Are you on board with Bill Weld?

Long, drawn-out, hesitant: "I don't know…."

Eventually Johnson finds himself fully hemmed in by press on all sides and answers some questions for a few minutes, from me and other reporters, TV and print. 

We had passed a heated discussion on how to wind down the drug war. I ask Johnson about what he thinks of decriminalization vs. legalization.

"If you decriminalize [possession], you still have to buy. So if you decriminalize both sale and consumption, that works."

Would he prefer a legalized/regulated solution, like with alcohol and tobacco? That might not be better, he says, but "it's more realistic. Right now the worst example [of how to deal with legal pot] is Washington state. They really screwed things up in a big way. Clearly Colorado got it better, not that they have it right, but they are way ahead."

As always, Johnson says that he believes if he and Weld get the nomination tomorrow and get in the polls, they'll get the 15 percent they need in five separate polls to get in the debates, then money and votes will follow. I ask if there's anything specific he thinks they can do to get in the polls.

"No, and that may be part of the conspiracy." I chuckle at that word. "Genuinely!" Johnson says. "Democrats and Republicans, when it come to major polls, they may sign documents or contribute mightily to other polls that these organizations conduct, not presidential polls, but gee if you are going to include Gary Johnson in your national polls, millions of dollars of revenue from other polls may go away."

Does he think New Mexico's sitting governor, Susana Martinez, recently feuding with Donald Trump, might come out for her predecessor, another reporter asks? No, Johnson says. She's too dedicated to fighting the alleged scourge of marijuana. "She's made a name for herself opposing me on legalizing marijuana. It's not going to happen. She demonizes marijuana, calls it a gateway drug, you are going to lose your mind if you do that and I'm going to arrest you and put you in jail, because that's really helping you," Johnson says. "I don't want to presume what she'll do. She could pull the Constitution Party candidate lever," Johnson said, but made it clear after multiple inquiries that he knows she won't support him.

Another reporter asks him if he's regretting the choice of William Weld as his running mate, in the face of Libertarian opposition. "Not to take anything away from any other candidate [for vice president], but going forward I'd be handicapped 50 percent without Bill Weld—the attention he garners, the credibility he brings, the fact that he's been my role model to me my entire life…."

The reporter points out aspects of Weld's Republican/Brahmin past that rub some Libertarian activists the wrong way. He's friends with George Bush! He had a great uncle in the CIA!

"And now he's a Libertarian!" Johnson says. He would hope Weld's conventional worldliness would be a plus. "His knowledge of this stuff [governing] is unsurpassed. I would hope people would view that as an asset."

In an earlier press conference, one reporter says, he thought the Johnson/Weld interplay seemed rough, a bit awkward.

"We are intending our presentation to be rough," Johnson says. "We'll be honest and disagree with each other. It's an open kind of relationship. We're not going to be polished."

He makes another pitch for Weld's qualities. "We need to have people really smart, knowledgeable in that context. We are all pulling for smaller government, all pulling for civil liberties and individual rights" but Libertarians should recognize that "nothing is as clear cut" in governing as it might seem in philosophy."

When a reporter suggests Weld's basic retail political skills seem rough in this Libertarian context, Johnson defends him: "He's been plucked and put in the middle of a bee hive and I think he's doing remarkably." Johnson thinks Weld's ability to navigate the particular Libertarian environment has been getting better and better since he announced his candidacy. "When I take three or four days off [from face to face politics], I come back rusty," Johnson says.

I ask if he's prepared to make a specific reality check plea to the Libertarian delegates if Johnson wins the presidential nomination tomorrow, before their separate vote on the vice president, to explain why he needs them to give him Weld.

"I will not be elected president of the United States if Bill Weld is not my vice presidential pick. It's not going to happen. It's just that simple."

Johnson really thinks the Party faithful misunderstand Weld. To Johnson, when he was coming up in the 1990s, he felt that "he was saying all this [Libertarian] stuff before anyone else" not already in the Party. "He had the highest elected office saying these same things Libertarians were saying." Johnson is correct that even many in the libertarian movement outside the Party saw Weld as their greatest hope in the major parties when he governed Massachusetts.

Would he just give up the whole thing if he doesn't get Weld, Johnson is asked?

He repeats the wonders of Weld's resume, his gravitas, the media and political attention he gets. It's like this, Johnson says: "I've been training for the marathon, and I just broke my leg. Will I run the marathon tomorrow?"

A small hush. Reporters think this is a confession of being prepared to bow out if he doesn't get his Weld. He's not going that far, Johnson insists. "I'm not saying that. I just want to put my best foot forward, OK? I've worked so hard and Bill Weld is a choice that exceeds my wildest expectations."

He's asked about money, and he reiterates his absolute lack of interest in being the guy who makes personal asks of donors. Weld will be good at that, he says. He knows nothing specific about big money that might line up behind Johnson-Weld if they win the Libertarian nomination tomorrow, but his people tell him there is some of it out there, interested. Even in his first governor campaign in the '90s, he says, he just spent over half a million of his own money rather than beg for it. "I'm incapable of that," he says about personal fundraising.

Bernie Sanders fans, he says, would likely find themselves attracted to him if they check out the "Isidewith" site, in which, as Johnson likes to say, he matches the socialist Democrat 73 percent, on social and foreign policy issues and opposition to bailout and crony capitalism for the well-connected.

Will he actively court "nevertrumps" from the GOP side? The Zen candidate doesn't think it matters. "It doesn't work when you go out and court. It works when they are interested. In my life it never works that way. There has to be an interest on their side."

When a young lady holding a sign for the Libertarian ticket of John McAfee and Judd Weiss is trying to squeeze her way in, Johnson gamely ushers her into the camera's eye to make sure her sign is seen among all the Johnson signs that materialized behind him while he answered questions. In a moment, a lot of people are asking her questions, at Johnson's suggestion, and Johnson slips away for his next TV appearance away from the scrum.

The TV reporter asks him about hardcore activist complaints that he and Weld are just "Republican lite."

"I'm outraged by that," Johnson says, though sounding pretty mellow as he always does. "I'm not Republican lite. I'm a Libertarian, and I've been libertarian my entire life."

NEXT: Libertarian John McAfee's Campaign to Tear Down the Political System

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  1. Vermin Supreme would make a better LP candidate than Gary Johnson.

    In the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary Mr Supreme got 837 votes to Gary Johnson’s 181

    1. I think he had already withdrawn from the republican primaries at that point.

      1. Johnson withdrew less than 2 weeks before the NH Primary.

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  2. Running marathons is not an enumerated duty of the President.

  3. If Weld had in fact become a Libertarian, he wouldn’t be touting progressive, big-government-supporting Senator Jack Javitz (for whom Weld proudly states he once worked) as a model.

    Javitz backed a host of new regulations and regulatory agencies that harmed the free market.

    Javitz was a part of a now-extinct branch of the GOP that wanted to outflank the Democrats from the Left (along with Pennsylvania’s Gov. Ray Shafer, who increased state spending so much he almost bankrupted Pennsylvania by leaving office in 1970). These folks believed that the Democrats were too restrained in expanding the size of the government, and that government spending was too low. Senator Javitz was to the left of New York liberal Republican governor Nelson Rockefeller, who quadrupled New York state spending in his more than a decade in office. (On fiscal matters, Rockefeller ran to the left of his Democratic rivals, like Averell Harriman, whom he unseated.) And to Javitz, Rockefeller was too conservative.

  4. If the LP is misguided enough to nominate Gary Johnson they can at least mitigate their error by choosing Will Coley as his Veep

    1. Coley would at least give everyone a bad case of cognitive dissonance.

  5. IFFF there were a real chance that Johnsold+Weld could actually win the White House, I’d vote for them in heartbeat, since a half-assed Libertarian is better than either Hillary or Trump.

    But it just ain’t gonna happen. Ronald Reagan could be resurrected and run as Libertarian and he wouldn’t win.

    So the only purpose of Libertarian candidates is to get out the NAP message, to educate the public, in the hopes that some of it will rub off on voters, that the other parties will freak out enough to rein in their Hillary and Bernie and Trump wackos, to bring some small government ethos to the political scene.

    Johnson+Weld aren’t those candidates. Picking Weld makes the pair appear like old-fashioned Republican lite, not as radical shrink government types.

    1. in the hopes that some of it will rub off on voters

      Are you saying that the LP should infect the donuts at its candidate gatherings so that all five non-LP members there get infected? Like a LP version of Tuskogee?

    2. If connecting with voters really is the issue, why does the LP continually select the biggest nut cases? Who the hell is going to “connect” with John MacAfee or Darryl Perry? I’d rather connect with an electrical outlet and it still wouldn’t be as painful as “connecting” with these two.

  6. Even if they are Republican lite, they are far better than Hillary who is horrid and Trump who is just plain evil. I liked Weld’s speech, except when he got into regulating banks. Wrong answer – the solution to corruption is to end crapitalism – backing bank loans with taxpayer money and of course the Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction, which creates 30-year mortgages and their impossible-to-value derivatives that tanked the economy. I could go on. (And we need not be held hostage to threats of bank failures tanking the economy. It’s the same as the 80’s pants shitting over pot legalization. The ‘experts’ were wrong – surprise, surprise.)

  7. If there were a real chance that Johnsold+Weld could actually win the White House, I’d vote for them in heartbeat,

    Me too.

    But instead they’re supposed to be representing the “principled vote” for people abstaining from the Clinton/Trump horrorshow.

    They utterly fail as that, imo.

  8. “”I will not be elected president of the United States…”

    He could have stopped there.

    1. Right? I came here to say the same thing, only I was gonna block quote like this:

      “I will not be elected president of the United States if Bill Weld is not my vice presidential pick. It’s not going to happen. It’s just that simple.”

      And then I was gonna say something snarky like “Because he will win if he gets Weld.”
      But now I don’t have to. Thanks.

  9. When a young lady holding a sign for the Libertarian ticket of John McAfee and Judd Weiss is trying to squeeze her way in, Johnson gamely ushers her into the camera’s eye to make sure her sign is seen among all the Johnson signs that materialized behind him while he answered questions. In a moment, a lot of people are asking her questions, at Johnson’s suggestion, and Johnson slips away…

    OMG. He doesn’t even know how to keep the attention on himself? He’s never going to be elected anything in his life.

    1. Or climb Everest! What a quitter!
      Johnson is an admirable person, and I thought he was a pretty good governor, although I didn’t live in New Mexico during his term.
      He may not pass the purity test, but he’s acceptable.
      The problem is that he just doesn’t have a lot of charisma, which is vital today. Before TV he could have been president.

  10. “The reporter points out aspects of Weld’s Republican/Brahmin past that rub some Libertarian activists the wrong way. He’s friends with George Bush! He had a great uncle in the CIA!”

    Right, nothing to do with his support of “common sense legislation is to remove deadly guns from our streets” yada yada.

  11. I assumed Johnson was the best choice despite not really being a libertarian because of actually being elected Governor.

    He has really been a disappointment this weekend.. He doesn’t consider why people are concerned about his views or his picking Weld.

    1. sarc// That’s because he is way smarter than you. sarc off//

  12. The only thing I look for out of Libertarians running for office is that they take away enough votes from someone and totally screw them out of the position.

    I don’t care which party, just as long as someone and their party are absolutely infuriated.

    It doesn’t happen much but I’ll take what I can get.

    So that’s why I vote Libertarian even if I think the candidates are shit.

    1. I find this the most compelling LP case so far.

      “Because somewhere, some politician is going, “WTF ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! WHATATERIANS? WE SPENT $400Million on TV ALONE!! FUCKING WHAT??”

      1. The LP has to get airtime for this strategy to work. And I have no idea how to do that. I think a really rich and really strict contitutionalist could be this person. Someone who can afford to run ads during primetime on the over the air channels a year before the election touting their strict constitutionalism. “I have no problem with gay and trans people using the bathroom of their choice, but COT-DAMN, I’m going to kill all of the government agencies and use my monitary influence to tell private organizations to make accomodations. No one likes assholes, and that’s what the LP is all about! Bi-otch!”

        1. Butts-Wagner for president: Taking over the world in order to leave you the hell alone!
          Butts-Wagner: The jokes write themselves!
          Butts-Wagner, because otherwise you Trumclioried; and nobody wants that.

          1. Damn Straight homie.

  13. “I will not be elected president of the United States if Bill Weld is not my vice presidential pick. It’s not going to happen. It’s just that simple.”

    Could have stopped before “if”. But I get it, he’s protecting his “electable moderate” cred that he gets from Weld from the party faithful and hoping he can get both of them through. Understandable, and I can see the upside in deferring to that strategy or the upside in rejecting it. We’ll see what the delegates do.

  14. Who was the guy who ran for Governor (was it Ventura?) whose campaign consisted of, “I’ll re-institute the death penalty, and then resign on day one, and my Lt Governor will fill out the test of my term.”?
    Anywho, DenverJ’s Poli-Sci Alternative History weekly contribution:
    Donald Trump names Rand Paul as his pick for Veep, wins the election, proclaims an eternal tax holiday for Trump Enterprises, and then resigns, leaving Rand Paul as the President of the United States.

    1. It was Stern. And more recently that leftist economist running for president.

  15. Lol. Johnson sez the coal industry was bankrupt by the free market and calls for regulating carbon emissions?

    http://twitter.com/KilloughCNN…..4295693312

    Libertarian Moment! You sons a bitches.

    1. He also said no one has ever died from marijuana which is fairly obvious he misspoke when saying that.

  16. Ooh ooh, i got better:
    Donald Trump and HRC pick each other as their running mates, so, no matter who wins, they both get power. But now, the winner knows their Veep is out to kill them. We get like the last days of the Roman Empire. Or like Spain whenever The Three Musketeers was set.
    That would be a good book.

    1. NOW I HAVE AN ERECTION!

      THANKS, ASSHOLE.

      1. YOU’RE WELCOME WARREN

      2. The weirdest boner: toupee at the tip, cankles for testes.

    2. Dumas used a French setting.

      1. Was it? I haven’t read it in years. I’ll add it to my “re-read” list.
        The point I was going for was the low level war, and the different agencies of the government engaging in covert war against each other: The State Department backing President Hillary, while Foggy Bottom gives Veep Trump intel to blackmail HRC with. Or visa versa.
        Either way, lots of entertainment, not much hope of the Libertarian Moment.

  17. Like there is the remotest chance Gary Johnson would ever be elected President.

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    1. We know what you do Ammy.

      1. Oh shit, there were four copies of this post I was responding to. What happened to the other three?! I demand an answer Reason/Michael Robertson.

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  22. “Would be like running a marathon with a broken leg”

    And? What are you a pussy?

    1. Sherpas carried GayJay’s gasping ass to the summit.

      1. On a palanquin.

    2. So now he’s running the race with a broken wing . . .

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