Election 2016

Gary Johnson, Bill Weld on Colbert: Always "coming down on the side of choice"

LP presidential ticket stakes out differences between Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians.


The Libertarian Party's presidential ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld appeared last night on Stephen Colbert's Late Show.

When asked to define what libertarian means and to sell people on "the libertarian idea," Johnson explained that he and Weld, both ex-Republican governors of "blue" states (New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively), "We were fiscally conservative and we were socially liberal…the notion that people should be able to make their own choices in their own lives…always coming down on the side of choice. And from a military viewpoint, I think the fact that we drop bombs, I think the fact that we…fly drones and kill thousands of innocent people, at the end of the day, has a consequence that's worse, not better…the unintended consequence of making the world less safe." Later, he noted that he's supports a women's right to an abortion, same-sex marriage, and pot legalizaton, saying to great applause, "Come on, let people make choices in their own lives that only people should be making."

Colbert brought up Donald Trump's dismissal of them as "fringe candidates," Johnson replied, "Totally fringe! Totally fringe!…In 1999, I was the highest elected official ever in the country to call for the legalization of marijuana. Bill Weld [was] denied the nomination to be ambassador to Mexico in 1997 by Jesse Helms because we was pro-gay, pro a women's right to choose, and he was pro medical marijuana. By fringe, I think [Trump's] saying the majority of Americans are fringe."

Weld added: "I like to say I want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom." He added that he addressed the Republican National Convention in 1992 with that message but that in 2016, that's a non-starter with either party. "With the Democrats, you get the government in your pocketbook and with the Republicans, it's much worse because you've got the government in your bedroom."

I'm not sure that I'm buying Weld's castigation of the GOP as worse. There's no question that the George W. Bush administration and the GOP Congress early in the century was truly godawful, but it's not as if things improved under Barack Obama, either, especially when it comes to a series of privacy issues and civil liberties. Looking at Trump and Hillary Clinton, both candidates are unacceptable from virtually any perspective, which is one reason why they are so widely disliked by voters.

A new Fox News poll of 1,000 registered voters taken between June 5 and June 8 shows Clinton leading a three-way race with 39 percent, Trump with 36 percent, and Johnson with 12 percent (up 2 percentage points from a previous poll). A total of 14 percent said they would not vote, choose someone else, or didn't know. The result that is getting even more play than Johnson's improving showing is that he's beating Clinton among indepedents. Trump pulls 32 percent of independents, followed by Johnson at 23 percent, and Clinton at 22 percent.

At the same time that Johnson is gaining visibility on late-night TV and with voters, Politifact notes that his contention that the United States is pledged to defend the borders of 69 countries via treaties that were "not authorized by Congress" is "mostly false." Yes, it's true that America has more than a few "entangling alliances" but in fact many of them (especially regarding groups such as the Organization of America States) have not been taken seriously since the 1950s or don't actually call for anything approaching immediate military response. As important, virtually all of the agreements were ratified by the Senate, as per the Constitution. There are more than enough problems with our foreign policy and overseas military presence not to get anything wrong this early in the race.

Matt Welch talked with Johnson at the Libertarian National Convention, where the governor explained why he thinks he is the best choice against Trump and Clinton: