Gary Johnson

What Should CNN Ask Gary Johnson and William Weld in Primetime Interview?

Libertarians are getting the chance to make their case to the voting public.

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Gary Johnson
Paul Hennessy/Polaris/Newscom

Wednesday night CNN will be giving Libertarian Party candidates Gary Johnson and William Weld the same "town hall" treatment they gave the candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties during the primaries. CNN even has that absurd countdown clock ticking down right now during its broadcasts to let viewers know it's coming.

Because it's a town hall, a lot of questions will be coming from the "audience," but it's still worth exploring what would be good questions for Johnson and Weld when discussing libertarian philosophy to a general political crowd. One of the awkward but unavoidable issues of the Libertarian Party debate that aired on C-Span was that the candidates were selling themselves to other libertarians and all that entailed. In that sense it wasn't really that much different from Democratic or Republican primaries, but Johnson and Weld are now operating from a position of representing a third-party philosophy that is not necessarily well-known to average voters and is often misrepresented in the media.

Given the intense dislike of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a large chunk of voters are pretty thirsty. This is a rare opportunity for Johnson and Weld to sell an alternative philosophy.

Over at The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin says that Johnson and Weld deserve "real, substantive questions," by which she partly means questions that are of interest to her as a conservative ("You want to legalize marijuana. What about sales to children? Why not heroin?"). This isn't a knock on Rubin over the fact that she's a conservative and not a libertarian, especially on foreign policy. I'm not entirely sure I'd call a question about selling marijuana to children to be either "real" or "substantive," though.

Rather, Rubin's list of questions is interesting in that it indicates somebody thinking about what options are available to a conservative who is examining alternatives to a mercurial, self-absorbed, unmoored Trump. How Johnson answers these questions could move some conservative Republicans more toward Johnson's direction, or scare them away. It's the same sort of ideological mathematical equation libertarians (or any independent) put themselves through when considering voting for a Democrat or Republican. Which polices are most important to me? Which can be compromised in favor of a candidate who is preferable in other ways?

So a thought exercise: Given that the goal of this town hall is to draw attention to these candidates to general voters, not other libertarians, what sorts of questions would you like to see them tackle? Some questions I'd like to see asked, not necessarily because I don't know what he'd say, but rather because these are things people who aren't libertarians might think about when evaluating him as a candidate:

  • If you were elected president, you'd likely have a Congress that remains heavily polarized under control of Democrats or Republicans. What do you think you can accomplish with a legislature that likely has little interest in supporting your agenda?
  • The non-interventionist foreign policy concerns among libertarians tend to revolve around warnings not having the kind of military actions America has already put together in the Middle East. Rather than talking about what we shouldn't have done, given the environment we have now and the decisions that have already been made, what would you do next?
  • Why would you eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development? People believe that federal agency is necessary in helping the poor afford places to live. What do you think is likely to happen if that agency were eliminated?
  • In a dynamic free trade environment supported by many libertarians, we see industries rise and fall and move elsewhere for any number of reasons. Free market libertarians point out how these shifts are beneficial to our overall way of life because they reduce costs of goods and lead to more innovation and development. But what do we do about those who end up displaced by these shifts, the kind of people who are being drawn to Donald Trump's and Bernie Sanders' "bring the jobs back home" arguments? Does the federal government play a role in helping those people?

Yes, my questions are a bit wordy, I suppose. Feel free to add your own questions in the comments. Who knows, maybe somebody at the town hall will feel inspired and ask on your behalf. Tune into CNN's town hall Wednesday night at 9 p.m. Eastern and then check back in here at Reason for some analysis.

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  1. “Why’s your shit all retarded?”

    1. This is WAY more likely to be how the average American thinks.

      1. The average American doesn’t think.

    2. “Why’s your shit all retarded?”

      Finally! Some definitive answers about his Celiac’s Disease.

      1. I logged in just to say that I laughed at this one.

        1. Pun not intended, but I find it delightful as well.

  2. “Who are you and how did I get stuck interviewing you?”

  3. “Have you ever looked at your hand? I mean, REALLY looked at it?”

    1. Follow up: “Dude, do you wanna get some nachos?”

    2. “They can touch anything but themselves…”

      1. “They call ’em ‘fingers,’ but i never seen ’em fing!… Oh, there they go.”

        1. “Can somebody help me here, I seem to have dropped all of mine!”

  4. Mr. Johnson – assume you win the election in November, and the congressional make up is such that you would be able to only pass 2/3 of your Pot, Mexicans, Ass-sex agenda. Which two would you pick?

    Follow up question – You have spoken of your distaste for executive orders – would you use an executive order to get the third plank codified into law?

  5. WHERE THE WHITE WOMENZ AT?

    1. And for his next impression – Jesse Owens!

      1. +1 Weekly Cross Burnin’

        1. It’s comin off, see!

  6. Mr. Johnson – you always seem to be bored and sleepy in interviews. Would you like a cup of coffee?

  7. Look, we all know what’s going to happen.

    They’re going to ask a few of the normal ‘gotcha’ questions that make Libertarians look like whack jobs, phrased in such a way to make them look even more wingnut than they are.

    Everyone laughs, sighs, and pulls the lever for one of the two great satans.

    Yeah, everyone seems vaguely aware that Trump and Clinton are both wingnuts but for some reason they are legitimate wingnuts.

    Same as it ever was.

    1. Everyone laughs, sighs, and pulls the lever for one of the two great satans.

      Wait, we’re voting US or Isreal?

      1. No, this is topsy turvy land. Iran or Best Korea.

    2. Here’s what’s going to happen.

      Popular vote and the electoral collage both result with Johnson 1st, Trump 2nd, and Clinton 3rd.

      Clinton is inaugurated 3 months later.

      1. In a 5-3 decision. Roberts is credited with interpreting the 3/5ths Compromise into vote nullification and inventing the legal term electification.

  8. “Have you always been hated women, minorities, the elderly and disabled, or did you come around to that position after years of careful thought?”

    1. Why do you want the terrorists to win? Why do you want our grandparents to starve? Why do you want all our kids to do drugs?

    2. Your campaign has the momentum of a very slowly-moving freight train. What makes you so set at 9% of the population, no matter what the poll?

  9. “How quickly can you shut down DHS?”

    1. More likely question: “You opposed common-sense gun control proposals. Why are you against common sense?”

      1. “It turns out that the good solutions are counterintuitive”

        1. wait, that’s my answer – and my solutions don’t match his.

        2. That would be the best response.

  10. The first and last questions will be about either ISIS, or Immigrants.

    1. Senile dementia is a hell of an affliction.

    2. As he isnt a democrat, I dont see the problem.

      1. And the line to get into the Democratic Socialists lunch is interminable.

        1. On the plus side, there’s only one entr?e!

  11. “Who is your favorite band?”

  12. Well, if they’re taking their cue from the Democratic interview, the question will be something like

    “Do you find it difficult to live with being just so totally amazing and awesome?”

    On the other hand, if they’re taking from the GOP interview, it will go more along the lines of:

    “So who do you associate with more, Mephistopheles or Beelzebub?”

  13. “Should the national league adopt the designated hitter?”

    1. Fuck The DH so hard. DH is Fake Baseball

  14. “Why are the both of you Republicans?”

  15. What’s your favorite marijuana breed?

    (Chuckles) You guys are the same racist, mysogynist GOP types, right? Just that you smoke pot? LOL. Thanks for letting us “profile” you on prime time television!

    1. You must be confused. It’s the Democrats and Republicans who are racist, not the Libertarians.

  16. They canna understand the concept of personal responsibility. They take the tantrum freak-out route and assume that means libertarians think the 5 year old kid should be personally responsible for not accepting the heroin. The idea that personal responsibility applies to adults is beyond their grasp, and I can only conclude it’s projection on their part,stemming from their desire for the State to tell all the serfs what to do, because serfs are irresponsible gullible naive morons, and of course *they* are part of the elite, but no one else is.

    Good luck getting any of the betters to understand that concept. They are so black and white on it — betters are responsible for everybody, serfs are irresponsible — and I wish I understood why so many people behave like that.

    1. Clorox is available over the counter, and yet we don’t see 5-year-olds buying that.

      1. They’re not worried about 5 year olds buying heroin, they’re freaked out that “do what you want” libertarians will condone a pusher selling heroin to 5 year olds without any repercussions. Morals cut loose, unmoored, jetsam from the social contract barge!

  17. “What is your go-to munchie?”

  18. “Would you like to snort this line off of my semi-rigid penis? Right now, on camera, let’s do this.”

  19. What Should CNN Ask Gary Johnson and William Weld in Primetime Interview?

    Oh, come on, Scott! We know what the Communist News Network is going to ask them!

    A better piece should deal with what should Johnson and Weld respond to the usual questions posited to libertarians by these smug and pedantic statists:

    “Are you seriously running for president? Seriously?”
    “Do you realize you’re just shilling for Big Business and Children Eaters?”
    “Aren’t you really Republicans who want to smoke weed and have Mexican ass sex legally?”
    “What chance do you really think you have since Hillary is so awesome and amazing?”
    “Why do you look like one of the masks in that Twilight Zone episode called ‘The Masks’?

    And so on and so forth and what have you.

  20. Min wage – will the economy go to hell without it?
    “Uber everything” – Are you sure about that?
    Supreme Court justice – who will you pick?

    1. Min wage – will the economy go to hell without it?

      One leftist argument for minimum wage is that it won’t make much difference since companies are already paying it!

  21. “Have either of you banged Celeste Guap?”

  22. Good questions. While I would likely love libertarian-purist answers, I do think they are hard to answer persuasively in the eyes of those who do believe in a government that helps more than hurts.

  23. What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

    1. *snicker* Euphemisms

  24. With the rise of environmental awareness, what as president would you do to encourage environmental responsibility?

    How do you think the free-market would solve issues by itself?

  25. “Why would any sane American want a ‘do nothing’ President? A… you know, LIBERTARIAN, when what we need more than anything is a leader who will not hesitate to act, and act forcefully?”

    1. Here’s my proposed response:

      The last “do nothing” President ? Calvin Coolidge ? presided over a recession that turned into the largest peacetime economy boom in the history of the US which was squandered when Herbert Hoover, his Secretary of Commerce and, as the popular saying had it, “Undersecretary of Everything Else”, instituted an attempt to increase government revenue by raising taxes in 1932 ? increasing corporate taxes 15%, doubling the estate tax, and raising taxes on the top incomes from 25% to 63%. The United States economy had recovered from the 1929 crash by mid 1930 when unemployment hit 6.3% after having bottomed out in December 1929 but began to crash in 1932 when Hoover fired Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon and began following his own instincts over the advice of Mellon and other economists and pushing for more taxes. As President, I would take the opposite tack from Hoover ? and, incidentally, from Clinton or Trump ? and not push for a repeat of the Revenue Act of 1932 or start trade wars with other countries.

      1. Fail. That’s a great college seminar answer. It is lousy politics. Trying to debunk the myth that Hoover was a “do-nothing” President who had to be replaced by the activist FDR in order for the economy to recover is too heavy a task for a debate answer. Once ol’ Herb’s name is invoked, brains disengage and emotion takes over.

  26. Reading through the prior comments … you guys at Reason.com must get terribly depressed at the feedback you receive.

    For what it’s worth, I’d like to see him/them discuss how they would go about bringing the economy in for a soft landing, especially entitlement programs.

    1. I think they’re used to it. Most libertarians are excessively pessimistic about the political climate. They have reason to be…

      1. Agreed. But it is rare indeed that we/they even have the opportunity to make a serious case to those who are not members of the choir, and we/they ought not waste it.

  27. The questions I expect to be asked:

    1) WHAT ABOUT TEH ROADZ?!?!

    2) SOMALIA!!!!!!

    1. But yeah, I also think Shackford is correct that we’ll get something to the effect of, “Oh, you think marijuana should be legal? That must mean you support selling heroin to babies!!!”

  28. Ask Johnson if he will accept money from foreign governments.

  29. “What’s in the fucking box?!”

    1. Her pretty head.

  30. “What’s in the fucking box?!”

    Well, that depends.

    1. A cat. It’s an absolutely amazing cat, because right now, it’s both alive and dead. Here, pass that back this way.

  31. If you were elected president, […] [w]hat do you think you can accomplish with a legislature that likely has little interest in supporting your agenda?

    I’ll share my special brownies with them. That will make them more mellow.

    Rather than talking about what we shouldn’t have done [in the Middle East], given the environment we have now and the decisions that have already been made, what would you do next?

    I’ll share my special brownies with them. That will make them more mellow.

    Why would you eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development?

    Because it barely provides housing and their urban development stinks.

    People believe that federal agency is necessary in helping the poor afford places to live.

    Yeah, people believe all sorts of crazy shit.

    What do you think is likely to happen if that agency were eliminated?

    What it would happen is that the press is going to lament and criticize the decision while futilely attempting to find any evidence the agency was needed in the first place. You know, like you always do.

  32. “In a dynamic free trade environment supported by many libertarians, we see industries rise and fall and move elsewhere for any number of reasons.”

    Just like people do. Imagine that.

    “[…] what do we do about those who end up displaced by these shifts[?]”

    What did the machine oilers do when machine lubrication was made fully automatic? I am thinking that you don’t give people enough credit to find other things to do.

    “Does the federal government play a role in helping those people?”

    So far the federal government has played a role in screwing up their lives.

  33. What Should CNN Ask Gary Johnson and William Weld in Primetime Interview?

    Governor Johnson, you’ve stated that if elected you want to shut down the Department of Education. Why do you hate children? /actual question that I expect to be asked

  34. What do you think you can accomplish with a legislature that likely has little interest in supporting your agenda? Stop THEIR agenda.

    given the environment we have now and the decisions that have already been made, what would you do next? End the drone strikes and start bringing the troops home. Don’t start any more wars.

    Why would you eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development? Because it serves no Constitutional purpose.

    But what do we do about those who end up displaced by these shifts, the kind of people who are being drawn to Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ “bring the jobs back home” arguments? Reduce the burden of government taxation and regulation so new jobs can be created more easily and so they’ll have more take home pay with the government taking a smaller cut.

    1. ^ Nice, I like what you’ve done there…

  35. Brandy Alexander or Cosmopolitan?

  36. What bills would you want to see come to your desk?
    Something about Snowden, nsa. Etc.
    Explain the fair tax that you support.
    If congress declares war, would you support them or try to stop it.
    Police reform, what’s your solution.
    College debt/tuition rates, your solution?
    What is the biggest threat you see in this election?

  37. Is the role of the government to protect individual liberty or to force you to buy some ObamaCare or pay a tax?

    Is it true Joe Biden coined the term ‘Drug Czar’ after watching ‘Reefer Madness,’ and thinking America needed a central committee to tackle the madness that smoking the reefer did to hapless citizens?

    If WWII is long over, why are there still American military bases in Japan and Germany?

  38. You guys are “Libertarians” like Trump is a “Republican” or Sanders is a “Democrat”. What’s up with this cra cra election?

    1. History books will be interesting.

    2. 50 % of the Democrats are strongly divided with their Party’s progressive base but won’t vote Republican over social issues. 60% of Republicans are strongly divided with the Party’s neocon base but won’t vote Democrat because they don’t want socialism. True Gary Johnson isn’t a Libertarian but he does hold a middle ground and he is for a smaller government. For nearly 200 years the Democrats /Republicans have ran this country and all you have seen is war after war and financial crisis after financial crisis. Don’t you think it may be time to try another direction. If everyone would go to the polls and vote a straight Libertarian ticket it would do two things. It would act as term limits which we need and it would scare the hell out the Establishment. What is the harm because a drunk monkey would be better than what we have now.

  39. “When did you stop microagrressing your non-traditional life partner?”

  40. First of all, ask yourself why, CNN, a hard left media source would do this? If you’re not asking that first, you need to start over.

    1. To make up forball the Trump fellatio?

      1. Yeah, I’m 100% sure that is it. Thanks for your wisdom.

  41. I have one question to ask. Would you break off any relationship with Saudi Arabia for their continued sponsership of terrorism and Turkey for their attempted genocide of the Kurds who are a lot better allies.

  42. It’ll get derailed early and then it’ll be allllll about guns in the wake of the Orlando shooting.

  43. I wish GJ could stress a number of points that made me realize why I have been so wrong for so long:

    Do NOT confuse between intent and result (minimum wage and welfare policies)

    It is a fact of life that people serve their own SELF-INTEREST (consciously or subconsciously). One’s “Self-interest” does not have to be narrow even though that is the case for the vast majority.

    The more the government can spend, the more lobbyists.

    The more power the government has, the more lobbyists and more corruptions.

    No matter how much the government tries to ‘create’ equality, a group(s) always becomes more equal than others over time.

    One should have inalienable right to exercise his/her freedom as long as s/he does not harm others PHYSICALLY (‘physically’ because that is only objective measurement)

  44. What changes, if any would you make to laws and practices that surround asset forfeiture?

    How would your leadership drive government more towards the limitations placed upon it by the Constitution vs. the manner in which it currently operates?

    Do you think any of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights are abused far beyond what should be considered reasonable?
    If so, why and how would you change that?

    Do you think Supreme court judges should interpret the law as it is written or should they try to divine some larger purpose behind those laws which is unspecified?

    How ’bout those for starters? Since everyone here seems to think it’s all just another opportunity for jokes and the usual madness. Put your brain to work for 5 minutes and come up with some real questions.

  45. “Isn’t it true, and a fact, that you are both liars?”

    1. Isn’t it true, and a fact, that EVERYONE is a fucking liar?

  46. Are you a trustafarian?

  47. Why do so many people fall for the fallacious argument that a vote for Gary Johnson is a wasted vote?

  48. Should government be allowed to force bakers to bake a cake for a gay wedding?

  49. How will fair tax be fair to $40,000 a year that spends 100% on goods and services vs 200,000 a year that spends less than 50% income on goods and services? This seems that lower incomes will pay much higher % of income than wealthy. And when you eliminate capital gains tax the wealthy that are investing lower their tax significantly.

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