The Washington Times has a story today noting that two of the top four Libertarian Party presidential contenders, John McAfee and Darryl W. Perry, are not intending to vote for the man who beat them, Gary Johnson. (Our articles reporting on that fact can be found here and here.) This passage from the article contains some correctable and clarifiable claims:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, the party's vice presidential pick, has also attracted attention in recent weeks for comments suggesting he could spend the final stretch of the campaign attacking Mr. Trump, even though the Libertarian platform is generally seen as closer to the Republicans' than that of the Democrats.
"He refuses to say anything against Hillary," Mr. Perry said. "I don't think Gary has said anything against Hillary [either]."
Firstly, as Snopes.com has pointed out and I reported here, the underlying Boston Globe article on which the aforementioned "attention" to Weld has been paid has been challenged by the veep nominee as containing "made-up" facts, including the notions that he would be focusing "exclusively on blasting Donald Trump" and that his "new plan calls for him to focus his fire on Trump in a handful of red states." (Since the article was published, Weld has visited the blue states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and Maine.) "I said to the reporter that I plan to focus on Donald Trump, because I think his international proposals represent a grave threat," Weld told me the day after it was published, "but in the same breath I said that I'm not going to omit to make the points that Mrs. Clinton, if she were elected, runs the risk of spending and borrowing us into the poorhouse, and that I think her fiscal policies and her military policies are not at all in line with the approach that Gary Johnson and I will take if elected. So nothing is to the exclusion of anything else."
As the above quote indicates, Darryl W. Perry's claim that Weld (and probably Johnson, too) "refuses to say anything against Hillary" is flatly untrue. But given that it has also been a somewhat frequent complaint among libertarians ever since the ticket's poorly executed June 22 CNN townhall, at which Johnson called Clinton a "wonderful public servant" and Weld chimed that he has a "real bond, lifelong" with the Democratic nominee, I thought I would perform the public service of pointing out the number of times Weld and Johnson have walked those comments back during subsequent Reason interviews alone.
Certainly, there's a more disputed question of strategic emphasis by the two former Republican governors, one that Brian Doherty touched on this morning in his review of Johnson's new book (which takes a pretty broad swipe at the Tea Party, for example). But on the narrower claim of whether the candidates are going after Clinton, the following exchanges with Nick Gillespie and I show that the definitive answer is yes.
July 15, Reason TV interview at FreedomFest in Las Vegas:
GILLESPIE (to Weld): Say something negative about Hillary Clinton. You've been dinged in the press. You seem—I mean, you are friendly with her, and you like her as a person, but—
WELD: Oh, I'm old friends with both Clintons, but election time at the end of the day there are no friends, OK? The first thing I would say is the fiscal situation. And this is—she's running with the Democratic Party as perhaps a drag on her, just as for many years I ran with the Republican Party [with] social issues as a drag on me. But I think it's something she truly believes, that she would like to raise the amount of social spending, raise the amount of government spending—called "investment" on the Democratic side of the aisle—and I think that would be bad for the economy, it would hollow out the economy.
When President Obama leaves office, the national debt is going to be $20 trillion, doubled since not so long ago. You can't go on like that….We're small government people. We cut taxes. We shrank government. The Democrats would go the other direction.
July 15, on stage at FreedomFest:
WELCH: Governor Johnson, you went on CNN in front of a million households…and when Chris Cuomo…asked you to quickly describe Hillary Clinton, you said these three words: "Wonderful public servant."
(Some audience laughter)
I want more hissing!
(Audience laughingly complies)
Then later during the email kind of things, you were asked about it…after [FBI Director] James Comey had come out, and you said, "Well, I don't want to throw stones." She lied like a half a dozen times about these things! Like, looked people in the camera and said, "Oh, I was just using the one device," and, "There's never been a subpoena," and just lied constantly! You say "I don't want to throw stones" when you live in a glass house. I don't know you to be a habitual liar; why can't you say Hillary Clinton—
JOHNSON: Do you know me to be a liar at all? I mean—
WELCH: Yeah, that's exactly it. You know, you're running against Hillary Clinton. Is she a wonderful public servant?
JOHNSON: I think that she has—I think that in—I think that she has served. I'm not going to question her motives. What you're not gonna—what you're not going to hear out of Johnson-Weld is, you're not going to hear stone-throwing. But look, Hillary Clinton—
WELCH: Except against Donald Trump! I mean—
JOHNSON: No, no!
WELCH: You're not shy about saying that Donald Trump is, uh, has engaged in what you've described as racist. That's a stone! You threw it!
JOHNSON: Hillary Clinton—is there anyone more establishment than Hillary Clinton? Does Hillary Clinton not have an answer to everything, and does the answer not include government making more decisions in our lives? And as a result of government making more decisions in our lives, of course that costs more money, so taxes are going to go up. And when taxes go up, that's money out of your and my pocket that we can be spending on our lives as opposed to the government.
And then the emails: Was there criminal intent? Was there some stupidity here? Was there some, um, gross mistakes made? Yeah, but I don't think there was criminal intent. I don't think there was criminal intent at the end of the day.
And just for a second, on the military interventions. Look, and this is not intended either by either…Obama or, or Hillary, but when…when they go in and they back the insurgents in Syria and Libya, and the insurgents are aligned with ISIS, which was not intentional, I mean, come on! You can't make this up, but this is foreign policy. So, Hillary as president, this stuff is going to get worse, not better, because she is going to actually be in charge.
WELCH: Governor Weld, I know you've been friendly with her for a long time. Do you think that she is honest?
WELD: Well, in my dealings with her, she has been.
There are a couple of answers I have given in the media appearances that we've done that I would like to have back. And they were, you know, "If you guys don't win," you know, "would you vote for Trump or Mrs. Clinton?" And I've sort of come pretty close to saying Mrs. Clinton. As a matter of fact, in the CNN one, I think I did. As we've gone along, I think Gary and I have gotten more and more in the frame of mind that not only are we in this because we think we have a chance to win, but we can see the path now. So all I'm thinking about now is winning the whole shooting match, and if I got that question now, the next time I get that question, I'm going to be smart enough and disciplined enough to give the answer that Gary has always given, which is, "Look, I don't know. There's going to be a Libertarian on the ballot, and I'm voting Libertarian, and I'm not going to lose any sleep over that."
WELD: But that's—I'm known for being very tactful—that's a very tactful way of me saying maybe Gary would like to have back those three little words, "wonderful public servant."
JOHNSON: (Laughs) Thank you!
July 20, on the streets of Cleveland just outside the Republican National Convention:
WELCH: Can we assume that you're going to be doing this at the Democratic Convention, and can you say a few words about your, uh, good personal friend Hillary Clinton?
JOHNSON: Well, I don't think anything changes with Hillary. I think government will try and accomplish more, and when it tries to accomplish more, it's going to tax us more, so government answers everything, nothing changes. The ultimate in establishment. And with regard to foreign policy, I think that she's been the architect of our foreign policy, and that it will actually get more hawkish.
July 27, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia:
GILLESPIE: OK, so here we have our first question from a man named Bill Kales: "Does Governor Weld still plan to vote for Hillary if Trump leads in the poll? If so, doesn't that derail his campaign before it begins?" Governor?
WELD: Yeah, no. I was too nice in an early appearance we had….Momentum is everything in politics, and we have momentum. A few months ago, Gary was at 5 [percent] nationally, and how he's at 13, so I think we'll be at the debates. If we're in the debates, we have a shot at winning the whole thing. So, no, I'm not voting for either of them. I'm voting for the Libertarian ticket.
GILLESPIE: And you are registered to vote in the election? You're not going to be like the Trump kids not being able to vote for their parents in the primaries?
WELD: No, I'm a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party….Don't you think everybody should be a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party?
July 28, at the Democratic National Convention:
WELCH: Hillary Clinton is speaking tonight, and the focus is going to be on her. How is she going to reintroduce herself to Americans after only 40 years in the public eye? I know you sort of wanted to walk back your…she's a "wonderful public servant" that you said on CNN as an opening characterization. But can you just describe what you think about her politics, her ideas about policy? What are the defects about them? What are the positive attributes, if there are any?
JOHNSON: Well, if I could walk back the statement on CNN to describe Hillary Clinton, I would say that Hillary's beholden, that she is the establishment. Is anything going to change if Hillary is president? Yes: Government's going to try and be a bigger part in all of our lives, I believe that….So, if government's going to be a bigger part of our life, it's going to cost us more. Taxes are going to go up. And neither Trump or Clinton want to address the entitlements. Neither Trump or Clinton want to address Social Security. It's a fiscal cliff out there, and if we're going to continue to put our heads in the sand over it, there will be a day of reckoning. It's going to be ugly. It's going to be inflation. That's what's it's going to be.
Related reading: From our November issue, "Libertarians on Tour" (with more from each interview above). And from Aug. 3: "Gary Johnson: I Will Not Be Describing Hillary Clinton on CNN Tonight as a 'Wonderful Public Servant'" And below, watch Nick Gillespie's interview with the ticket three months ago: