"I always thought that honesty would rule the day. I always thought integrity would rule the day. I always thought that telling the truth would rule the day. And it doesn't," says Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian presidential candidate and a two-time former governor of New Mexico, in an exclusive new interview with Reason.
Visiting Washington, D.C. in late February to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in late February, Johnson talks candidly with Nick Gillespie about his presidential run, which mixed memorable gaffes ("Aleppo") with historic triumphs (he pulled 3.27 percent of the final vote, more than tripling the best of any previous LP candidate). "I'm done with elected political office," he avers, even as he discusses his ongoing work with Our America Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to training libertarian candidates and promoting libertarian positions on immigration, sentencing reform, occupational licensing, and more; his involvement in CB1, a hedge fund devoted to publicly traded marijuana investments; and why he's done with running for office.
Johnson also weighs in of the presidency of Donald Trump, whom he said was appealing to racist sentiments during the 2016 campaign. Trump's tone, says the former governor, remains absolutely awful, but some of his policies, such as those regarding regulation and corporate taxes, are worth celebrating. When asked whether Hillary Clinton would have been a better president than Trump, Johnson says, "I think we would have kind of a myriad of other issues with Hillary that would probably be equally as bad.... I think it would be horrible if Hillary would have been president, but I think Trump's got his horrible also."
Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Todd Krainin and McDaniel. Creative Commons music by Ketsa.
Photo Credit: Christopher Brown/Polaris/Newscom.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. PLEASE CHECK QUOTATIONS AGAINST AUDIO FOR ACCURACY.
Nick Gillespie: So, you are in D.C., and we're talking before you go talk at CPAC, the annual convention of conservative action people in D.C. Why are you speaking at CPAC?
Gary Johnson: Well, I think it's an opportunity to give a Libertarian perspective on things. Now, I'm going to be on a panel when it comes to economics and tax policy, so that is a Trump plus, the reduction of taxes.
Gillespie: Okay, well I was going to ask, what do you think about Trump so far? I mean, you ran against Trump, and you did historically well for a Libertarian Party candidate against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Trump's been in office over a year. What is your evaluation?
Johnson: Well, he has not told the truth. Building a wall across the border is crazy. Now, he did say he was going to build a wall across the border, but he said he wasn't going to involve himself in states' rights, or he was going to stand up for states' rights. And here we have Jeff Sessions that has come out very vocally against marijuana. Ultimately, that may lead to legislation that will not make marijuana a Class I narcotic, which is really a good thing.
Gillespie: So those are two things, though, where Trump's bluster, or his bark is worse ... He's got a lot of bark, but no bite. Because we haven't actually started building the border wall, and Sessions is saying 'I'm going to ... Let's start looking at these states that have legalized marijuana.' But nothing has happened yet.
Johnson: Nothing has happened. And, like I say, it may lead to legislation. On the Dreamers, hey, here it is. We may have legislation that clears all this up, but his rhetoric is horrible.
Gillespie: Are you looking for a position in his cabinet?
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Christopher Brown/Polaris/Newscom