|Andrew W. Griffin / C-SPAN 2|
Former N.M. Gov. Gary Johnson addresses CPAC on 2/11/11
By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report, editor
Posted: February 11, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY – Could the United States soon have it’s third president with the last name "Johnson"?
Yeah, things didn’t go so well for Andrew Johnson (impeached in 1868) or Lyndon Johnson (left in disgrace 100 years later in 1968) but a growing number of Republicans, conservatives, libertarians and independents are coming around to the “more freedom, less government” message former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has to offer.
Well, while Gov. Johnson (who served from 1995 to 2003) may be a long shot and hasn’t even officially announced his plans to run to run for president, his message of cutting government spending, ending drug prohibition and offering more liberty are really resonating in today’s Tea Party atmosphere.
Johnson, much like fellow libertarian Ron Paul, argues that the current level of spending by the government is unsustainable.
And speaking in a 15-minute slot at CPAC this morning (he was nearly shut out but added at the last minute, much to the chagrin of social conservatives), your Red Dirt Reporter tuned into C-SPAN 2 and took notes during Johnson’s all-too brief speech. It was enlightening and important, particularly at a conservative event where a lot of the candidates are not talking specifically about how they would slash government.
People have underestimated Johnson before. When he stepped aside from his successful business to run for governor in the Land of Enchantment, the GOP in New Mexico told Johnson that while they were “an inclusive party,” that his chances of winning the governorship were slim.
And in those days, I was paying close attention to Gov. Johnson. He was likable, smart and able to get things done in an intelligent sort of way. He was actually popular in a state where Republicans aren’t fully embraced. As he said in his CPAC speech it was a “Two-to-one Democrat state.”
But he got things done and treated state government like a business. Johnson said in his CPAC speech that as governor he was outspoken on school choice and that proved popular.
Bringing “competition to public education” can actually improve schools, Johnson said.
“People really appreciate good stewardship of their tax dollars,” Johnson told the CPAC crowd.
One of the more controversial issues that gets people talking about Gary Johnson is his support of legalizing marijuana.
Spending $70 billion on a drug war makes no sense, he told CPAC, adding that we arrest 1.8 million Americans each year on drug-related charges.
“That’s the population of New Mexico,” he said.
But if the U.S. would simply legalize, control, regulate and tax marijuana, we could solve numerous problems currently facing the country.
“Ninety percent of the drug problem is prohibition related,” Johnson told CPAC.
In a recent piece he recently wrote for The Huffington Post, Johnson wrote on pot legalization: “Why, with record federal deficits and states teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, are we spending billions on yet another failed Prohibition that is accomplishing nothing other than making criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens and fueling drug cartels that threaten our fundamental national security? Is it not time to try something different?”
And Johnson, of course, comes from a border state where drugs are a problem, as is illegal immigration. Johnson touched upon immigration in his CPAC speech
“Immigration is a good thing, we’re a nation of immigrants,” Johnson said, adding that our convoluted laws have talented immigrants learning skills here and taking them back to their homeland.
“Immigration should be about work, not welfare,” he said.
But overall, addressing our huge deficits, government waste –
“talk about Medicaid, Medicare and defense” – have to be key because the situation is getting serious.
“There’s no kicking the can down the road,” he said, noting that the U.S. needs to address wasteful spending and related issues. This from a guy who had 750 vetoes during his time in Santa Fe.
“Raising taxes in this country is not acceptable,” Johnson told CPAC, noting that eliminating the corporate income tax would help with incubating small businesses in this country.
And while Johnson has a freedom-and-liberty message and calls for slashing big government programs and ending wasteful spending, he is very much in the Republican camp. He’s also a small “l” libertarian who believes in a big tent party where all people are included.
“I’m a Republican and I’m going to stay a Republican,” Johnson said as reported this week in the New Mexico Independent.
He is also a big advocate of civil liberties, supports gay civil unions and wants to end the pointless war in Afghanistan.
And let’s not forget what he did as governor. He never raised taxes in eight years; cut over 1,200 government jobs without firing anyone; cut taxes 14 times; started his own small business and became a multimillionaire, as is noted in a recent piece at The Hill.
“Let’s grow the Republican Party,” he told CPAC, smiling all the while.
Gov. Johnson has a great story. He’s an inspiring guy. A true Westerner living in Taos, N.M. who literally tackled Mt. Everest in 2003 and reached the summit “despite toes blackened with frostbite.”
He also survived a fifty-foot fall in 2005 when his paraglider got caught in a tree. He survived with multiple broken bones and took pot to control the pain as he mended.
This is one tough cat.
And while we wait for him to make his official announcement, I should note that Johnson, who is still highly regarded back in New Mexico is the honorary chairman of the Our America Initiative.
Many suspect that if Ron Paul runs and Gary Johnson runs, it will split the support in the libertarian camp. Yet, Johnson sees it differently. He says that with two libertarians running the message of smaller government, less spending and more freedom gets heard all the more.
Talking to The Daily Caller this week, Johnson said of Paul: “First of all, having a couple people talk about the same thing, I think, is really powerful. I mean, that’s a good thing!”
And that is remarkable coming from a politician. Yet, Johnson is a different kind of person. He comes across as thoughtful, insightful and ready to take on even the hardest of tasks. He's definitely a different kind of politician and the sort who would do wonders for our country if elected to higher office.
Talking to a reporter for The Washington Times, Johnson said that while the odds of him getting into the White House are small, he told the reporter, “The endeavor itself is a great adventure – or could be. I’m a Zen kind of guy. I appreciate the moment and trying to make the most out of the moment. You better darn well like the journey, or the destination won’t mean anything.”
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