Print Friendly, PDF & Email

{Colorado Springs Gazette, 2012-09-06}

There’s only one way to save the presidential debates from degenerating into boring snoozefests: Put Gary Johnson in them.

Gov. Johnson is the Libertarian Party candidate, whom you’ve never heard of. Unless you’re from New Mexico, where he served two terms as a wildly popular Republican governor in a Democratic state. That means he’s been elected governor more often than Romney, and served in public office longer than Obama before he sought the presidency. It’s not like Johnson has no political track record. He is an eminently credible and dedicated public servant.

Gov. Johnson is the only fiscal conservative running for president. He left his state with a balanced budget. He used the line item veto constantly to trim unnecessary spending from legislation; he consistently cut taxes, and established an economic regime that permitted businesses to create thousands of jobs. This is all a matter of public record, no smoke and mirrors or fact-fudging needed.

But at the same time, Gov. Johnson is pro-choice, a position he believes is the principled one. He is more zealous in his protection of civil liberties than the current president, and more enthusiastic about the protections they afford to every American than the candidates of either major party.

Gary Johnson says publicly what both parties know but are unwilling to tell you: Drug prohibition is a costly, tragic failure. A civil liberties nightmare at home, a foreign policy disaster abroad, it further weakens thinly stretched community law enforcement budgets that should be spent making sure Americans are safe from theft, rape and murder. Sane drug policy must be based on harm reduction and individual rights, not comforting delusions about how morally upright we are.

Just like ending drug prohibition is an act of true fiscal responsibility, so is cutting military spending. Gov. Johnson supports return military spending to where it was a decade ago, when we still spent more than the next 10 nations combined. This year, the government will spend a trillion more dollars than it has, and will borrow or print money to cover the difference. The national debt is well over sixteen times that. Under those circumstances, someone has to man up and tell America the truth: We don’t have the money. In these tough times, why shouldn’t everything, including military spending, be on the table? Isn’t that the fiscally responsible thing to do? Isn’t that what you would do to get your house in order?

And before you conservatives out there write off Gov. Johnson completely, note that his campaign literature clearly and equivocally states the Second Amendment is an individual right, not a collective one. There isn’t any candidate stronger on gun rights than the governor.

If I had to guess, I’d say that even if you liked one or more of Gov. Johnson’s positions above, there was one that really rubbed you the wrong way, and you just couldn’t bring yourself to support him. But even so, don’t these ideas deserve a hearing? Gary Johnson, if given the opportunity, will explain on national TV exactly what he will cut and why to balance the budget during his administration. Wouldn’t it be great to hear Romney and Obama say something similar? You can bet they won’t unless somebody forces them to.

Competition makes things better. It’s true in nature, it’s true in economies, it’s true in ideas, and it’s true in politics. Even if you disagree with Gov. Johnson’s combination of social liberalism and limited-government conservatism, ask yourself this: Would the country be better off if the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates were forced to engage with the views he represents? Would we as a society emerge with better ideas? Would we have a better campaign? Would we at least have a more interesting one?

Best of all, according to his website, Gov. Johnson has summited Everest, biked across the Alps, and still does invitation-only Ironman triathlons. No president could be cooler than that.