By Kevin Price, Publisher and Editor in Chief, US Daily Review.
The first in a 3 part series on Gary Johnson’s biggest challenge in running for president.
Before announcing he was running for president, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was a guest on my program, the Price of Business. In the interview I learned that Johnson was smart, and clearly a capable chief executive. He easily won reelection (serving two terms) and his administration was noted for cutting costs and not raising taxes.
As a presidential candidate, Johnson might be the best job creator in the GOP crowd (and was described as such by National Review Magazine). He kept taxes low, balanced his state’s budget, and did everything he could to tackle regulations. In addition he aggressively used the one tool that I think that most governors do not use enough –veto power. During his terms he vetoed more legislation than the 49 other governors around the country combined. Furthermore, he started a one man business that grew into a multi-million dollar company. As an entrepreneur he clearly understood what government policies harmed business and how to mitigate those laws and regulations.
In spite of this, Johnson has a problem. He has a very big drug problem, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, he gave me no reason to believe he actually uses drugs, but they are playing a role in his campaign platform that it is highly unlikely that his message will resonate with the GOP. It is interesting, because he is like a man obsessed. He wants to talk about drugs and it is one of his key talking points in interviews.
I talked to his campaign representative who said, “Johnson believes his record on drugs is one of his most important strengths.” I said, “great, but why does he not say the federal government has done a terrible job with that issue – like they do in most things – and that he want to return this issue to the states where they belong?” The Tenth Amendment is big these days and that might make since when it comes to such a controversial issue. He loved the idea, but I notice as time goes b,y it seems that Johnson cannot give up his drug habit. He likes the idea of legalization, which makes him instantly lose audience that cannot hear the rest of his message of limited government, reducing regulation, and fiscal responsibility.
In parts 2 and 3 on Johnson, you will see my exchange with Johnson and how it slowly became dominated by his drug message. I am actually sympathetic to the former governor. In some ways he is a reasonable version of Ron Paul. Someone who embodies libertarian positions and proved they work in the real world. But, for obvious reasons, it is difficult to get past the drug discussion with Johnson, and that is a formula for disaster for him.
Privately, Johnson told me that “49 percent of the American people are opposed to current drug laws.” I told him that does not mean they support legalization, but that they oppose the status quo. Even if that meant they were opposed to drug prohibition, that is still one percent and one vote less to move people in to his column. Furthermore, many of that 51 percent are far more passionate for a drug prohibition than the 49 percent that says they are against it. As you will see in the interview, Johnson is unmovable on the subject. Honestly, I never expected him to surrender his integrity on that position, but simply have wisdom in the way he articulated it. It appears giving this issue to the states isn’t enough. In Johnson’s mind, he seems to think drugs need to be legal. Period.
This is disappointing, because Johnson does not have the reputation of many with a libertarian philosophy of being conspiratal or even “weird” in his positions on most issues. He doesn’t talk about how the US played a role in September 11th, he does not burn energy talking about the sinister nature of the Federal Reserve, nor focus on secret societies that are actually “controlling” the system. His views on social issues places him outside of the GOP base on some issues, but this is not considered “libertarian” by most. But the position on drugs is different. In my opinion, it will not fly with a party that still has a strong “law and order constituency.” You will be able to judge for yourself as you read parts two and three over the next two days.