By Ankur Chawla, Young Americans for Liberty at UCSD
This past Thursday several members of Young Americans for Liberty at UCSD attended a banquet at Elijah’s Restaurant in La Jolla. Governor Gary Johnson came to speak in San Diego as part of his ‘Our America Initiative’. Gary Johnson was Governor of New Mexico for two terms, from 1995 to 2003. His governance was largely successful to strict adherence to his strict principles of free markets and limited government. Governor Johnson vetoed over 750 bills while in office, and at one point was the highest-ranking official in the United States to openly advocate the full legalization of marijuana.
A fierce advocate for liberty (in the vein of Ron Paul), Gov. Johnson now tours the country (on his own dime and that of grassroots supporters) as part of his ‘Our America Initiative’ project; where he speaks in different venues to inform people of the liberty movement and promote the ideals of limited government. After giving a great speech and fielding many questions Thursday night(some of them quite tough), Gov. Johnson was gracious enough to sit down with us for an interview.
Below is a transcription of said interview.
Gov. Gary Johnson Interview
Conducted by Greg Kerr (of UCSD Young Americans for Liberty)
Transcribed by Ankur Chawla
GREG: Thanks a lot for sitting down with us and doing this interview, we really appreciate it.
GOV. JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah totally.
GREG: So the first question we have is, as the governor of New Mexico you were at one point the highest-ranking US official to support the legalization of marijuana. What are your reasons for that?
GOV. JOHNSON: I just think that 90% of the drug problem is prohibition related, not use related. That’s not to discount the problems with use abuse, but that ought to be the focus. I think that we should legalize marijuana, tax it, regulate, control it. I think we should adapt harm-reduction strategies regarding all these other drugs, harm reduction strategies reducing death, disease, crime, corruption, and looking at the drug problem first as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. Half of what we’re spending on law enforcement, half of what we’re spending on the courts, and half of what we’re spending on the prisons is drug related, and to what end? We’re arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country. I think this is insanity. The definition of insanity…doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting different results.
GREG: Can you elaborate just a little bit on the Our America Initiative and why it pertains to all Americans rather than just a certain constituency?
GOV. JOHNSON: Well we’ll see if it pertains to more Americans. The idea here is to put a voice to the outrage Americans are feeling right now, and I think the basis of that outrage is spending, is the debt, is the fact that we’re bankrupt. The Federal Reserve is printing money to cover our obligations; a result of that is going to be a severely weakened dollar, significant inflation. It’s on the horizon. So really, looking at all of the issues we face today from a cost-benefit analysis, I think that’s what people want to hear about and that’s what people are really interested in. Rather than sit on the couch and theorize this, ouramericainitiative.com is really about me going and finding out if this is the case.
GREG: What do you think of Dr. Rand Paul, who just won the primary in Kentucky and could be in a good spot to win the statewide election?
GOV. JOHNSON: I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s also indicative of the sentiment right now nationwide, which is everyone that is in office belongs out of office. I think what happened in Utah with Bob Bennett is very significant, I think what happened with Arlen Specter is very significant. I just hope that republicans don’t view this as a mandate as opposed to really getting religious when it comes to the pocketbook and really making the changes that this country needs to see.
GREG: The Republican Party has never been kind to Ron Paul, at one point they supported his democratic opposition in the nineties and you obviously too are a much more constituent, freedom-loyal politician than a party-loyal politician. Especially as a libertarian, how has the Republican Party taken to you and your viewpoints and what you’ve done?
GOV. JOHNSON: My experience has been very positive, and it continues to be positive, and that’s just my experience.
GREG: As a republican you were opposed to the war in Iraq. What was a little bit of your reasoning behind that?
GOV. JOHNSON: Just the notion that we should have a strong national defense, but really we weren’t threatened. It’s not in the Constitution that we should fell foreign despots just because we don’t agree with them. It’s just not in our Constitution. Now, if there are weapons of mass destruction and we are actually being threatened, that’s another story. But I believe that we had and still have the military surveillance capability to see this things unfold ahead and time and deal with them in a timely manner by doing that. I believe that we would become mired in a civil war to which there would be no end, and I’m afraid that’s where we’re at.
GREG: What do you think would be the most important issues to Americans going into the Senatorial elections this year?
GOV. JOHNSON: The pocketbook. Period. Spending, taxes going up across the board, unsustainable debt. Government spending has to get slashed.
GREG: You mentioned (in a speech earlier that day)that as the governor of New Mexico you turned the line-item veto into sort of an art-
GOV. JOHNSON: (smiles) An art form, a new art form!
GREG: (Laughs) Yeah. What do you think of the line-item veto being given to the President’s office in Washington?
GOV. JOHNSON: I think that would be a significant improvement to what currently exists. But, I think the way that it currently exists, legislation needs to be outright vetoed. And, if the veto gets overridden by Congress, then citizens in this country can make a choice. They can get a new President that goes along with the Congress, or they can vote Congress out until they get a Congress that goes with the President.
GREG: Alright, thank you very much for this interview; you’ve been a great speaker and real nice guy. I’ll be honest, usually when I meet with politicians they’re kind of skeazy so-
GOV. JOHNSON: (Laughs) Skeazy? That’s a new one to me.
(Then Greg goes on with specific examples of how much he hates politicians, and we finish our goodbyes to Governor Johnson)