Johnson could inject dose of reality in to presidential race

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By Sherry Robinson

A comment I used to hear a lot during Gary Johnson’s two terms as governor was, “Gary is just Gary.”
Gary being Gary made him an ineffective governor, but as a candidate for president? Bring him on!
That’s because, in these times of the coached, coifed and vacuum-sealed candidate with the entourage of handlers and spinners, the candidate who manages to be just himself is a breath of fresh air.
When Johnson makes a statement, we know it’s his honest opinion and not the product of focus groups and polls.
Johnson doesn’t pander.
His contribution to the next election cycle could be his willingness to tell us what we don’t want to hear and challenge other candidates who take the easier path. That’s either brash or brave.
The real irony in Johnson’s campaign is that in not trying to be all things to all people, in just being Gary, he does offer a little something for everyone – after his own fashion. Always described as “libertarian-leaning” and not out-and-out libertarian, his smorgasbord of views will find support and brickbats across the political spectrum.
Johnson’s positions to date: He would cut taxes and shrink government, legalize marijuana, establish a guest-worker program for immigrants (who would pay income taxes and have health insurance), get out of Iraq and Afghanistan “as soon as effectively possible.”
He supports states’ rights, abortion rights (but would leave abortion laws up to states), a clean environment (but not cap and trade), and civil unions for same-sex couples. He opposes the death penalty.
Blogging about the latest standoff in Washington, Johnson said, “We are facing a financial collapse under the weight of more than a trillion dollars in deficit spending, and Washington is pretending to wage a budget battle royal over whether to cut spending by 1 percent or 2 percent.” In speeches, he’s targeted Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and defense for cuts.
He’s championed marijuana legalization since 1999. Recently, Johnson wrote that “the current drug laws are contributing to an all-out war on our southern border – all in the name of a modern-day prohibition that is no more logical or realistic than the one we abandoned 75 years ago.” We’re fueling a massive black market economy and losing the drug wars, he says.
Johnson doesn’t take the easy way out on immigration, either. “Congress and the federal government have failed, due to political cowardice, to do anything meaningful about immigration reform,” he wrote in a newspaper commentary.
He wouldn’t have signed Arizona’s immigration law, but he understands the frustrations that produced the law, and thought the administration erred in its court challenge. Each state should work out problems its own way, he says.
“Someone needs to ask the obvious questions about why the federal government insists on doing so much, spending so much, and attempting to ultimately control so many local issues,” he wrote.
Speaking in Hobbs last July, Johnson said that deporting 15 million illegal immigrants “would be equivalent to an economic 9-11. They are here working, renting and buying.”
GOP candidates, he has said, want to keep throwing money at the war on terror and secure the borders “when they don’t seem to have any idea how much that would actually cost. Although the rhetoric sounds good, the reality of what they’re saying really isn’t going to reduce spending.”
During his administration, Johnson asked for a cost-benefit analysis and learned that the state received more in tax revenues from illegal immigrants than it was paying out in benefits.
On the website, Our America: The Gary Johnson Initiative – “You Say You Want a Revolution” – he calls his campaign “the liberty movement.” He’s not expecting hugs from conservatives, but he believes his message will appeal to independent-minded Republicans, Independents and anybody else who’s fed up.
And that’s just Gary being Gary.

Sherry Robinson
© New Mexico News Services 2011