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Johnson looks good except for the downside

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE -   Former Gov. Gary Johnson has been a busy guy. His website  “Johnson for America “ lists speeches and interviews for almost every day since the beginning of January. And the action will continue  —    for a number of reasons.

In a time of economic hardship for the country, Johnson’s message of ridding prisons of their huge population of non-violent drug offenders seems worth considering to many who previously couldn’t abide the idea. It not only would cut ongoing expenses, it would save the cost of building ever more prisons to house such inmates.

Then there is the notoriously expensive war on drugs, which we seem to be losing no matter what we try. Gradually Johnson’s message is gaining some traction among those who wonder if there might be a better way.

Johnson’s message is not totally on drugs. Limited government is becoming a more popular topic these days. Our former governor may forever hold the record of most vetoes by any governor —   ever. During his eight-year term, Johnson vetoed an average of almost 100 bills a year. It was more than all other

49 governors combined.

Why wouldn’t there be a tremendous interest in his ideas?

Johnson is being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate by Republicans, Libertarians and Tea Partiers. And he isn’t discouraging any of it. Currently his effort is wrapped up in a non-profit organization, which prevents him from acting like a candidate. But this is now. The next presidential election isn’t until 2012.

In reality, however, Johnson’s presidential ambitions don’t look good for any party. Republicans won’t get close to anyone as libertarian as Johnson. They rejected Ron Paul in 2008 despite the huge sums he raised and spent trying to get on the GOP ballot. Johnson is considered more moderate than Paul but his position on drugs, alone, sinks him as a Republican candidate.

Johnson often is mentioned as the successor for Paul as the chief spokesman for the libertarian philosophy. He was actively courted by the Libertarian Party in 2000 to be its presidential candidate. But although Johnson walks the walk as well as anyone, some libertarians think he doesn’t talk the talk as well as a spokesman should.

And then there are the Tea Partiers. Johnson has been mentioned as someone who would very much like to lead the movement. He and the Tea Partiers definitely share the trait of independence. But Johnson isn’t angry enough.

He says he’s angry. But he isn’t as angry as the Tea Partiers. They are just plain anti-government. Johnson sees a need for government but in a very limited fashion.

The Tea Party isn’t a well-defined movement yet. It may not even last. But the passion it has aroused suggests that it will. Its goals, although vague, are aligned primarily with the Republican Party, although it professes not to like the GOP much more than the Democrats.

Its similarities with Libertarians seem the most disparate. About the only personal right Tea Partiers seem passionate about is the right to bear arms. It is becoming popular to take guns to rallies  —  big guns, to make big statements. The personal right to do drugs as long as no one else is harmed is out of the question for Tea Partiers.

Gary Johnson is a strong second amendment supporter. Concealed carry passed while he was governor. But Johnson doesn’t seem the type to flaunt a gun at a rally. Johnson’s big thing is running, biking, swimming, skiing and mountain climbing. Those aren’t sports where guns are carried. He’ll support them, but he’s not going to be comfortable flaunting them.

Then there’s the Tea Partiers’ focus on hating President Barack Hussein Obama. That’s not Gary Johnson either. Johnson never ran a single negative ad in either of his gubernatorial campaigns. His race against Martin Chavez was hailed as the most pleasant political contest in New Mexico —  ever.

Sarah Palin is probably the partiers’ best candidate.