Carolina Journal News Reports
Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson speaks to reporters Thursday at Duke University.
DURHAM — A little-viewed video is not the provocation for anti-American violence in the Middle East, and America should shut down its foreign embassies and bring its ambassadors home, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said Thursday at Duke University.
“I’m different from [Mitt] Romney and [Barack] Obama. I don’t want to bomb Iran. I want to get out of Afghanistan tomorrow,” Johnson told a half dozen media representatives at a news conference prior to a 7 p.m. lecture at the university.
A pair of Libertarians on the North Carolina ballot — gubernatorial candidate Barbara Howe and U.S. House District 2 congressional candidate Brian Irving — joined the long-shot, third-party candidate at the fourth stop on his 20-campus national college tour.
Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, showed up 45 minutes late for the press conference but was energetic, sporting a blue blazer atop a gray T-shirt emblazoned with a peace sign.
“I think we’re doing really well. I think that America really is hungry for what I would argue is not a third choice but the only choice,” Johnson said. “All the faces on Mount Rushmore were third party candidates at one point.”
The country is about to cascade into a monetary collapse, he said, and his alterative is a 43 percent budget reduction to balance the budget and avoid that calamity. He would order military spending cutbacks and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
A monetary collapse is when dollars “don’t buy anything because of the ensuing inflation that is going to accompany borrowing and printing money,” Johnson said. He cited Russia’s monetary meltdown of the 1980s as a warning of where the U.S. is headed without stern corrective action and shared sacrifice.
Johnson also lamented that “crony capitalism is alive and well in this country.” Most politicians don’t know the difference between the practice of letting government pick winners and embracing unfettered free-market principles, he said.
Johnson advocates eliminating income and corporate taxes and abolishing the IRS.
“I am embracing the fair tax [a consumption-based tax] as a way to really reboot the American economy. I think in a zero tax rate environment if the private sector doesn’t create tens of millions of jobs, I don’t know what it’s going to take,” he said.
He backs the Libertarian touchstones of ending the war on drugs, legalizing marijuana, and recognizing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. He expects to be backed equally by crossover Democrat and Republican voters because he’s more socially liberal than Obama and more fiscally conservative than Romney.
“I would have never signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows for the arrest and detainment of U.S. citizens without being charged,” Johnson said. “I would repeal the Patriot Act if given the opportunity.”
American liberties are being chipped away, he said.
“I think we have a growing police state in this country,” Johnson said.
But his most forceful tones were reserved for what he criticized as interventionist U.S. foreign policy.
“Believe me, intervention is not a term that’s isolated,” Johnson said.
“That is our Middle Eastern foreign policy,” he said, “supporting one regime over another, and this is the consequence,” a terrorist attack on one embassy and violent, anti-American protests in nearly two dozen other countries.
“I think we should get out of them right now, just immediately vacate those embassies. Why set ourselves up as a target in those countries that really want a symbolic target?” Johnson said.
He said he sees little use for embassies beyond holding cocktail parties and providing for the needs of American tourists.
“What are our vital American interests” in foreign countries, he asked. Too often those interests are “governments that we put in place, that we prop up. We don’t want to see them toppled, and, of course, that’s what we have going on right now in the Middle East.”
Johnson said “continued military interventions, I’m going to argue, result in hundreds of millions of enemies of the United States” that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
While Obama and his administration blame an obscure You Tube video clip of an anti-Muslim movie for the chaos rocking the Middle East, Johnson dismisses that explanation.
“From everything that I can see and read, this is really not the focal issue at all. It’s certainly a periphery issue,” Johnson said.
But he believes the anger is deeper and more long-suffering.
“We continue to insert ourselves militarily in situations where we shouldn’t be,” exercising military might in regime changes that are not the business of America, Johnson said.
“How many hundreds of millions of dollars did we spend bombing Libya or backing the insurgents in Libya? The insurgents in Libya take over and we have four dead at the U.S. embassy. Just another example of effective U.S policy, I guess,” Johnson said.
Of the video, Johnson, added, “I haven’t seen it and this is America. And this is why we’ve fought wars. It’s the ability for people to make and say what it is they want to say, the right to free speech, the right to free expression.”
A military strike on Iran to obliterate its nuclear weapons building capabilities would be a mistake, he said, because it would become a years-long undertaking in a country that has many American supporters.
“One million people showed up in support of the United States and we’re going to bomb Iran?” he said of past pro-America rallies.
“We’ll probably wipe out their nuclear program, but … we’re going to kill a lot of innocent people” whose friends and relatives would then dedicate their lives to revenge on the U.S., Johnson said.
Both Johnson and Howe criticized the media refusal to give coverage to their campaigns, and what they see as concerted efforts by Democrats and Republicans to keep Libertarians off ballots and out of debates with fluid and arbitrary numbers rules.
“As usual, there have been debates organized and the debate organizers have seen fit not to invite the Libertarian candidate” for governor, said Howe, running her third campaign for that seat. “I don’t know what Lt. Gov. [Walter] Dalton and Mayor [Pat] McCrory are afraid of, but maybe it’s me.”
As in the past, she said, she will answer debate questions online in real time. But the conversation won’t include issues she supports — gay marriage, legalizing drugs, and school choice with tuition vouchers — without her at the table, Howe said.
When she ran in 2000 and 2004, she said, she was told she had to poll at 5 percent of voters to be included in the debates. She was at 2 and 3 percent and was not allowed to participate.
Now that she’s attracting more support, she notes that the threshold for a third-party candidate to participate has gone up. “I’m polling between 7 and 9 percent now, and lo and behold it is 10 percent to get into the debate.”
Irving, a 63-year-old grandfather and Air Force veteran, said he decided to run because the U.S. has been at war his entire life and he wants to end that continuum.
“I’m not delusional. I know I have a very small chance of getting elected,” Irving said. “But at least I’m giving an alternative view to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” he said of his opponents in the District 2 congressional race, incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers and Democrat Stephen Wilkins.
Dan Way is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.