Gary Johnson @ UNH

Don't blame me, Libertarians never

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson came to the University Near Here yesterday, speaking in the large Granite State Room of the Memorial Union Building. I popped over to check him out.

Johnson's appearance was sponsored by the student group NORML/Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (I was tempted to refer to them as "the local pothead group", but… well, I guess I did anyway.) The attendance was not large, maybe slightly over 100 souls.

Not being fascists, the organizers of the event did not make the event run on time. But while we were waiting, we were treated to a YouTube medley of Gary Johnson ads. Very slick, although they all seemed to share the same driving-rock musical theme, which got a little tedious. But a welcome relief from the unavoidable Democrat/Republican ads on regular TV. Bonus for Granite Staters: apparently the campaign's official motto is the first half of New Hampshire's: "Live Free".

Before Johnson stepped up, a host of Libertarian Party candidates (and some sympathizers) spoke. The afternoon master of ceremonies was Hardy Macia, the LP candidate running against Charlie Bass and Ann McLane Kuster for New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District seat. Giving short speeches were the NH01 LP candidate Brendan Kelly (running against incumbent Frank Guinta and ex-incumbent, Carol Shea-Porter) and perennial candidate for NH Governor, John Babiarz (running against Ovide Lamontagne and Maggie Hassan).

Giving a somewhat longer speech was Seth Cohn, a current NH state rep (from Merrimack 6). Seth is a Republican, and proud owner of an "A" grade on the NH Liberty Alliance's Liberty Rating system for 2012. An actual voice for liberty in office! Unfortunately, he's not running again. But he gave an excellent speech.

And then, finally, Gary Johnson. He was very animated, very professional. Probably (however) has the worst haircut among the candidates. He was garbed in a sportscoat over a t-shirt with a peace symbol thereon. (This worked for Johnson, but I couldn't help but wonder how it might look on either Romney or Obama.)

He elaborated his experience in running for, winning, and being re-elected to, the New Mexico governorship. He made a convincing case that hard-nosed vetoes of profligate spending, coupled with a sharp eye against executive-branch overreach, can work, and actually did work in New Mexico.

As you might have heard, drug policy is a biggie for Johnson. Specifically, marijuana; he wants to end Federal efforts in this area, and encourage states to legalize and regulate. Works for me! (During the Q&A session, a principled libertarian asked him: why not other drugs? Johnson gave the reassuring, if not particularly principled, answer: once pot is legal and society is not destroyed, that will make it easier to move toward sensible policy for all drugs.)

As might be expected from a college crowd, the drug stuff was popular. As was his pledge to (essentially) go to a Ron Paul-style foreign policy (withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, make nice-nice with Iran) and ACLU-style anti-terrorism policy (repeal Patriot Act and NDAA).

The crowd (on the other hand) did not applaud wildly for his tax policy (the only Federal tax should be a consumption ("Fair") tax set at about 23%), and immediate budget balance. (Yes, immediate.) He promised to slash (his word) Medicare and Medicaid—brutally honest! Oh, yes: he's also a Ron-Paulite on the Federal Reserve Bank: it should be ended, and private entities should be able to issue competing currencies. Rad! But not something to make your typical college student stand up and cheer.

And there was the usual whinging about not getting into the debates. (Both now, and back when he was a candidate for the GOP nomination.)

I went in torn about whether to vote for Romney or Johnson in November; I came out—leaning more toward Romney, sorry Gary. I was not impressed with blame-America-first foreign policy when it was explicated by Ron Paul, and it doesn't get any more plausible coming from Gary Johnson. While I'm no fan of the Patriot Act/NDAA generally, I'd prefer to not blindly hobble anti-terrorism efforts.

(It should tell you something that Obama was making these ACLUite noises before he actually became President. Once in, and privy to all the information about terrorist activity around the world, he essentially said: yeah, maybe we should keep doing this stuff, even if it pisses off the ACLU.)

But if I were voting on personality, I'd almost certainly go for Johnson. Mitt's so phony it's a joke; Gary's the real deal.

Last Modified 2012-09-21 10:40 AM EDT