Eric Kohn from Chicago's Chapter of America's Future Foundation invited myself and Keith Liscio to former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson's appearance before the group last Thursday (see here for Keith's take.)
Johnson's a businessman who grew his own company and than turned to politics managing to get elected to two terms in New Mexico (where Democrats out number Republicans two-to-one). He increased his share of votes in that second term building a coalition with a Westerner's Libertarian flavor of Conservatism.
A few take aways from our talk with the Guv.
Libya: (remember this was last Thursday night). He's perplexed as anyone with Obama and the mission. Johnson said later he was against Bush 2's invasion (I prefer Liberation) of Iraq, but supported the earlier invasion of Afganistan, although that mission's complete and it's time to move on.
Deficits: The bussword's 43 percent. That's the percentage of each budget dollar financing the deficits and Johnson's up for cutting things 43% to restore fiscal sanity. The deficit's Johnson's key issue. It's reaching crisis proportions for Johnson. Read Jay Cost's Morning Jay: Obama's Achilles' Heel? If the deficit's not a crisis, it sure may be 2012's GOP opportunity.
Drugs: Johnson's signature issue has been repealing Drug laws and legalizing many of them. Keith was a skeptic here (go read him, he's wobbling though). Johnson's got the facts and talked of addiction rates in Holland and Portugal, but somehow-or-another this kind of Cost-Benefits Analysis sort of Utilitarian approach to politics makes me leery. I had a biz Exec tell me once (in my role as young-number-cruncher) that he managed things by numbers early in his career, but as he grew in the job he became more intuitive managing people. So while my fellow Dutchman maybe not using drugs as much when they were illegal, my instuition tells me making drugs legals is going to increase use. Just guessing, but that's my bet.
A twist Johnson might explore here are the disparities in incarceration over drug crimes. An African American kid's more likely to get time than a white one. Maybe the greatest case for decriminalization is it's gross unfairness in enforcement.
Immigration: Johnson nails this one. He's for a guest worker program. No path to citizenship, but make it easy for people to come to the US to work. He said he believed Arizona certainly has the right to pass their enforcement laws and that they'll probably get abused with profiling. They won't solve illegal immigration either.
School Choice: He's for it now. He was for it before. He advocated it in New Mexico and while he didn't get there, he increased the polling numbers of New Mexicans supporting it.
The Fed: Johnson's an audit-the-Fed guy and if he had his druthers would abolish it for a commodity based currency. What ever good's to be found here goes over my head during the evening with beer-in-hand. Libertarians are going to have to make the case here for folks in the AM when most of us have clearer heads. It's an issue that makes glaze over.
Obama Czars Czars in the Executive Branch without Congressional approval no problem if Johnson's elected, 'cause they'll be his Czars implementing a his agenda. That got some laughs.
Johnson appeals at just these kinds of moments. He understands power's seduction. That's the argument of a small government guy. He knows power tempts and corrupts, so who better to elect than a guy who knows the danger of that drug.
Thanks to Eric Kohn and the folks at AFF for the opportunity to meet Governer Gary Johnson. Note AFF was offering a free copy of Hyack's Road to Serfdom with a new membership. They're doing some great stuff in Chicago and well worth the membership.