Friday, September 23, 2011

How can you not like Gary Johnson?

[Note: On November 21, 2011, I accidentally deleted this post while doing some blog clean-up. What follows is reposted from a Google cache of the original that I found. I'm not sure links and formatting will be right, but at least the main content is there. The three comments are, I'm afraid, lost to the ether. Google's cache didn't save them.]

The more I learn about Gary Johnson, the more I like him. In fact, the more I learn about him, the more I find myself thinking, "How could anybody possibly prefer any other presidential candidate to him?"

If you're a regular reader, you already know that no candidate for any office has been more attentive to poker players than Johnson. As mentioned in a previous post, here, he has gone out of his way to embrace the freedom to play online poker as an issue. (Did you see any other presidential candidates at the WSOP to meet players? Didn't think so.) But there is much more to the man and the candidacy than that.

The issue I consider to be most critical to the nation these days is federal spending. We are heading over a precipice with the foot firmly on the gas pedal, like Thelma and Louise. Obama clearly cares not one whit about this. Oh, he'll occasionally say things about how the current course is "unsustainable," but his policies and proposals just continue to make things worse. Why, just this week he released a budget document with recommendations for the Congressional committee tasked with finding spending cuts. The proposal in it would increase the federal debt by another 7.5 trillion dollars, and he had the gall to title it, "Living Within Our Means." This is not a man who can be taken seriously. He's a joke, an embarrassment. Worse than that, he's a serious menace to the long-term economic vitality of the United States.

Even the Republicans are, for the most part, not telling the populace the truth about how dire the fiscal situation is--about how close we are to having the cost of borrowing skyrocket over a very short period of time, and how devastating that will be to the economy. Even Paul Ryan's plan merely slows down the rate of increase, rather than actually cutting spending. It is the bare minimum in terms of what can be considered a serious proposal, but it was immediately attacked by Obama, most other Democrats, and even many Republicans as being too radical. The only ones who really take the matter seriously are Johnson and Ron Paul. Paul has a bigger following, but Johnson is far more electable. He is also younger, healthier, more pragmatic, less doctrinaire, less shrill, and has a ton more executive experience.

I consider the fiscal situation to be so grim that I am, for the foreseeable future, going to be effectively a single-subject voter. Johnson's willingness to take a meat cleaver to the federal government and budget should be enough to win over Tea Party types, if they would notice him. Conservatives should be dazzled by his commitment to the Constitution, limited government, federalism, low taxes, and free markets. His bona fides on these subjects at least match, if not surpass, those of the clowns of the Palin/Bachmann/Perry lineage.

But even you liberals out there should find much to like about Johnson. He is far more committed to ending the current batch of wars than Obama is. He is better than Obama on civil rights, gay rights, ending the war on marijuana, and immigration. He's pro-choice and against the death penalty. Unlike most Republican candidates, he accepts the scientific consensus on evolution and global warming.

If we go past the issues to the question of personality, he's a breath of fresh air. I am sick to death of politicians who give slick, prepared, careful answers, desperate not to offend any possible constituency, without ever telling the real truth. It's insulting and demeaning. It infantilizes citizens, essentially telling them, a la Jack Nicholson, "You can't handle the truth!"

Three pieces I've read about Johnson just in the past 24 hours (which were the immediate impetus for writing this post) add to my belief that he will be different. First, a blogger for The Economist talks about Johnson's "apparent inability to bullshit," his "indifference to optics," and says that he is both "guileless" and "dispositionally allergic to pandering."

That post pointed me to a much longer profile in GQ magazine. After spending several full days on the road with Johnson, reporter Lisa DePaulo concludes, "There is nothing he will not answer, nothing he will not share.... Johnson is fundamentally incapable of bullshitting, which is one of the many, many things that make him so unusual for a presidential candidate."

The third profile I read today is in Outdoor Online. As suits its readership, this one emphasizes Johnson's enthusiasm for extreme sports. But along the way, their reporter, too, couldn't help but notice the candidate's genuineness:
Indeed, Johnson maintains an almost strident disregard for the mix of showmanship and rehearsed modesty mandated by modern politics. It’s the substance of his ideas that matters, he insists, not the style. I asked him if he’d ever considered getting a media coach. “No,” he said. “Then people wouldn’t be seeing me. They’d be seeing someone else’s idea of me.”

...Johnson’s eight years [as governor of New Mexico] were scandal-free. He lowered taxes 14 times, built a $1 billion budget surplus, and departed the governor’s mansion with a favorability rating near 60 percent. “I wanted to know if you could run an honest campaign, get elected as an honest person, and stay honest in office,” Johnson told me. “And I felt that I did that.”
Oh, and did I mention that he strongly supports your right to play poker from home in your underwear?

What's not to like?

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