*In the wake of The Wall Street Journal‘s unsigned opinion/endorsement of Libertarian
candidate fraud Gary Johnson, I guess I should finally complete this blog post that has been burdening me.*
“I don’t get it,” remarked Gary Johnson multiple times on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, streamed live on May 17. That was one of the only truthful remarks he made the entire 150 minutes.
Being well-tuned to the delusions, distortions, and lies of libertarians (all who say “no no…I’m the other kind of libertarian, everyone else is wrong. Here, let me explain…”) let me say this: Johnson is no different. These guys (and it is mostly guys) are far-right reactionaries who are so out of touch; so overconfident that it’s hard to believe they are taken serious by adults.
Libertarians are far right ideologues masquerading as somehow more liberal than D’s and R’s and fiscally more conservative than R’s. Both of these are abjectly wrong. Their ideology is fascistic by practice replete with privatized courts, privatized militias and self-regulation by oligarchs. Anarchism for illiterate righties.
I’ll start with compliments. I applaud the candidate for going on a popular and controversial podcast (over 25 million downloads a month) with a broad audience and guest list. It is not easy to talk for 2 + hours about politics without making mistakes.
The first hour mostly consisted of his views regarding prisons and the War on Drugs. He was strongest here regarding legalization and the truly terrible effects of the 50 year long assault on personal autonomy. Don’t drop the confetti yet. He supports private prisons; he even touted his policy of privatizing prisons during his two terms as Governor of New Mexico as successful.
In 1994, gubernatorial candidate Johnson vowed to privatize prisons as part of his platform. According to The Sentencing Project, “by the time he left office in 2003, 44.2% of the state’s prisoners were in privately run prisons.” Yay promise kept! Lives and results be damned! Results? The shrinking of the public workforce concomitant with the shrinking of wages for those that remained. The first state prison riots since the 1980s in New Mexico occurred under his reign. 290 prisoners engaged in a riot in a privately-run prison during his first term which prompted calls for the closure of private arrangements. Johnson did not mention this. He also didn’t mention that multiple human rights groups have severe criticisms regarding his tenure and transfer of prisons to other dubious ones in Virginia, for example.
I knew this was going to be a long listen after his misleading and incomplete telling of his privatization project.
What follows is a slight breakdown of some – and I stress some – of his most egregious claims he made throughout the entire interview. For sake of (my own) sanity, I am not breaking down every misstatement otherwise this blog would be double the length.
CLAIM: The govt. should not provide phone cells to those on “welfare.” The government spends “multi billions of dollars a year” on cell phones. “Wouldn’t people be connected otherwise?”
Response: In reverse order: No dummy, they wouldn’t; job hunting almost requires having a cell phone. Snopes.com has a detailed breakdown of who pays for the phones and just which presidents began and strengthened these programs.
(Hint: There are multiple programs – none directly subsidized by taxpayers. And, not the Obama administration but your buddy ol pal Ronald Reagan; then Clinton then Bush 43).
Regarding “if you can work you should” comment: That’s exactly what President Clinton’s welfare reform did to welfare. Now there are strict lifetime limits (5 years) and job requirements. Our current welfare system does incentivize job searching and, in fact, has “increased employment rates,” according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
CLAIM: I privatized all prisons as Governor.
Truth: True enough. (Come on, we’re working with ideologues here.) Did this reduce prisoners in his prison? No, by the time Johnson left office there was 55% more prisoners in private cells – this amounted to an increase of 13% population-wise. Are privatized prisons more economically efficient (efficiency here strictly means “less costly”)? According to that same report by The Sentencing Project, the author Cody Mason referenced a meta-analysis by researchers from the University of Utah that concluded that “..cost savings from privatization are not guaranteed,” and continuing in that direction is “questionable.” Factoring in safety and what this foretells for democracy and what kind of laws and policies this direction incentivizes, only an ideologue who wants to shrink government based on ideology would forget to include such externalities. Johnson is unsavory here.
After the first hour is when he really went off the deep end; he waded into the international and national security realms and my blood started to boil. I rarely get mad so this felt good because it inspired me to write (Being happy can be a real bummer regarding….goals and desires. Ha.). Nothing brings out the polemic in me like libertarians.
CLAIM: The NSA is….wait…what is the NSA?
Johnson, two term Governor of New Mexico, admitted that he just learned last week that the NSA was created by an executive order (EO) during the Truman administration. If you just learned this last week you probably shouldn’t be commander in chief. I am not saying this facetiously – he is disqualified simply based on this remark, in my humble opinion.
(*For what its worth, I would be disqualified, too, as I learned of that fact only two years ago when I begun reading as much as I could about the NSA. I have controversial opinions about the Commander in Chief position – I almost think that the president should not have jurisdiction regarding the military but I also don’t think Congress should either. But do I want the military to run itself without civilian oversight? No. Welp*)
Johnson made many claims regarding surveillance and intelligence that clearly showed his lack of insight and understanding. At one point, he expressed confusion regarding Obama needing a bullet-proof limousine? For real?
CLAIM: Iran is the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Truth: Maybe. However, that first place spot is a contentious badge since Saudi Arabia and Pakistan exist. These 3 countries are in a battle with, Russia, for being the most norm and rule breaking countries in the world. (Israel, you too, pretty much, get to do whatever you want but shhhhh.) He didn’t mention Saudi Arabia once during this section.
CLAIM: Maybe Iran sponsored the Paris attackers.
Truth: A remarkable claim that would go against everything we know about the Paris attacks since they claimed to be acting in the name of ISIS, a sunni wahabbi jihad group completely ideologically opposed and counter to Iran. Iran, in fact, supports one of their enemies which is the Assad regime. Iran sponsors and supports Shia terrorist and rebel groups such as Hezbollah. Iran does support Sunni groups that undermine the U.S. or Arab nations, too; however, ISIS is not group that they have ever supported. When pressed for examples, Johnson gave the Brussels example which is embarrassing and also disqualifying. It shows he knows nothing about the Middle East, the Sunni/Shia divide. This was a Trumpian answer; worthless.
CLAIM: North Korea has “zero exports to China.”
Truth: What? This is an impossible claim. NK exports military intel and weapons systems to Egypt, Iran, Maynmar, and Syria. They are a massive player in illicit trafficking whether it’s weapons, ore, clothing, etc. North Korea totally has exports. In fact, they exported $3.1 billion worth of goods, legally, in 2014 (which is the last consistent numbers we have easily available). China is North Korean’s biggest market making up approximately 90% of North Korea’s export trade.
Johnson – you’re a doofus.
In an excellent take down published four years ago regarding the Libertarian Party candidates 2012 run by Mark Ames on NSFWCORP.com, the author remarks that “once you get past the PR branded version of Gary Johnson and just see him for the conventional hard-right Republican he really is, you’re no longer so surprised to learn that the people running Johnson’s presidential campaign were themselves big-name GOP political operatives — the darkest and the dirtiest operatives in the GOP cellar.”
This is what I always find to be true regarding libertarians. They tend to be the most ideological of the right; the most theoretical; the most ignorant of evidence and economics; etc, etc, etc. A campaign funded by Charles Koch – the oil billionaire who denies climate change – would of course yield such fruitless results.
Shall I continue? OK.
CLAIM: “China has this…what do they have?…this island they built 40 miles off their coast of whatever it is. What’s the big deal?” – Johnson on Joe Rogan Experience at 147:52 mark. [Keep playing until the end to hear more and more nonsense.]
Gary Johnson was incoherently referring to the Spratly Islands, a chain of a dozen or so islands, and the Paracels (a group of coral atolls which Vietnam, Taiwan and China have claims) that China has recently started to develop on and militarize. There are dozens of other rocky and coral-based areas that China is trying to claim as completely their own. What’s the big deal? Just ask South Korea, the Philippines, and Japan. Just ask all of us who believe in the global commons and the right to navigate the oceans. What is transpiring in the East and South China seas is a massive deal.
Gary Johnson just doesn’t get it. Clearly. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that he isn’t included in the mainstream debates – I think he should be included; along with the Green Party candidate as well. Probably. What I am arguing is that’s it’s a fantastic thing that Johnson won’t become president.