Candidate #3: Governor Gary Johnson: The final candidate I want to talk about in this presidential race is Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. Governor Johnson served as New Mexico’s governor from 1994 to 2003, and you would think I would support him. I do not. For one thing, I still remember the 2015 CNN interview where he pretended to collapse during a discussion on marijuana use and pretended he was having a heart attack, in response to another guest suggesting that you were more susceptible to heart attacks from marijuana use. You may find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjisw2f-vUk. I found Johnson’s antics at that moment to be particularly juvenile at best, and unprofessional at the worst. And recently, Governor Johnson admitted he would stop using marijuana to run for the presidency, because he needed his wit to be ‘knife sharp.’ He also admitted he would not use marijuana if he was our president. Marijuana usage (particularly for recreational use) is not what I would consider a desirable trait in a presidential candidate. I still fall under the belief that marijuana use should remain discouraged and controlled, and should not be embraced by the vast majority of our culture.
Governor Johnson has also used derogatory language to refer to Trump; calling him a ‘pussy’ on a couple of public occasions. Using derogatory language for your opponents, no matter who you are or how you may have been provoked, is wrong, is inflammatory and is absolutely un-presidential, and only serves to diminish the office you are seeking. I called Trump out for this behavior; it is only fair to call Johnson out on this as well. It may be tempting to use such language and it may even feel good to lash out, but a person running for presidency must be able to demonstrate they are capable of restraint and measured responses, to elevate the public discourse to a higher level. Governor Johnson has already shown he lacks that measured restraint with his taunts. I think our nation needs to return to the tradition of civility and to end the name-calling no matter the political differences, and this should start first with the presidential candidates (all of them) showing respect for each other. They are not merely running for high school class president; they are running to become the next president of the United States. They need to start acting like it.
And then there are his policy stances which I strongly disagree with. His national security platform is weak. From the issues page on Governor Johnson’s website, he says, “The objective of both our foreign policy and our military should be straightforward: To protect us from harm and to allow the exercise of our freedoms.” He does not address the issue of an already shrinking U.S. military, a military that has been battered with brutal, unilateral cuts from sequestration, the problems that are being encountered from an aging military infrastructure and the loss of U.S. influence globally around the world, and how a shrinking military will only exasperate tensions with other countries such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. In essence we are already in a new cold war with Russia and approaching a cold war with China over the South China Sea, and our military readiness must be in a position to deal with these new threats. We must expand our military strength to be prepared for these challenges presented by China, Russia, and Iran, not shrink our armed forces, by adding more divisions, battalions and more state-of-the-art military equipment to replace aging ships and planes. We must be in a position to deter these nations, lest they become even more aggressive than what they are now.
In the past, Johnson has even supported dramatically cutting the military by as much as 43 percent, suggesting he doesn’t either believe in or understand the need of the strength of our military. He even suggested that we reduce our forces in South Korea. Such a move might destabilize that area with an already dangerous North Korean dictator, and could provoke North Korea into invasion of South Korea. America’s global influence is tied directly to the strength of its military, and our military strength is starting to wane. By further cutting our military, we are signaling to both Russia, Iran and China that they are free to expand their influence over the world to replace us and make us irrelevant, and we have already seen the consequences of that in the South China Sea, Crimea and in the Ukraine. Russia, China and Iran are not interested in our principles of fair play, freedom or democracy. They are only interested in their own self-interests, which includes making plays for control of more territory but does not include global stability. Without us working toward global stability with our military strength and using it to exert influence over global matters, no one is going to be in the position to work toward that objective. We must be the global policeman because there is no one else that can or will do it (the U.N. certainly can’t), unless we want to leave the job up to Russia, China or Iran. And I certainly do not trust them. We also must keep in mind that if Johnson gets elected, and tries to impose even more cuts to the military, he would be inflicting even more grievous injury to the state of our military, which is already in a deplorable state. Here is an article I found from the Department of Defense from 2015, detailing the difficulties the military was already encountering from the sequestration cuts: http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/604296/infrastructure-funding-level-poses-risk-officials-say. We need a leader to stand up and say our military can no longer suffer any more cuts, but instead, needs to be expanded to be able to adequately protect us and to discourage aggression from other nations around the world. We must be invested in the state of the world and the direction it is headed; we cannot become isolationist, or as Johnson says, “non-interventionists.”
Another issue that needs to be pointed out with Johnson’s model of managing the military: reducing military force strength would require individual service members to endure more tours of duty during times of conflict, not less. When we had boots on the ground on Iraq and Afghanistan, members were being rotated in and out of combat theatres at alarming rates, with service members seeing extraordinarily high numbers of tours. By cutting the military, you will be increasing the burden on the individual service member and their families in active theatres, and increasing the likelihood of more problems encountered by these service members such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
And as Russia and China continue to bully our military, buzzing our warships with their own planes and intercepting our planes in international waters, provoking NATO and probing our shore defenses, Gary Johnson’s positions on our military and national defense show he would be almost as weak on national defense as that of the current administration. In fact, Gary Johnson’s quote from his own website on ISIS, “And the simplistic options of “more boots on the ground” and dropping more bombs must be replaced with strategies that will isolate and ultimately neuter those violent extremist groups” seems to echo President Obama’s “degrade and destroy” strategy. And we have seen by now how well that strategy (or the lack thereof) has went. ISIL/ISIS extremists have brought new atrocities and horrors to the world; as such, they should not simply be “isolated” or “neutered,” rather, they and their ideology must be completely eliminated, and their members either brought to justice for crimes against humanity or killed on the battlefield. Their reign of terror must end. Recently, Johnson told the Daily Beast, “…and then recognize that ISIS is really, regionally, it’s very contained.” The CIA Director, John Brennon, seems to disagree with this sentiment, saying, ““Unfortunately, despite all our progress against [Islamic State] on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.”
I also have not heard Johnson speak up about cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is very much a part of our national security, as Russia and China both continue to hack into our computer systems, breach our security and steal our data. Millions of government employees have already had their data stolen, opening them up to potential blackmail and extortion schemes. What are his policies on that? What would he do to stop the cyberattacks? Johnson has already indicated he publically distrusts the NSA and would likely shut down the NSA, crippling our intelligence gathering abilities to the point of potentially leaving us blind to another Pearl Harbor or 9/11 scenario. So what would he offer instead to protect America’s vital data, both in the private and public sectors? What would he do to ensure we maintain the same level of intelligence gathering capabilities as what we have with the NSA? Reforming the NSA is one thing, but completely gutting it? That does not sound reasonable to me at all.
National security is not the only issue I take great exception with in regards to Governor Johnson. In Education, he would like to see the abolishment of the Department of Education. Doing so would prove disruptive to the nation’s student financial aid system for millions of young people looking to go to college, from grants to loans. It would likely require the states to handle this financial aid themselves, a task I am not sure many states would want or could afford. The Department of Education also serves a vital purpose in collecting data about the nation’s schools. You may think that getting rid of the Department of Education would not be that drastic (for myself, I do), until you look at the Libertarian Party platform as a whole, which says, “We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution.” And so, taking things to the logical conclusion, if the Libertarian Party got its way, it would try to abolish the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of the Interior, and the Department of Labor, to name but a few departments and programs that would be on their hit list. The abolishment of these departments would result in the reduction of the deficit to be sure, but how many millions of Americans would have their lives severely disrupted for having services they depend on cut or restructured? How much innovation and cutting edge research would be lost because the Department of Energy would be gone? Who would regulate things like nuclear waste and nuclear power? Who would take care of our veterans and their medical or financial needs or maintain or veterans’ cemeteries, if the VA is gone? Remember, veterans receive financial benefits for their serviced-connected disabilities, disabilities they got from serving the nation in uniform, as well as educational benefits. Reforming the government, reducing government spending and waste, solving the problems associated with over taxation and holding government and its employees accountable is one thing, but upsetting the whole apple cart and getting rid of practically everything is not only blatantly unrealistic, it would be a very dangerous way of running our government (or what would be left of it). The United States is a first world nation and the primary superpower in the world, we cannot unravel half of the government and go back to the times of when the constitution was first written. We simply can’t. We must say ‘no’ to this ‘hack and slash’ approach to government.
I also have a problem with Governor Johnson’s stance on decriminalizing marijuana, and the Libertarian Party’s platform on drug use. To quote from their 2016 party platform, “Therefore, we favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.” I find it difficult to talk about this issue because there is so much information lacking in this platform declaration. Do they just want to treat people that are using “recreational” drugs as a heath issue in medical clinics, instead of sending them to jail? Do they want to make it legal to traffic drugs on the street? Does drug possession with intent to distribute still remain a crime? Or are they really wanting to wipe the entire board clean, and allow people to sell drugs, both street and prescription drugs, off of the corner, and make it legal for people to buy from these drugs from street dealers? What do they intend to do about those that would peddle these drugs to our population; and to the younger generations, the school-aged children? What would they do about those elements that would move into neighborhoods to sell these drugs?
For me, society needs to keep these drugs illegal with criminal consequences; it needs to make a stand that citizens should not be using these harmful drugs, and must not use prescription drugs unless provided by an authorized medical practitioner. Society and government need to do everything they can to discourage this drug use and to prevent as many people becoming addicted as possible because it is costly to treat addiction and in many cases, an addict is unable to be a productive member of society. Society at large is already struggling to provide treatment options for those who are addicted already. We already have crimes associated with addiction, mainly property theft, but some assaults as well. Some would argue that since alcohol and tobacco are legal, all drugs should be legal. But there is a distinct difference between alcohol and heroin, and tobacco and LSD. Alcohol in particular can be used in moderation without developing an addiction, and millions of people use alcohol in moderation. Tobacco, even if someone becomes addicted to it, maintains their normal cognitive abilities. Decriminalizing (and possibly legalizing) these other drugs would only lead to more addiction, more overdoses, more relapses and potentially more death. For the concerns I have about Johnson, his agenda, and the issues I have with the Libertarian Party platform, I cannot vote for Governor Johnson.
I will, as an honorable mention, say that while I did not agree with Bernie Sanders’ policies, I did believe he was a very descent and honorable person, who truly believed in what he was advocating for and brought a high level of maturity and conviction to the presidential race, and for that, he should be commended. Bernie Sanders based on his character alone was far more qualified to be president than at least Donald Trump and Secretary Clinton, and it is only fair to admit that.
But that leaves me no one to vote for in this election. By not marking anyone for president allows me to make two statements; 1). My vote is valuable, it cannot be bought and I will not give it to just anyone that I do not believe is fit for the office, even someone from my own party and 2). America deserves so much better from the people that are running to be its president in this year’s election. For me, it feels like we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel for qualified candidates for the White House. By not voting for anyone, this is my way to state that America should expect better candidates, and that in the future, we as a nation need to discuss how we recruit and nominate our candidates, and what can be done to encourage those of better character to run for the highest office in the land, and to expect more qualified candidates who could better represent us on the international stage.
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