Last month Gary Johnson became the Libertarian Party's 2012 Presidential nominee after ending his bid for the Republican nomination last December. We sat down with Mr. Johnson last week and discussed his views on immigration, abortion, drug policy and education.
Q: If elected President would you grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants currently in the U.S.?
A: I wouldn't call it amnesty I would call it a grace period. I think one of the real misconceptions about amnesty is that its citizenship. I am advocating comprehensive immigration reform. I think we should make it as easy as possible to get a work visa. Would immigrants stand in line to get a work visa if the line was moving? I think that they would.
Q: Would you issue a national immigration policy or leave it up to each individual state to implement their own?
A: In this case the work visa does fall under the Constitution and that would be a federal rule. It would be complicated if you had a work visa in New Mexico and Colorado would not honor it. When President George W. Bush proposed amnesty he never meant dual citizenship and thats why in my opinion that the issue did not advance. Then he backed off. Why do we elect a president? We elect a president to lead and push the dialogue and make people understand.
Q: You have stated your that you believe abortion should be outlawed after the 5th term which is different from the official position of the Libertarian Party which views abortion as an individual right. If elected President would you outlaw late term abortions?
A: So this is a tough issue and when it comes to my own beliefs. I believe that a woman has the right to choose but after a certain point there is no viability to the fetus. I signed legislation banning late term abortion and it turns out this is the current law of the land which is Casey vs. Planned Parenthood. Viability of the fetus is defined as being able to sustain the life of the fetus even outside the womb even with artificial needs, that's the law of the land which I did not realize mirrors my own beliefs.
Q: Have you discussed abortion with those within the Libertarian party who view this as an individual right?
A: I don't find myself sideways at all with the Libertarian party. Leaving this decision to the states and recognizing the law of the land mirrors my own personal beliefs. I personally support a woman's right to choose and when I signed legislation banning late term abortion I did not want late term abortions to be criminalized.
Q: Other Presidential candidates have cited congressional earmarks as the leading cause of wasteful government spending. As President what would you do to cut spending and is it even possible to eliminate all congressional earmarks?
A: I got to serve as the governor of New Mexico for eight years under the guise of being a Libertarian governor under the guise of being a Republican. They did a caricature of me in an editorial cartoon where I was on a pogo stick and at the end of the pogo stick was the word "veto" and I had veto'd every square inch of the state and thats exactly what I did. In a state that is two-to-one Democrat I made a name for myself vetoing more legislation than the other forty-nine governors combined I found that it's really good politics to be a good steward of tax dollars and that was what my re-election really stands for.
Q: So you don't have a problem with earmarks if the money is wisely spent?
A: No, I did not have an issue when you talk about earmarks. New Mexico had a line-item veto so I was able to item out certain earmarks and I took that to a new art form. I didn't have an issue with the legislature of New Mexico spending money that we had. I had an issue with them spending more money than I felt we had. Medicaid is really the budget buster in all the states because it is open-ended. You do not know what it is going to cost. It's an entitlement and so the legislature in New Mexico would come up with their projections and I'd come up with another projection and the difference was hundreds of millions of dollars. I'd veto that expenditure every single year which was the obligation from what I thought the state would have every year.
Q: You are in favor of decriminalizing marijuana because it would lower the price and "eliminate the criminal element." Would you legalize other narcotics including heroin and cocaine?
A: I've advocated legalizing marijuana since 1999. When it comes to all the other drugs I am advocate of harm reduction strategies. Death, disease and crime is what we really care about. Right now we are at the tipping point when it comes to marijuana in this country and I think Colorado will be the first domino to fall with the ballot initiatives they have to regulate marijuana like alcohol. When that happens we all take giant steps forward to look at drugs from a rational standpoint which is that it is a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. I would take all of those initiatives and get it out of the criminal justice system. The world would be a better place tomorrow if all drugs were legalized believing that 90% of the drug problem is prohibition related, not use related. I don't think we go from criminalizing all drugs to legalizing all drugs overnight. I think once we legalize marijuana and find out that the world doesn't end and is actually a better place, when police go out and fight real crime as opposed to non-violent crime, I think we will all kind of slap ourselves across the face and recognize what were we all thinking and let's focus on other drugs and what can we do from a harm reduction standpoint.
Q: You have stated that you would abolish the U.S. Department of Education. Would you encourage individual states to set their own standards similar to the No Child Left Behind Act?
A: I don't think people recognize that the the Department of Education was established in 1979 under Jimmy Carter. So if you measure educational performance since 1979 there is nothing to suggest that the federal government has added any value. The federal government gives eleven cents out of every school dollar that every state spends but it comes with 16 cents of strings attached, and I found this as governor of New Mexico. I was more outspoken than any governor in the country regarding school choice and vouchers having proposed a full blown voucher system in New Mexico for six years believing that bringing competition to education would improve it dramatically. There is so much education that is being distorted by Washington. Give it up to the states and in my opinion there will be some fabulous successes that will be emulated.