Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

May 31, 2011

Gov. Johnson Takes on Hannity

by Stephen Littau

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary “Veto” Johnson made a recent appearance on Hannity last week (see video below). I have to say I was pleasantly surprised both with how Sean Hannity conducted the interview and how Gov. Johnson responded. I haven’t really watched Hannity since before the “& Colmes” was dropped a few years ago; from what I remembered he didn’t normally allow guests he disagreed with explain their position (especially on topics like drug legalization). I was also happy that he gave Gov. Johnson 20 plus minutes of some very valuable air time on a program widely watched by Republican primary voters. There’s just no way Gov. Johnson will ever be given that much time in a primary debate.

For Gov. Johnson’s part, I thought he communicated his message very skillfully. His cost/benefit approach that he is campaigning on, especially on issues that the G.O.P base generally disagree (ex: non-intervention and drug legalization/harm reduction) will be helpful in advancing libertarian positions in the long run (much as Ron Paul did in 2008 and since). When Hannity finally broached the war on (some) drugs, Johnson was able to get Hannity to concede that marijuana ought to be considered in a different category from harder drugs (i.e. heroin, crack, etc.). This in of itself is very encouraging.

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  • procopius

    I was surprised at both the time and latitude he was allowed on a garbage show like this. He did well.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Sean was surprisingly fair here. Sean tried to hammer him on the drug issue, but I think Gary stood up well to the barrage (of course, as he points out, he’s had this field to himself for 12 years or so, so I’m sure he’s had these debates a few hundred times).

    I think he’s got a better argument than Ron Paul on drugs, at least for trying to convince conservatives. Sean harped on the “Do you want to pay for their heroin?!” argument, but I think Gary understands that EVEN if you get to a situation like Zurich where you’re paying for their heroin, you save SO much money on policing and incarceration that you come out far ahead on all fronts, whether it’s economic, public safety, etc.

    Let’s hope a few of Hannity’s regular viewers (which doesn’t include many of the libertarians I know) at least picked up on the message.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Brad:

    The thing I like about having Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the race on the drug issue is that people get to hear different reasoning. Paul’s reasoning on drug legalization is the liberty argument (i.e. it’s nobody’s business if you do) while Johnson’s is a more cost/benefit bottom line argument. I fully agree with both arguments because they complement each other.

    Now I’m not sure if I fully agree with Johnson on the government’s role as drug/treatment provider (similar to LEAP’s proposal) BUT I do believe this would be a much better cost/benefit than what is being done now (incarceration). For the Hannitys of the world who would criticize Johnson for subsidizing drug use (or welfare, or healthcare, etc.) I would just say by locking these people up we are subsidizing their healthcare, food, and housing anyway.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Stephen,

    I agree. I like having them both in the race, and believe that both arguments being presented is important. As a libertarian, not a Republican, I’m actually more in line with Ron Paul’s argument. I simply don’t accept the view of the world that the government has a legitimate power to stop me from ingesting whatever chemical I choose.

    That said, I think Ron Paul’s argument won’t convince *any* social conservatives. These are people who feel that they know better than everyone else, and feel completely justified telling people what to do and how to live their lives.

    This is where Johnson’s argument holds sway. He can point out that the “harm reduction” strategy is better than incarceration because it’s cheaper and — more importantly — it works. The nations that have tried it generally see less drug-related crime, less collateral damage to substance abuse, etc. All that while not putting so many people behind bars.

    I did think Johnson missed one thing, though. Hannity kept asking “do *you* want to pay for their healthcare?!” Johnson could have simply said: “If we put them in jail, we *ARE* paying for their healthcare… And their meals, and their housing, and paying a bunch of people to watch them 24/7. And, we’re paying the salaries of a dramatically larger police force and court system to find and incarcerate them. Even paying for JUST their healthcare is a lot cheaper than that!”

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