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Interview with Gary Johnson, Libertarian for president

This is the first in a series of interviews with third-party candidates for president. Sam Wood is a staff writer and The Inquirer's social media editor

This is the first in a series of interviews with third-party candidates for president.

Sam Wood

is a staff writer and The Inquirer's social media editor

Gary Johnson, who was the Republican governor of New Mexico from 1995 until 2003, is running for president this year as a Libertarian ( Johnson, 58, is aiming to be on the ballot in all 50 states and is the first Libertarian to receive federal matching funds.

We spoke with Johnson as he was campaigning in Florida during the GOP convention.

Question: Why are you running for president?

Answer: I think the country is in deep trouble, and I'm offering up a voice that is not being heard right now.

I don't want to bomb Iran, I don't want us to stay in Afghanistan. I want to bring the troops home.

I do believe that marriage equality is a constitutionally guaranteed right. I'd like to end the drug war and legalize marijuana now.

I would repeal the Patriot Act. I would not have signed the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows you or I, as U.S. citizens, to be arrested and detained without being charged. That's why we fought wars.

I'm the only one promising a balanced budget. If we don't balance the budget now, we'll find ourselves in a monetary collapse. That means addressing entitlements.

I am the only candidate that would abolish the IRS and income tax, and replace that with one federal consumption tax. I am advocating the fair tax, one federal consumption tax; you can read about it at I believe it has 90 congressmen and women who have already signed on.

The fair tax serves up the answers to what ails the economy. We do live in an environment of crony capitalism, and the main reason we do is that loopholes are for sale and both parties have their hands out through those loopholes. By abolishing the IRS and eliminating personal and corporate income taxes, you issue pink slips to Washington lobbyists because they're there to game the tax code.

I am the only candidate that would abolish the Federal Reserve.

Q: Do you still consider yourself a member of the GOP? Have you been a Libertarian all along?

A: I've always considered myself a Libertarian. While I was running for governor of New Mexico, the Republicans were totally inclusive of me, the party was open-armed, but they never thought I'd win.

I delivered in a really big way, I exceeded their expectations, and think I'm still highly regarded by the GOP in New Mexico. But that was not the environment I saw running for president as a Republican.

Q: What happened?

A: I was able to participate in two debates before they hung me out to dry.

If I may give you an example, about halfway through the spring debates, they stopped issuing criteria on who could participate in the debates.

CNBC had previously issued two criteria to be included in the debates: A candidate had to be at 4 percent in any national poll and be registered to run for president. I was registered and had 4 percent. But the invitations stopped coming. CNBC would not return our calls to answer why we could not get a seat at the table.

We requested of the RNC (Republican National Committee) that they step in and demand they give us a seat at the table; otherwise, the Republican Party is being dictated to by the media. The party would have nothing to do with helping me out. That was the Republican Party leaving me, not me leaving the Republican Party.

Q: Who are your supporters?

A: Are you familiar with (This website helps voters pick the candidates closest to their own beliefs.)

There have been two million people who have taken that quiz. According to people who have taken the test, I'm the next president of the United States. [He laughs.]

My supporters are people who believe in being fiscally responsible and socially accepting. I think most people are in that category. Speaking with a broad brushstroke, those are my supporters.

Q: If you were to be elected, how would you govern? How would you be able to get cooperation from an already-gridlocked Congress?

A: That's a good one. I'm going to be more liberal than Obama and more conservative than Romney. I come at Democrats hard from the left and the Republicans hard from the right. I'm more fiscally conservative than any Republican in office. So I'm talking about social issues and dollars and cents.

Q: How would you get your agenda passed?

A: I really believe that there are consequences if we continue to borrow $1.45 of every dollar we're spending. That requires a 43 percent reduction in spending.

If everyone takes it on the chin for that, and that's what I'm proposing, all of us can and need to engage in it. The alternative is a collapsed government that can't deliver a single service.

Q: Those are massive reductions. What about consumer safety? Social welfare? Who would agree to such draconian cuts?

A: A 43 percent reduction in military spending would take us back to 2003 levels. A 43 percent reduction in other areas would take us back similarly.

Consider that the two major parties are arguing who would spend more on Medicare.

If we want to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, OK.

But we have to cut Medicare. There is no Santa Claus, and we all know that. If we all participate in mutual sacrifice, we can get through it. Or sooner or later we will experience a monetary collapse akin to Russia in the late '80s.

Q: Is a vote for a third-party candidate a vote for Obama, a vote for Romney, or a wasted vote?

A: I would say that a wasted vote is voting for anybody you don't believe in. If you believe in the third party, that's the guy you need to voice for. That's how you change things. I'm asking voters to be Libertarian with me for one election.