Last week, the day after former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced his Presidential bid, antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo authored a piece he likely had been salivating to publish for some period of time entitled “Gary Johnson: Caveat Emptor.”
It’s the attack on Gary Johnson heard ‘round the Paulosphere, having been circulated by fans of likely 2012 Presidential candidate and fellow libertarian Republican, Congressman Ron Paul.
Raimondo, a skilled writer, did some digging on Gary Johnson to spread the word to the faithful that they shouldn’t waste their time on what he makes out to be an unprincipled sellout — a real statist hack.
Raimondo’s three main complaints with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, as outlined in his article, are that:
• Johnson supports what is referred to in a Weekly Standard article as “humanitarian wars”;
• Johnson supports the U.S. alliance with Israel; and
• Johnson is supported by the “cosmotarians”, as Raimondo’s subheading asserts.
Let’s take this third point first, since it has little to do with policy and much to do with personality. Raimondo spends more than 1/3 of his article talking personality and internal movement politics.
Lew Rockwell, a longtime Raimondo ally, wrote at least two negative commentaries about Gary Johnson on days one and two of his campaign (1). Raimondo and Rockwell belong to the segment of the broader liberty movement that is unapologetically anti-war. While they also call themselves “anti-state,” the movers and shakers in this faction often hold conservative positions on social issues. In other words, sometimes they prefer government interference and other times they do not. (Note that these same authors criticize the inconsistencies they see in others on an almost constant basis.)
This is in tune with their most prominent advocate, Congressman Ron Paul (a RLC Advisory Board member held in great esteem by this author), who shares their libertarian bent but feels at ease with the paleo-conservative wing of the Republican Party. As an example, hit piece author Justin Raimondo was involved in Pat Buchanan’s campaigns in 1992, 1996, and 2000. Congressman Ron Paul recently expressed his support for the Defense of Marriage Act, voted for a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border, and is an advocate of removing birthright citizenship from the Constitution.
This “paleo” wing of the liberty movement has long disliked the “libertarian” wing of the liberty movement, who they call “cosmotarians” or “Beltway Libertarians.” The “beltway” crew consists of what Raimondo labels in his article the “Kochtopus” (brothers David and Charles Koch), the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine. The history of the infighting between these factions dates to at least the mid-1980s and won’t be settled anytime soon.
The key point here is that Justin Raimondo approached his article from a biased perspective to begin with. In other words, the score was settled long before Gary Johnson arrived on the scene. Johnson is the unfortunate punching bag because of his interest in bringing more people into the libertarian movement — the types of people Raimondo may not want to join us.
Is stopping genocide the same as a humanitarian war? Is it possible to stop human rights abuses via government action without engaging in a war?
Author Justin Raimondo claims that Governor Gary Johnson supports humanitarian wars. However, nowhere does Johnson mention the word humanitarian, the word war, or both words in conjunction with each other (2).
Instead, Johnson says that “in principle” he would try to “positively influence” or “stop” genocide in foreign nations. He doesn’t say he would intervene in ALL foreign nations where genocide is occurring, but he does say that he does not support nation-building in any form or fashion. Couple this with his principled opposition to the wars in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and you have a candidate who is a non-interventionist with the possible exception of using government to aid people being oppressed in foreign nations.
Call me crazy, but this is hardly the least libertarian position I’ve heard on foreign policy — especially among those running for President. Most libertarian Republicans I know supported intervention in World War II, in part because the United States was attacked, but also because millions of Europeans were being slaughtered and tortured.
To rule out supporting Governor Johnson on the basis of his policy position to potentially stop genocide in a foreign nation is silly.
Unsurprisingly, Justin Raimondo misleads his readers to draw the conclusion that Governor Johnson’s foreign policy is similar to the Obama Doctrine. Raimondo’s false conclusion ignores the fact that Governor Johnson opposes the the War in Libya. How is a candidate opposed the Obama war equated to supporting the Obama Doctrine? It doesn’t add up.
Big, Bad Israel
Raimondo’s favorite topic — undoubtedly — is bashing Israel. Gary Johnson’s Our America Initiative issues page indicates that Governor Johnson supports Israel’s right to defend itself. That is a reasonable position for any libertarian to take, as I explain in my article “Rand Paul’s Stance on Israel A Lesson for the Liberty Movement to Follow.”
Senator Rand Paul (son of Ron Paul), during his 2010 campaign, defended Israel’s right to self defense, saying, “As a United States Senator, I would never vote to condemn Israel for defending herself. Whether it is fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon, combating Hamas-linked terrorists in Gaza or dealing with potential nuclear threats in the Persian Gulf, Israeli military actions are completely up to the leaders and military of Israel, and Israel alone.” More recently, Senator Paul has advocated ending U.S. aid to Israel.
In a document I obtained from Gary Johnson’s (c)(4) group the Our America Initiative, Governor Johnson says that “a clear national security interest and the fundamental defense of the United States” justifies U.S. support for Israel. “Our direct military funding support to Israel totals about $3 billion a year, and the majority of that money is spent buying equipment and technology from U.S. companies. That $3 billion is less than we gave General Motors, and the cost of not having a strong, democratic ally in the Middle East is incalculable,” Governor Johnson concludes in the document. He says the costs of the continued relationship are “paltry when compared with th(e) benefits”(3).
Gary Johnson also says that, as President, he would work to support Israel in case it is attacked “militarily.” That’s a big if, since the Arabs have lost six wars in the Middle East in the last six decades. Governor Johnson, like many others, sees the United States having a strong relationship with the one nation in the Middle East region which provides rights and liberties to its people as valuable. While most libertarians do not support alliances in any form or fashion (including this libertarian), obviously Governor Johnson does in one instance. He should explain more about why the U.S.-Israel alliance is more important than other alliances.
Fortunately, you don’t have to agree with Governor Johnson on the issue of Israel to support his candidacy in the same way that you don’t have to agree with Congressman Paul’s vote to build a fence along the Mexican border.
Mr. Raimondo attempts to paint Gary Johnson as a statist throughout his article, but he concludes that Governor Johnson is “Ron Paul Lite” — a palatable, principled advocate of individual liberty and limited government.
Gary Johnson, says Raimondo, is “Paul Lite, Paul without the hard edges, without the ‘kooky’ end-the-Fed stuff, without the social conservatism, without the stubborn devotion to principle and to Austrian economics, specifically – in short, a hollowed out libertarianism, without any style and surely without its soul.” (Note: Gary Johnson has said he would audit and abolish the Fed and adheres to the Austrian school of economics.)
Welcome to real politics, Mr. Raimondo, where (unfortunate as it may be) kooky doesn’t win elections.
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson won election in a majority-minority state — a state that is two to one Democrat — twice (1994 and 1998). In Johnson, we’re fortunate enough to have a Presidential candidate who is committed to principle, has a record to prove it, and is a willing and able-bodied standard-bearer to spread the libertarian message to the masses.
There’s simply no reason you should accept Justin Raimondo’s bid to make the perfect the enemy of the awesome.
(3) The document I obtained is called “Continued Investment in U.S.-Israel Relations is Worth the Cost.”