The Libertarian Debate: Rep. Ron Paul vs. Gov. Gary Johnson by Gregory Hilton


In a significant setback to his campaign, former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM) was not included in this week’s CNN presidential debate in New Hampshire. Johnson did participate in the first debate in South Carolina which was organized by Fox News.
CNN policy is to exclude candidates who are not receiving at least 2% of the vote in national public opinion polls. In 2007, former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK) was also excluded by the same criteria, but his supporters were successful in organizing a protest campaign and CNN relented.
Johnson supporters also protested but CNN only received a few messages and the two-term Governor was not included. He told CNN he had been re-elected with 20% of the vote, while former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) was defeated by 18%. Santorum participated in the debate. Johnson’s plea fell on deaf ears at the network.
The former Governor is battling Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) for the support of libertarians, and the future direction of this movement. They agree on most issues, but there are some significant and interesting differences. Johnson is more of a mainstream libertarian, while Paul is far more popular with the movements rank and file.
Johnson was the most prominent Republican to endorse Paul in 2008, and said: “I am endorsing Ron Paul for the Republican nomination for President because of his commitment to less government, greater liberty, and lasting prosperity for America. We are at a point in this country where we need to reduce our dependency on government and regain control of our future. To this end, Ron Paul will bring back troops, end the War in Iraq, and will strengthen the U.S. dollar and the economy. For these reasons and more, Ron Paul has my support, respect, and vote”. Listed below are their positions on some of the major issues.
Defense: Both candidates advocate unilateral disarmament and the end of all readiness and modernization programs. Paul wants a minimum cut of $1 trillion out of the Pentagon over a decade. Johnson vows to cut the budget by $1.65 trillion in his first year which would require an immediate 25% reduction in defense spending.
Federal Reserve: Johnson supports for the Federal Reserve which Paul wants to abolish. In April, the Governor told Judge Andrew Napolitano it was not necessary to end the Federal Reserve, and the focus should instead be on balancing the budget. Johnson has since copied some of Paul’s anti-Fed rhetoric. However, as of today, he is still saying the Fed should not be abolished. He wants it to focus on price stability.
Earmarks: Johnson has taken the GOP pledge to abolish earmarks while Paul is in favor of them.
Guantanamo Detention Facility: Paul wants it shut immediately while Johnson says terrorists have to be put somewhere. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) also disagrees with his father on earmarks and Guantanamo.
Trade: Johnson supported NAFTA and other free trade agreements. When he became a presidential candidate, he changed his position on NAFTA and now calls it “corporatist.” Unlike Paul, Johnson will not rule out future free trade agreements. Paul claims to be a free trader but has opposed practically every free trade agreement since his first election in 1976.
Abortion: The former Governor is personally pro-choice while Paul is personally pro-life. Johnson’s pro-choice views have turned out to be his most controversial position at GOP gatherings. However, both candidates really have the same position.
They do not want abortion to be a federal matter and would turn it over to the states. This was the system which existed before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision where some states allowed abortion and others did not.
Foreign Aid: Paul wants the entire program abolished without exception. Johnson would not end humanitarian programs or the military assistance which is provided to Israel.
Foreign Policy: Both candidates oppose the U.S. role in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference today in New Orleans, Johnson said “Let’s get out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow.” He supports Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) bill to set a deadline for getting out. He also opposes the U.S. role in Libya.
In 2001, Rep. Paul did vote in favor of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan but quickly changed his mind. The difference is that Johnson supports interventions for humanitarian purposes and to prevent genocide. He was in favor of the U.S. role in Bosnia and Kosovo, which Paul opposed.
Paul wants to end America’s collective security system. Johnson says “If there’s a clear genocide somewhere, don’t we really want to positively impact that kind of a situation? Isn’t that what we’re all about? Isn’t that what we’ve always been about?” Paul’s policy is non-intervention everywhere, no matter how compelling the cause.
Osama bin Laden Raid: Johnson supported and Paul opposed the raid. The Congressman said “It was absolutely not necessary.” Paul says this should have been handled by Pakistan while Johnson says that would have allowed bin Laden to escape.
Budget: Johnson advocates a 43% cut in the federal budget and supports the GOP’s Ryan plan to cut the deficit by $6.2 trillion over a decade. Johnson says it is a good start, but Paul voted with the Democrats to kill the Ryan plan because he advocates larger reductions.
Cabinet: Johnson would not abolish cabinet departments for Agriculture and Commerce. He would abolish the Departments of Education and HUD. Paul would abolish all of them as well as the CIA, Labor and the Department of Homeland Security.
Immigration: Both Johnson and Paul oppose the border fence. Johnson wants to increase the number of work visas. Paul is against the E—Verify program and other initiatives to keep employers from hiring illegal aliens. Johnson is for E-Verify. Paul would allow the individual states to decide immigration policies.
Gold Standard: Paul has written four books advocating a return to the gold standard. Johnson has issued one twitter message which vaguely promises to link the dollar to gold.
Gay Civil Unions: Johnson is in favor but Paul says it should be decided by the states.
Patriot Act and Military Trials for Terrorists: They are both opposed.
War on Drugs: They both want to end the Drug War. Johnson, 58, has admitted smoking marijuana since he left the Governorship in 2002. Paul, 75, would allow all dangerous drugs to be legal if that policy was approved by a state government. Johnson calls the Drug War “an expensive bust.”
Conspiracy Theories: Johnson has not addressed some of Paul’s favorite topics, the fictitious North American Union, the alleged Amero currency to replace the dollar, or the non-existent NAFTA Superhighway. Johnson does not believe FEMA is building concentration camps for American citizens, and he is not calling for another investigation of the 9/11 attack. These differences were noted by Aaron Biterman who created the official 2008 Facebook page for the Ron Paul campaign, but has since shifted his support to Johnson. He is the past Vice Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus and said:

“At RonPaulForums.com and DailyPaul.com, criticism of Israel and the Federal Reserve too often focuses on Jews as the problem rather than more substantive concerns. Such conspiracy theories and attacks are not productive for the liberty movement. . .Unfortunately, neither the Congressman nor his numerous organizations have ever put out a message to clearly distance themselves from these unappealing arguments.”

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