Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson dodges questions about his presidential ambitions like he’s getting paid to do so. And to some degree, he is. As the honorary chairman of Our America, a 501c4 organization, Johnson “can’t be running for office.” But that doesn’t mean he’s without presidential ideas. The two-term New Mexico governor has been in D.C. this week making allies and rolling out his three-part plan for solving the financial crisis.
“Rather than sitting on the couch and theorizing about solutions, I’m actually out here in Washington discussing the issues of the day,” Johnson said. And it seems people are responding. “Being an optimistic guy, I figured that the interest I have right now I wouldn’t have until a year from now.”
The biggest of these issues for Johnson is, hands down, entitlement spending.
“Medicare has to be cut. It has to be. We’re bankrupt. Social security is going to be insolvent, like, tomorrow. Whether tomorrow means tomorrow or two years from now, it’s here. It has to be addressed.”
Johnson acknowledges that the idea of spending less money on seniors is like kryptonite to Republicans, who “rail against Obama’s health-care plan while accusing the Democrats of wanting to cut Medicare,” but he sees a glimmer of hope in Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, whose offices were a stop on Johnson’s visit and whose health-care proposal, titled “Roadmap for America’s Future,” has become the official Republican response to congressional Democrats’ stalled plan.
“I think Rep. Ryan’s proposals do get a little bit more meaty with regard to Republican proposals,” Johnson said. He added that being straightforward with voters, regardless of the potential consequences, is “good politics.”
“You can’t mask the fact that we are bankrupt; that 43 cents out of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed. Expenditures have to be cut. As unpopular as this idea might be, the people of this country have never been more aware of spending and the unsustainable level of debt we’re accumulating.”
On more esoteric issues, such as his similarities to other Republicans with a libertarian bent (Ron Paul, anyone?), Johnson is curt. “I am a Republican. The fact that I am often described as a libertarian I consider a compliment, but I am a Republican.” In fact, despite his support for legalizing marijuana and his opposition to a border fence, Johnson identifies with only one other movement: “I consider myself a Tea Partier,” he said, and described the movement’s goals of “shrinking government involvement in the economy” as in line with his own.