With little more than three weeks to go until Election Day, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has amped up his rhetoric on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, stressing his differences between the two — particularly in regards to what Johnson says is excessive US military force and defense spending.
“I’m the only candidate who doesn’t want to bomb Iran,” Johnson said earlier this week (Oct. 10) when the former two-term governor of New Mexico addressed an enthusiastic group of supporters at his alma mater, the University of New Mexico.Speaking without notes for just under a half-hour, Johnson blasted Obama from the left and Romney from the right but saved his most passionate rhetoric for cutting the defense budget by 43 percent and calling for an end to US foreign interventions.
“[If] we bomb Iran, we’re going to find ourselves with another hundred million enemies to this country that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” Johnson said.
Neither Obama nor Romney has said they want to bomb Iran in response to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions but the Obama and Romney campaigns have tangled over the more appropriate actions to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iranian officials say their country has no plans to make an atomic bomb but leaders in Israel insist the Iranians are lying.
“How about the notion of trading with Iran,” Johnson — wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign under a sportcoat — asked the crowd, criticizing the Obama administration’s support of current economic sanctions there and Romney’s call for taking a tougher line. “Were we going to bomb China when they were developing a nuclear weapon or do we engage in trade with China and I refuse to accept that China is a threat, given that we are intertwined from a trade standpoint.”
In interviews, Johnson has denied being an isolationist, saying that he is a “non-interventionist” who believes US military forays are counter-productive. In his speech Oct. 10, Johnson was more strident.
“You know what the root of all evil is,” Johnson continued. “The root of all evil are politicians who beat their chests and in the name of electing me or re-electing me, we’re going to take on the war on terror. And in that name, we end up killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians in these countries where we militarily intervene. Our service men and women come back in body bags or with their limbs blown off and at the root of all that are politicians. We need to stop our military interventions.”
Speaking of Obama, Johnson likened the president’s prose to violin music but says “the words don’t match up to the reality at all.”
And he blasted Romney, who supports completing a high-tech fence to enhance border security, saying that stance indicates Romney “has not one molecule of brain.”
“Building a fence across the border would be an incredible waste of time and money,” Johnson said.
No Libertarian Party candidate has ever received more than 1.1 percent of the vote in a presidential election (and that happened back in 1972) and Johnson has filed a lawsuit after being denied a spot at the podium with Obama and Romney in the presidential debates for not polling at least 15 percent in five nationally-recognized polling organizations.
Johnson has polled as high as 6 percent nationally in a poll conducted Sept. 21 by Reason/Rupe. A CNN/ORC survey released September 10 had Johnson at 4 percent and a September 23 Zogby/JZ Analytics poll had Johnson at 2 percent nationally. Update 10/14: An Albuquerque Journal poll released Oct. 14 showed Johnson receiving 6 percent of the vote in New Mexico, with Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 39.
Traditionally, third-party candidates often see their poll numbers go down as the presidential election draws near — especially if the race between the Republican and Democrat is considered to be close.
“What’s more of a wasted vote than voting for somebody you don’t believe in?” Johnson asked as he ended his speech Monday night.
Johnson reiterated his comments about Obama and Romney in an interview at the liberal website Salon on Saturday (Oct. 13), repeating the “molecule” remark about Romney and saying Obama “is as militaristic as President Bush, as militaristic a president as we have ever had.”
And on Friday (Oct. 12), Johnson appeared on MSNBC with Chuck Todd, saying that polls in states like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada show he takes as many votes from Obama as he does from Romney.
Also on Friday, the Johnson campaign learned it earned a spot on the ballot in Pennsylvania, putting the Libertarian Party candidate’s name on 48 states and the District of Columbia. Johnson is fighting to get on the ballot in Michigan and Oklahoma.
You can watch the entire University of New Mexico speech by Johnson here: