Breitbart Blogger Takes Swing At Gary Johnson, Misses Completely

Gary Johnson

William Bigelow, a blogger at Big Government, one of the many websites that is part of the “Breitbart” media empire that continues to apparently flourish after Andrew Breitbart’s death in March, has taken the trouble of coming up with a list of reasons why Republicans shouldn’t vote for Gary Johnson.

As an opening point, I should probably say that on some level Bigelow is correct. If you are truly a Republican, as in being someone who is committed to the success of the Republican Party regardless of the fact that it remains, at its core, a party devoted to expanding the power of the state, then you obviously shouldn’t vote for Gary Johnson. Governor Johnson, though he was once a member of the Republican Party, stands against everything your party exists to perpetuate whether it’s the continued expansion of unchecked Executive Branch power, subsidies via the tax code and other methods to favored industries, or an interventionist foreign policy the foolishness of which was aptly demonstrated during the Presidency of George W. Bush. If you truly believe all of these things are good things, then go ahead and vote for Mitt Romney because you can be sure that, in the increasingly unlikely possibility that he’s elected in November, he will continue all of those polices. Heck, he’s already promised increase the defense budget by $2,000,000,000,000 over a ten year period!

However, I think in his use of “Republicans,” Bigelow really means conservatives and Tea Party supporters, which makes his arguments against Johnson all the more interesting. Let’s examine each one of them in turn.

Example #1: How do we extract information from terrorists who want us all dead? Johnson feels we should ask them politely if they would mind revealing their secrets. He opposes “physical or psychological torture” for any “criminal or terrorist suspect captured by the U.S.” Forget the fact that the information we got to find Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda operatives was obtained through less polite methods.

The link that Bigelow provides goes to the foreign policy issues section of Johnson’s website, which says this:

  • No criminal or terrorist suspect captured by the U.S. should be subject to physical or psychological torture.
  • Individuals incarcerated unjustly by the U.S. should have the ability to seek compensation through the courts.
  • Individuals detained by the U.S., whether it be at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, must be given due process via the courts or military tribunals, and must not be held indefinitely without regard to those fundamental processes.

So let me get this straight. Governor Johnson opposes torture, he believes that people who are held in prison should have the right to petition a court to have a determination made as to whether or not their detention is justified, and he supports such quaint concepts as due process of law. Indeed, Johnson doesn’t even say here that all of the terrorist we capture must be tried in civilian courts, he accepts (as do I) the possibility that some of them can and should be tried by military tribunals. Of course, those tribunals will still be governed by the Rule Of Law.

What, exactly, is wrong with any of that? Torture, whether it “works” or not, and there’s plenty of evidence to show that it doesn’t, is quite simply morally unacceptable. The fact that the Obama Justice Department recently refused to prosecute two CIA agents who engaged in such activities is just evidence that neither major party in this country actually care about doing the right thing. Furthermore, the fact that Bigelow thinks that there is something wrong with suggesting that people should be entitled to due process of law rather than being detained indefinitely is simply further proof that the commitment of modern American conservatives to individual liberty is nothing more than a lie. Regardless of whether an individual is a foreign citizen or a citizen of the United States, once you concede that the government has the right to hold them, or in one well-known case, kill them, without having to justify that decision to anyone, the you have essentially said that the President Of The United States is equivalent to a King, Czar, or Emperor who can do whatever he wants for whatever reason he wants as long as it’s cloaked in words like “national security” and “terrorism.” Rather than destroying Johnson’s argument, Bigelow actually has enhanced it by exposing modern conservatism for what it truly is.

Let’s look at a few more of Bigelow’s arguments against Johnson:

Example #4: Is China a threat? Johnson, in Mother Jones, August 1, 2011:

When people understand that the United States spends 52 cents out of the worldwide dollar on military spending and that China spends 9 cents, what -arms race are we gonna engage them in? I mean really, is China a threat? No, they’re not.

Bigelow doesn’t offer any argument on this point, apparently because he considers it self-evident. That’s the problem with living inside a bubble, though, rather than actually supporting your arguments you through “facts” out there and pretend that you’ve won your argument.

In reality, Governor Johnson is absolutely correct here. To back that statement up, let’s just take this look at this list of military spending by nation listing the top fifteen nations in the world, which I obtained via Wikipedia:

Military Spending by Country

As you can clearly see, the United States far outpaces China in military spending by nearly $600 billion per year, and Russia by even more than that. Indeed, if you add up the military spending by the United States and our closest NATO and non-NATO allies, it accounts for nearly 80% of the total military spending by that list of fifteen countries. The idea that, under these circumstances, China is a serious military threat to the United States or our vital national interests is, quite simply, absurd. We could afford to cut our defense spending and still be far, far ahead of the Chinese in that area for the foreseeable future.

The more important fact that Bigelow seems to forget is that our relationship with China is far more complex than the Cold War lens through which he wishes to view it. As former Utah Governor, and Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman said many times during the course of the Republican primary race, the true relationship between the United States and China is far more cooperative and interconnected than people like Bigelow care to recognize. Yes, the United States and China have differing national interests, all nations do. However, we also have a highly complex interdependent economic relationship that makes the idea of viewing our relationship as inherently adversarial seem completely insane. Governor Johnson is completely correct in his observations about the relationship between the United States and China. Bigelow, on the other hand, seems stuck in a Cold War mindset that assues that Mao Tse Tung is still in power. I’ll go with Johnson on this one.

Example #5: Is Iran a threat? Johnson: “There is not a military threat  … if it’s not a military threat I would use all the power I had as president of the United States to not see Israel attack Iran.”

Again, Bigelow provides no commentary to refute Johnson’s argument here, but I think we all know what it might entail. In any case, the fact of the matter is that Iran is not a threat to the United States and that an attack on Iran is more likely to result in a war that sends the Middle East into chaos than anything else. Another loss, Mr. Bigelow.

Another Bigelow argument:

Example #6, from the Huffington Post, October 21, 2011, on the Occupy Movement:

And maybe instead of dismissing or trying to manipulate the Occupiers to partisan advantage, we should all just go join them. All we need to agree about is that the status quo sucks.

The Occupy movement has pretty much discredited itself but, in October of last year when it was still something new, Governor Johnson’s comments were not entirely without merit. At the time, I wrote this at Outside The Beltway:

Johnson has a point. As I’ve said, the incestuous relationship between business and government is good for nobody, bad for the economy, and destructive of liberty. The problem with finding common ground with this group, though, is that they seem more interested in protesting for the sake of protesting and releasing silly, unrealistic manifestos that read like they were drafted back in the 70s by a couple of rejects from the SDS. That, and their apparent inability to come up with anything resembling coherent demands so far, makes it hard to take the movement, as opposed to the general nature of their grievances, seriously.

Nonetheless, it’s good to see someone in the Republican Party addressing these issues

For all of their faults, the Occupy movement had some good ideas. We live in a political culture where government, big business, and big banks all work together to protect their own interest and the rest of us get screwed. The problem with the Occupy crowd is that they thought, and still think, that the solution to the problems we face is more government control when, in reality, it’s increased government power, in connection with the protected interests on Wall Street, that has led us into the situation we face today. It may have been a naive Don Quixote quest, but I cannot say I blame Governor Johnson to reaching out to this group of disaffected people to try to build bridges for the libertarian movement. It didn’t work out, but I don’t see anything wrong with the effort.

And that brings us to the final argument Bigelow makes that I wish to address:

Example #7, on gay marriage, from, Dec. 1, 2011:

As a believer in individual freedom and keeping government out of personal lives, I simply cannot find a legitimate justification for federal laws, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, which ‘define’ marriage. That definition should be left to religions and individuals – not government.  Government’s role when it comes to marriage is one of granting benefits and rights to couples who choose to enter into a marriage ‘contract’.  As I have examined this issue, consulted with folks on all sides, and viewed it through the lens of individual freedom and equal rights, it has become clear to me that denying those rights and benefits to gay couples is discrimination, plain and simple…

Government’s promise should be to insure equal access to those rights to all Americans, gay or straight… Today, I believe we have arrived at a point in history where more and more Americans are viewing it as a question of liberty and freedom. That evolution is important, and the time has come for us to align our marriage laws with the notion that every individual should be treated equally.

The evolution Johnson spoke of was his own position; he had been more moderate before but “evolved’ to his new stance.

Yes, how horrible it is that Governor Johnson reconsidered his position, a position that was far more pro-liberty than most Republicans in that he supported civil union rights for gays and lesbians, and decided that he was incorrect. I suppose Bigelow thinks it would be far better if Johnson had decided, like a majority of Republicans but a minority of Americans, that gays and lesbians do not deserve equal rights and do not deserve to live together as members of a happy family. How horrible of him.

At some point, people like Bigelow are going to have to learn that they are on the losing side of this issue. Acceptance of same-sex marriage continues to reach new highs every time the issue is polled. This year, referendums on the issue in Maryland and Minnesota have an excellent chance of being the first time that same-sex marriage was endorsed by popular referendum. Whether conservative realize it or not, they have already lost this issue and it’s only going to get worse for them as time goes on. Politics aside, though, it’s simply the fact that Johnson is on the right side of this issue, and Bigelow and his fellow conservatives are not. In time, their attitudes about same-sex marriage in particular and homosexuality in general will come to be viewed as an historical anachronism akin to the people who thought that bleeding people with leeches was a way to cure disease. Instead of a reason to vote against Governor Johnson, Bigelow’s argument about same-sex marriage is a powerful argument for voting for him in November.

The most fascinating thing to me is the fact that a writer at a high traffic conservative blog felt it necessary to spend his time putting forward an attack, albeit an incredibly weak attack, on the Libertarian Party candidate for President of the United States. After all, it’s not like any LP candidate for President has ever really had an impact on the outcome of an election. Indeed, no LP ticket has yet surpassed the 1.06% of the vote that Ed Clark and David Koch (yes, THAT David Koch) garnered in 32 years ago. Four years ago, former Congressman Bob Barr achieved something of a milestone when he garnered just over 511,000 votes nationwide, the largest raw vote total for the LP since the Clark/Koch ticker some 28 year earlier.  This year, there are some indications that Johnson could be a factor in states such as Colorado and New Mexico, but we all know he isn’t going to win the election.

So, I have to wonder, what exactly is Mr. Bigelow afraid of? It strikes me that he’s afraid that people who actually believe in limited government will look around and, at some point, realize that the Romney/Ryan ticket is largely a joke on that issue. Perhaps then, they’ll see that there’s this former Governor from New Mexico who not only talks about limited government, but actually governed that way when he was in office. If that’s not the case, why would you waste time attacking a candidate from a third party who, as every conservative I encounter always tells me, cannot possibly win?

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