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Gary Johnson refuses to take pot shots on Hillary Clinton’s health

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson will be hosting a rally in Seattle on Saturday, Sept. 17. On Monday, Johnson spoke with KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson on multiple issues, including his recent gaffe about Aleppo and Hillary Clinton’s health. Here is a transcript from the interview:

Dori Monson: I know it’s the story that you’re sick of, but it transitions to an issue that’s critically important to our state of Washington — the whole Aleppo thing. I know you’re sick of talking about it …

Gary Johnson: No, no, no. Look, I’m running for president of the United States, I should have known the question. I was thinking in terms of an acronym, but let’s talk about the policy. Policy, oh my goodness. Civil war and here we’ve got Assad’s forces on one side of Aleppo, and we have the free Syrian army on the other side, which we’re supporting. They’re also aligned with the Islamists, which we’re not supporting, but the free Syrian army arms that we’re arming them with are ending up in the Islamists’ hands. And, of course, in the north we’ve got ISIS with Raqqa and we’re … supporting the Kurds against ISIS and the Kurds are sideways with Turkey, which is an ally of ours but not as good an ally as they once were because we invaded Iraq.

Monson: The policy, I’ll get to that in a second, but was it a ‘gotcha question”? Do you think Mike Barnicle was trying to make you look bad, because he could have asked, ‘What do you think about what’s going on in Syria?’ Do you think he was trying to get that moment with you?

Johnson: You know what, Dori, I’m not going to go there at all. I’m running for president of the United States. I should have picked up on that and, I did sit down without any context, but that’s not an excuse either. Look, I think probably 90 percent of Americans don’t know what Aleppo is but they’re not running for President of the United States, and I am.”

Monson: Everybody was saying that this is going to bring down your campaign. I think that it was a bigger deal in the media than it’s playing out to be among the vast populous of the country here.

Johnson: First of all, was I certain that an Aleppo day was going to occur? Yes. Am I certain there will be another Aleppo day before this campaign is over with? I’m 100 percent certain that there will be another day also.”

Monson: Let me talk about why that’s important to our region. Our governor, Jay Inslee, is one of the few governors who has said he will welcome Syrian refugees with open arms. I always say I’m Libertarian leaning but I don’t identify with any party because I think once you’re blinded by ideology, you don’t take issues on their individual merits. I know you’re non-interventionist, you would like to see us stay out of Syria for the most part, correct?

Johnson: Syria was caused by us getting involved, by us getting involved in regime change. You can argue that Syria happened because we got involved in regime change in Iraq. In my lifetime I can’t think of one example of when we get involved in regime change that it’s turned out for the better. I’d like to say that if I would have been president, we wouldn’t be having this issue to begin with.

Monson: If you’re President of the United States and you see a civil war slaughter of people, whether it’s in Serbia and Croatia or in Syria or wherever, do we just stay out of it as a nation or do we have a moral responsibility as a super power to try to help people even if they aren’t American citizens.

Johnson: I think you described it with a keyword and you were spot on. And that is civil war. Look, we see these atrocities going on, we feel impelled to do something. We go into a horrible situation and, at best, we reverse the tables and it’s just as horrible but it’s our folks in charge. Or, in many cases, it ends up being worse, remembering in the first place that, for the most part, it’s always a civil war.

Monson: So you would stay out of civil wars?

Johnson: Well, recognizing that outcomes, at best, are the same. And, hey, let’s not downplay the atrocities that occur but when we involve ourselves in regime change, when we involve ourselves trying to determine outcomes in these countries, we don’t make things any better. And that’s not in any way to take away from the human tragedy that’s occurring, and so always be involved. Look, I reject the fact that Libertarians are isolationists, we’re just non-interventionists. Look, let’s get involved diplomatically in these situations to the Hill to try to bring an end to them.

Monson: We’ve had 500,000 people slaughtered in Syria. There are a lot of people fleeing for their lives. What I’d like to see is the US military set up a safe zone in Syria. I do not want to bring them to our nation. Governor Inslee has said he would welcome Syrian refugees to our shores with open arms. I don’t think they can be vetted. I think at best it would be a fiscal catastrophe and, at worst, it could be security disaster because you are bringing in people who’s backgrounds cannot be vetted. But Libertarians are also very welcoming to immigration. I’m guessing you would welcome the people fleeing from Syria even if we didn’t intervene there.

Johnson: Well, I would, and, I would think, as President of the United States … there has to be a vetting that takes places. I think we have the resources and the intellect to be able to accomplish that. And, yes, you are talking about a horrible kind of situation but we bear our responsibility for at least our share of why the whole refugee situation exists in the first place.

Monson: As you very well know, Washington is one of two states that has legalized marijuana. Until running for president, you were CEO of a marijuana company, and one of the products you were going to market here in our state. You said about three months ago you had not used marijuana in about seven weeks because running for president, you needed to be the best you can be. Is that a fairly accurate distillation of what you said?

Johnson: Yeah. So, four months ago I consumed marijuana. Look, I don’t want to make judgments on other people, meaning, for some people, that might just work out just fine but, you know, running for president is a 24/7 gig and I don’t want to be on this job impaired and as president I’m going to make a pledge, look, I’m not going to consume any marijuana. I think if missiles are incoming and you’ve got 12 minutes to deal with that, you don’t want a president that’s been drinking or in any way impaired. And I haven’t had a drink in 29 years and that has to do with health and wellness and my life.

Monson: I’ve never smoked weed in my life but I think people should be free to do what they want to do, as long as they’re not messing with other people. I agree with the libertarian principle there. But you choose to be CEO of something that, even by your own admission, you say you couldn’t keep doing because it makes you less than you could be. Why put your life’s energy into a company as CEO of something that makes people’s lives less than they could be?

Johnson: Well, Dori, … I have the opposite outlook. Look, marijuana products, on the medicinal side, don’t kill anyone. And on the prescription, legal drug side, statistically, those prescription, legal drugs kill 30,000 people a year. So, arguably, marijuana is just as effective and doesn’t kill anybody. I would de-schedule marijuana as a Class-1 narcotic that would allow for the research and development that would actually research the cannabis plant and show, in fact, why this is happening. And then, on the recreational side, I have always maintained that by legalizing marijuana it will lead to less overall substance abuse because people are going to find it as such a safer alternative than everything else that’s out there, starting with alcohol, and I’m speaking on behalf of my own life. I haven’t had a drink of alcohol in 29 years. I think, for myself, alcohol doesn’t work and, look, you said it all: People should be able to make their own choices in their own lives. I don’t want to begrudge anybody for taking the edge off the day by having a couple of drinks or consuming marijuana if that does the same thing.

Monson: The only place I had misgivings about with my vote is we are seeing some stats on under the influence of marijuana or PCP. We’re seeing evidence of car crashes on the increase of people under the influence of weed and that bothers me because it’s not just affecting the user, it’s affecting the innocent people on the roads with them.

Johnson: And that’s a legitimate function of government to protect us against somebody who is impaired and is on the road. Let’s not be naïve that this (didn’t exist) before, and that’s no excuse for anyone becoming impaired and getting behind the wheel of a car. That’s another issue that needs to be researched and established by the government. What is impairment under the influence of marijuana — something that has yet to be established. I know that it’s been established in Washington state, but keep in mind the Canadian snowboarder who won a gold medal in Vancouver, being triple the Washington state limit right now.

Monson: One other thing I’m skeptical about: I know you’ve said you’re absolutely for women’s right to choose. Is that at any point in a pregnancy?

Johnson: The law of the land is Casey vs. Planned Parenthood, and my own views reflect the law of the land, and I’m not looking to change the law of the land. But the law of the land allows a woman to have a choice with regards to abortion up to the point of viability of the fetus and the Supreme Court of the United States has determined or defined viability of the fetus as being able to sustain the life of the fetus outside of the womb, even if by artificial means. That is the current law of the land.

Monson: Would you prosecute a woman or doctor for murder?

Johnson: No. I would never, I would never ever want to prosecute a woman or a doctor for murder. Ever.

Monson: If they performed it after the point of viability?

Johnson: You’re talking about a situation right now that just doesn’t exist. Meaning it all ends up to be medical and there are no prosecutions occurring currently in the country. I do want to point out the law of the land; I’m not looking to change that, but no one is getting prosecuted for late-term abortion. It’s all coming under the category of medical necessity and that has always been my fear with regard to these laws that somehow we would prosecute women or doctors, and I want to have no part of that whatsoever.

Monson: The things I love about your platform: You would like, in an ideal world, to abolish the income tax, corporate tax and the IRS. You would go to the fair tax or a consumption tax nationally. I just think that is a direction our nation needs to go. Why are you convinced that needs to be our policy?

Johnson: I think if we had zero corporate tax — and let’s not kid ourselves, we pay for corporate tax — … I think that tens of millions of jobs would get created in this country for no other reason. Why would you grow, start up a business anywhere in the world other than the United States? I also think that pink slips would get issued to 80 percent of Washington lobbyists because that’s why they are there, to garner tax favor. Pay to play, crony capitalism, it’s the tax system that all of that is based on.

Monson: Agreed. How much smaller could government be? What percentage of current federal government could you cut it down to?

Johnson: Without anybody noticing a diminishment in anything, 20 percent, and that’s what Bill Weld and I have pledged to do, is to submit a balanced budget to Congress. Now, we’re not getting elected king or dictator, but we’re getting elected president and vice president and Congress needs a template for how to accomplish that. We will provide them a template for how they can accomplish that.

Monson: So four-fifths of our government is somewhat necessary and you think about one-fifth is expendable?

Johnson: I do and … like I say, we have pledged to provide that template.

Monson: Hillary’s health is the big story from the weekend. She certainly did not look well climbing into that car. You have siphoned off more of her voters than Trump’s, it looks like. Do you think that in spite of the Aleppo gaffe and all of that, that people who are legitimately concerned about Hillary’s health will look at you as an alternative?

Johnson: Well, I think we take votes from both sides. I think we are representative of most people being fiscally conservative and socially inclusive and skeptical when it comes to our military interventions (in) regime change. We are for free trade. We think that results in more US jobs. We are two former Republican Governors who served two-terms each in heavily Democrat states. We think we’re representative of 60 percent of Americans and if more than 30 percent of Americans knew who we were, I think we might actually end up winning this election before it’s over.

Monson: What was your personal reaction when you saw what happened to Hillary Sunday?

Johnson: Personal reaction is this is one strenuous gig here running for president, and my whole life is health and wellness. My whole life is fitness and I’m about as fit a 63-year-old as you will ever find, and so, it’s quite a grind and to contract pneumonia doing this, I can see how it can happen.

Monson: For those of us who believe she’s not healthy enough to be President of the United States, do you think those are legitimate concerns?

Johnson: No. I think what this highlights is just how much of a grind it is and I know everybody listening thinks the same thing. Look, I hope she gets well and I hope this doesn’t linger. Pneumonia is a really serious thing, but you know what, running for president, that’ll do it to you.

Monson: I think you’re all nuts for running for president.

Johnson: [Laughing) You got that right. How about the mental illness test to go along with this?

Monson: [Laughing] None of you would pass that one.

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