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Controversial Republican Eyeing White House?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 7, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Gary Johnson has been a successful businessman and Iron Man tri-athlete and a two-term governor of New Mexico. And now that man that once recent magazine called the most dangerous politician in America just may be running for president as a Republican in 2012.

I sat down with him earlier. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: How are you?

GARY JOHNSON, FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: I'm great.

HANNITY: Good to see you.

JOHNSON: Thank you for having me on the show.

HANNITY: It's honor to have you. Are you running for president?

JOHNSON: Well, I'm a 501c4, I get to speak out on the issues today, raise a little bit money and —

HANNITY: You're thinking about it?

JOHNSON: Well, I can't even say that. I don't want to get sideways with my 501c4.

HANNITY: OK. But you've been to — look, you read the tea leaves. You've been in New Hampshire. You've been to Iowa. Certainly —

JOHNSON: I haven't been to Iowa yet.

HANNITY: You haven't been to Iowa. OK. But you're — you're planning on going to Iowa I read in one article.

JOHNSON: Yes. Yes.

HANNITY: OK. Look, you've got a lot of interesting things to me. You've been to a couple of Tea Party events. I thought that was pretty interesting but you haven't really made up your mind about the Tea Party movement.

JOHNSON: No, I've totally made my mind up about it. I went to —

HANNITY: You said in one article you weren't sure what their agenda was. That you weren't sure where they —

JOHNSON: No. No. And actually I got a hand-out in South Carolina which listed the top 10 things that a Tea Partier stands for based on a poll. And you know what? I was a Tea Partier. I stood for all those 10 things.

HANNITY: OK.

JOHNSON: Which really had to do with the pocketbook from one through 10.

HANNITY: You describe yourself more — you're more of a libertarian Republican. Then you —

JOHNSON: I have never —

HANNITY: I'm a Reagan Republican. You would be more of a libertarian Republican.

JOHNSON: Well, that would be labels that were — be put on me. I've never labeled myself. But I've considered myself a Republican all along. I've been well treated by the Republicans. I think Republicans are open to ideas and — like I say.

HANNITY: So you're running — if you were to ever consider running for president or other elected office you would run as a Republican not as a libertarian?

JOHNSON: Right. I'm going to stay a Republican. Exactly.

HANNITY: OK. The libertarians tried to recruit you at one point to run for president?

JOHNSON: Well, again, nobody directly contacted me. And I was — you know, I was honored by that but no, it didn't happen. And again, I'm a Republican.

HANNITY: Alright, look —

JOHNSON: I'll stay a Republican.

HANNITY: You have an interesting record to me. Now there are areas that we disagree on. We're going to talk about in a minute. But before we get to that you were governor eight years. You never raised taxes.

JOHNSON: Not one.

HANNITY: Not — you decreased —

JOHNSON: Not one.

HANNITY: — the annual tax burden on the people of New Mexico on average, what, 123 million a year?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, I wish that would have been more. But it was — New Mexico is 2-1 Democrat. So it was really legislature that didn't present tax decreases and as much as I railed on that, it didn't happen as much as it could have.

HANNITY: And you had 1,200 fewer state workers.

JOHNSON: Yes, over an eight year period which to me really was a testament to state government efficiency. You know, doing more with less.

HANNITY: Alright, you vetoed a record number of bills. You support school vouchers, things that I support.

JOHNSON: You know I was — I think I was more outspoken than any governor in the country when it came to school choice. For six years straight I proposed that every student in New Mexico get a school voucher. It didn't go anywhere. But really, bring competition to public education. I thought that that would have made a huge difference.

HANNITY: You know, even though you call yourself pro-choice you were praised by pro-life advocates in your state because of a bill that you signed.

JOHNSON: Well, I signed a bill banning late-term abortion. I did support parental consent and counseling. But I do support a woman's right to choose up until the point of viability.

HANNITY: Alright. So this is where — I agree with everything that you did and everything that you said. You support tax cuts, limited government, you've been critical of Obama spending.

So you got — you have a pretty strong platform in my mind. In almost every interview that I read about you, it always goes back to the issue you want to legalize pot and you would have heroin clinics open for people that are addicted to heroin.

JOHNSON: Well, actually the only thing I'm advocating the legalization of is marijuana.

HANNITY: Right.

JOHNSON: And when I say legalize pot, it's never going to be legal to smoke pot, become impaired and get behind the wheel of a car.

HANNITY: But you're OK with people smoking in the privacy of their home?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. And I use legalization because I think that half the problem or more than half of the problem is the prohibition of drugs and the crime.

HANNITY: Yes.

JOHNSON: Crime associated with it. And —

HANNITY: You don't think it's —

JOHNSON: And the dollar cost. I mean —

HANNITY: You don't think it's a gateway drug?

JOHNSON: It's not, Sean. It's just not.

HANNITY: I don't believe that.

JOHNSON: You know, I've got on my cell phone, and I'll show it to you after we're done here, the government itself admitting that it's not —

HANNITY: I don't trust that. You don't trust anything the government tells you. Come on.

JOHNSON: Well —

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: You know what? I don't drink. And I choose not to. I've smoked marijuana, I choose not to, based on my experience. It's —

HANNITY: I found that pretty — I found that interesting. I'm not trying to interrupt you.

JOHNSON: No. No, no.

HANNITY: You actually admitted that you used to smoke marijuana a couple of times a week.

JOHNSON: Well, a couple — you know I came up with — yes, I came up with an average. I wanted to be honest about it.

HANNITY: But that was what struck me, is that every politician just, oh, I didn't inhale. I mean and they come up with these ludicrous answers. But you decided to be honest, why?

JOHNSON: Well, because it was something that I did. I mean it was the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: And —

HANNITY: Sorry. Why am I shocked?

JOHNSON: And — well, I'm one of 100 million Americans who have smoked marijuana. And —

HANNITY: You don't think it's detrimental, though — would you want your kids to smoke pot?

JOHNSON: Well, no, but statistically half the kids —

HANNITY: It doesn't — forget statistically. You don't — why don't you want your kids to smoke pot? Because you believe psychologically it would be detrimental to them, right?

JOHNSON: No. No.

HANNITY: I do.

JOHNSON: No. What I believe is — first of all I don't want them to get — become impaired and get behind the wheel of a car and drive.

HANNITY: Forget about the wheel of the car. Do you want them to smoke in the privacy of your home? Or in their home?

JOHNSON: That's a choice that they would have to make.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Coming up more with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Stay tune as we shoot it out over his support for drug legalization. And does he really support heroin clinics? That is coming up, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue now with more of my interview with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: How do you reconcile the prostitution issue, the heroin issue, the pot issue, with social conservatives like myself that —

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, prostitution has never been an issue for me.

HANNITY: Right.

JOHNSON: I've never been asked to legalize — I've never —

HANNITY: Well, you talked about it in an interview. That's where I got it from.

JOHNSON: Well, so again. And freedom, liberty, the personal responsibility that goes along with that, I find it —

HANNITY: You got — yes.

JOHNSON: I find it funny, if you will, that Republicans would talk about the fact that this country stands for freedom, this country stands for liberty, this — and it's about the personal responsibility that goes along with that, but not when it comes to marijuana.

HANNITY: Alright.

JOHNSON: And, Sean, for a second, if the government made drinking beer illegal tomorrow, would you continue to drink beer or would you stop drinking beer?

HANNITY: I always obey the law. I pay all my taxes. I'm just telling tax cheat Geithner in case he's watching. But —

JOHNSON: But you would work to change that law.

HANNITY: I don't put it on the same level as drugs. I'm a little bit more afraid of drugs. I — and for a lot of reasons.

JOHNSON: And — OK. And I accept that. You know that Denver —

HANNITY: I drink — I'm a lightweight. I don't drink a lot. But you can drink alcohol, a beer, two beers, a glass of wine, two glasses of wine, and you're not impaired. If you smoke marijuana you are impaired.

JOHNSON: I would disagree. My experience I would disagree. Denver voted to decriminalize the use of marijuana on a campaign based on marijuana being safer than alcohol. So I guess that got put to the test with a campaign.

As you're aware, Massachusetts voted to decriminalize marijuana this last general election 65-35. And to my knowledge, no incidents. Nothing. No incidents.

HANNITY: If you don't believe it's detrimental then you and I just have a differing viewpoint because you've also advocated taxing it. And I'm thinking, why would the government — you admitted in your life when you smoked it, it took away your motivation, you are slower skier, you were on the path to be a professional skier, so you were much slower, it impairs you.

JOHNSON: It was an epiphany that —

HANNITY: Yes.

JOHNSON: It really — and that was my choice then to stop using.

HANNITY: So if it's not beneficial to members of the society and the government is going to make money on it that's where I part ways with you.

JOHNSON: Well, and based on my experience, and I'm not alone in this. I would just say that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Marijuana for me was also athletics in high school. You know we drank and then marijuana came along and holy cow. This is something that we can do. There are virtually no after-affects.

HANNITY: But if you run for president, and again back to my main question, how do you reconcile these controversial positions with social conservatives that are not in agreement with you in the Republican Party?

JOHNSON: Well, and let's just get back to the amount of money that we're spending. Half of what we're spending on law enforcement, the courts and the prisons is drug-related. About $70 billion a year.

And to what end? We're arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country on drug-related crime. And the use of drugs has not gone down. So again, advocating the legalization of marijuana, I just suggest is going to create an environment where police will actually be able to go out and address the real crime.

HANNITY: Do you think you can convince social conservatives then to vote for you in a Republican primary considering they make up a large percentage of that primary?

JOHNSON: Well, there would be two methods that I could — one would be to lay on the couch and theorize about how —

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: The other would actually be to burn some shoe leather and see if that's the case.

HANNITY: Alright. Let me go on one other issue with you. You are not supportive of the — you were not supportive of the war effort in Iraq. You're not supportive of the war effort in Afghanistan.

JOHNSON: And originally I was. Originally Afghanistan was about getting Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

HANNITY: But you're not any longer. You think we should pull out.

JOHNSON: Well, they're not there and we're building roads, schools, bridges, hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan.

HANNITY: You think it's nation building.

JOHNSON: Well, we're borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar right now that we're spending. I just think we bankrupted ourselves. And that we're going to be of no use to anyone worldwide as a bankrupt nation.

HANNITY: I actually have had an idea. Nobody listens to little old Sean Hannity. But I'm like, I think the Iraqis, with all their oil resources, need pay us back for their liberation. Every single solitary penny.

JOHNSON: I really —

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: I really thought that from the beginning.

HANNITY: Yes.

JOHNSON: I thought — I was kind of part of the deal.

HANNITY: Should have been part of the deal. Right?

JOHNSON: Should have been part of the deal.

HANNITY: I think it should be now. I think they owe us a lot for that.

If there is a War on Terror and the 9/11 Commission report conclusion was there's a group of people at war with us, we weren't at war with them, we ignored the embassy bombings, Khobar towers, the USS Cole, the first Trade Center bombing.

Who are we at war with? And don't — doesn't that war continue today? Don't we need to be in pursuit of those people —

JOHNSON: Yes.

HANNITY: — that would bring harm to the country?

JOHNSON: Yes. Yes. We do.

HANNITY: How — how would you do that?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, the whole notion of the smarter. When — before we went into Iraq I was on record. Look, we — I thought we have — and not thought. We do. We have the military surveillance capability to see them roll out any weapons of mass destruction.

We could have watched that happen and we could have gone in and annihilated that situation. I thought that if we went in we'd become involved in a civil war to which there would be no end and I'm afraid that's what's happened.

HANNITY: Alright. Well, best of luck. We're going to follow your campaign.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Thank you very much.

HANNITY: You —

JOHNSON: It's not a campaign — 501c4.

HANNITY: I got it. Sorry.

JOHNSON: 501c4.

HANNITY: Alright. And the other thing I disagree, you voted for Ron Paul. A lot of people are saying you're the new Ron Paul. How does that make you feel?

JOHNSON: Well, I'm flattered by it. I'm flattered by it. I think Ron Paul has been very principled and he's been constitutionally based —

HANNITY: A lot of thing I agree with him on. Sure.

JOHNSON: Sure.

HANNITY: But sometimes he goes — he went off the deep end in that debate with Rudy Giuliani when he said we basically caused what happened on 9/11 by — we were bombing them for years, remember that comment he made?

JOHNSON: I do. I do.

HANNITY: Did you — you didn't agree that, did you?

JOHNSON: Again — I might not agree with everything that he says, but as a whole, I just found him to be extremely principled. And I put myself down as a Ron Paul fan.

HANNITY: Alright. Well, we're going to watch very closely your next move. Thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you very much.

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