Gary Johnson Reveals His Primary 'Game Plan'

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 14, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Tonight, we bring you the second addition of our special visits with the Republican presidential candidates. This evening we welcome our guest, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Governor, thanks for being here.

GARY JOHNSON, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great being on here, Bret. Thank you.

BAIER: Sure. Jonah, let's start with you.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Sure, I drew the short straw, as it were and I wanted to ask you --

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    JOHNSON: There is a tingling in this chair already.


    GOLDBERG: I'm not telling you anything you don't know. You haven't qualified to make most of the debates. And you are not -- you are not having a Herman Cain-like surge in the polls right now. What -- by your own standard, what threshold do you need to have to stay in the race, to be in the race, to go for the long haul? How do you define it being worth your time and worth the resources of people's attention?

    JOHNSON: Well, politics is about two things -- having momentum and exceeding expectations. So as long as have you those two things, you are in the game.

    And yeah, it's a real disappointment to not be in the debates. It's a real disappointment to not be in national polls that qualify you for the debates. I am going to argue that I was a very successful two-term governor of New Mexico. But that's the pitch I am making. I believe that I am talking on behalf of the majority of Republicans. But that's the pitch I'm making.

    BAIER: So do you make your stand in New Hampshire? I mean what's the game plan?

    JOHNSON: Well so that is the game plan right now is to make my stand in New Hampshire, where you can go from obscurity to prominence overnight with a good showing. And a good showing is exceeding expectation and showing momentum. Now, I have momentum, exceeding expectation, that's something that gets judge the by everybody else. But these are the essential components to whether or not you move forward or not.

    GOLDBERG: Do you have the benchmark for what that expectation -


    JOHNSON: Well, if you are expected to not do anything, and you take third place, that may be overwhelming victory. If you are expected to win and you take third place, you are done. Rudy Giuliani I think last cycle clearly, got his pink slip handed to him as a result of his showing in New Hampshire, not by any means exceeding expectation.

    BAIER: Kirsten?

    KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Well, the president's announced that he's sending 100 troops to central Africa to combat the LRA, to combat Joseph Kony. Would you support this if you were president? Is this something you would do?

    JOHNSON: You know in thinking about this, he signed legislation. Congress authorized that this is what needed to take place. He signed that legislation. As president, if I would have signed that legislation. I would have had an action plan ready to go immediately.

    From all appearances, this really does seem to be genocide. I mean, this really seems -- these are really bad actors, there is a finite number of fighters, 300 -- whatever that number is. I don't know if I would be sending advisers in there as immediately after having sent -- after having signed the legislation sent in a strike force to wipe them all out. Now --

    BAIER: That's very non-libertarian of you.

    JOHNSON: Well, I have always said, genocide is something that none of us want to stand by and watch happen. From everything that I can ascertain from this situation, this does qualify for genocide.

    CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What about the Qaddafi threat when he was winning the war against the rebels in the beginning, to wipe out the people, his opponents, in Benghazi. Would you have sent an army to go and prevent that?

    JOHNSON: No, I would not have.

    KRAUTHAMMER: Why not?

    JOHNSON: I did not see a military threat from Libya. And that's another issue here with the -- with the Lord's Resistance Army is that they're nationless. We are talking about a foreign dictator here. I don't think there is anything in the constitution that says that because we don't like a foreign leader we should go in and topple that foreign leader.

    KRAUTHAMMER: But I am not sure I understand. Clearly, the liberation army in Uganda is not a threat to the United States. Yet you would send a strike force. You can argue equally, whether Qaddafi is the leader of a country or not, he was a threat to the people of Benghazi and you would not, so I am not sure I understand the logic.

    JOHNSON: Well, these are the questions that I would -- another thing as President of the United States, I would be really transparent. Look, I am signing this legislation authorizing wiping out this -- the Lord's Resistance Army. I am authorizing that legislation. On the other hand, going into Libya -- I heard the transparency. I just didn't see the military threat. And no, I do not for a second see the military threat from the Lord's Resistance. I do not see that as a threat to national security at all. But I have always --

    BAIER: But it's not cut and dry with you. There is a lot of nuance in your answer.

    JOHNSON: Well there is a lot of nuance. And being President of the United States, is a lot of nuance. I mean you would like to have somebody in charge, I think, that's gonna be very, very transparent regarding decisions being made. What are the differences? These are the questions that I would be asking regarding signing that legislation in the first place, back to the Lord's Resistance Army.

    POWERS: You opposed the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, what if he hadn't been an American and he posed a threat to the United States?

    JOHNSON: It wasn't oppose ago -- I wasn't actually opposing that order. It was the notion, first of all, this is unprecedented. This is an American citizen. And if I were to have signed that order, and I am not saying that I wouldn't have signed that order -- where was the transparency for such an unprecedented action? I would have been very, very transparent - here is why I am ordering an assassination of a U.S. citizen, unprecedented in the history of this country, and why I really do view this to be a national security threat.

    So guilt, innocence aside, there was no due process here. And I think that that's what I am trying to point out, no due process. And I think due process is really a cornerstone of the U.S. constitution.

    GOLDBERG: Let me change gears here for a second. Many people on the conservative side of things, me included, very much like having a libertarian in the race. But we have -- there are people who have -- wish it might be a different kind of libertarian than Ron Paul. Since Ron Paul is sucking up most the oxygen as the libertarian in the race, could you explain where you disagree with Ron Paul, how you differentiate yourself as a libertarian?

    JOHNSON: Well, as a libertarian, so back to this humanitarian notion that none of us want to stand by from any humanitarian standpoint, I think I have differences in my resume in that I really do have executive experience. I have been a businessperson who started a one-man business in Albuquerque in 1974 and actually grew it to over 1,000 employees. I think there is a difference there in having that in your resume. I got to serve two terms as governor of New Mexico. I am not a social conservative, which I happen to think statistically are the majority of Republicans that aren't being represented right now by those on stage, if you will.

    BAIER: Governor Johnson, stand by, if you will. We will have more with "Center Seat" and our panel after a quick break.


    BAIER: We are back with our "Center Seat" segment with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Governor, in the debate in Orlando, you were talking about your economic plan and submitting a balanced budget. Take a listen.


    JOHNSON: Contained in the notion of submitting a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013 is actually submitting a budget that will cut 43 percent of the spending from federal government. And that means Medicaid, that means Medicare, and that means military spending for starters.


    BAIER: That was actually in New Hampshire this week, and not at the debate. But you said something similar at the debate. Charles?

    KRAUTHAMMER: That is a major ax. That is nearly half. So are you saying that in your first year of office, you would cut the check that Social Security recipients get today, or then, by almost half? You would cut the benefits that the people who are on Medicare would get by almost half, and you would cut the defense budget by almost half in your first year?

    JOHNSON: Well, for starters, it is not about cutting Social Security. Social Security is really a problem that is small in comparison to Medicare. Social Security very simply is a system that needs to take in more money than what it pays out. So to fix Social Security, raise the retirement age, means testing, change the escalator built into Social Security from the wage index to the inflation rate, and then have an option for self-directing those funds. That's the fix for Social Security, so not cutting Social Security.

    Medicaid and Medicare -- I reformed Medicaid in the state of New Mexico. We changed it from a fee-for-service model to a managed care model. We saved a bunch of money, had better health care delivery. I believe that if the federal government would have block granted the state of New Mexico 43 percent less money and let me be in charge of the delivery of health care to the poor with 43 percent less money, done away with the strings and the mandates, that I could have done that.

    I suggest that we do the same with Medicare, block grant the states, 50 laboratories of innovation, 50 laboratories of best practice. If we don't fix this, I am in the camp that believes we are on the verge of a monetary collapse. And unless we fix this, we are going to find ourselves with nothing.

    So it is not promising to cut this. The promise is to submit a balanced budget to Congress, to submit a document that has 43 percent less spending in it. My promise is also to veto expenditures that exceed revenue. And I suggest to you that under that scenario there will be less spending than any other scenario that you -- that we could be presented with and discuss.

    KRAUTHAMMER: But you are saying in the first year, you would submit a budget where the Medicare budget would be split, given to all the states, but would be cut almost in half.

    JOHNSON: By 43 percent.

    KRAUTHAMMER: In that one year, that first year?

    JOHNSON: Yes, in that first year.

    BAIER: That's scary for some folks.

    JOHNSON: And back to -- well, and back to 50 laboratories of innovation and best practice, the states, I am going to suggest to you that we will have best practice.

    BAIER: And on military budgets, we just heard this week, the Defense secretary saying that anything above $450 billion would be devastating to national security. You disagree?

    JOHNSON: Well, I am not operating in a vacuum here, either. I mean there are a lot of people that believe, first of all, with the premise that -- so let's ask a question -- can you cut military spending by 43 percent and still provide for a strong national defense for this country?

    The operative word here is "defense." And the answer is yes, as opposed to offense and as opposed to nation building. And when you start talking about a 43 percent reduction in military spending, really you are talking about the military in uniform, you are talking about the support, the civilian support staff to those in uniform. You are talking about nuclear warheads. Do we really need to blow up the planet 10 times, or might four times do it? I have believed my entire life that maybe four times would do it.

    Getting out of conflicts that we are involved in, closing bases that -- sharing with other countries the responsibility of a genuine war on terrorism, the genuine threats that may exist. But right now, we are picking up that tab for the world. We are spending more than all the other countries in the world combined and we are five percent of the world's population.

    BAIER: Governor, we have many more questions and we are going to continue them in the online segment. If you just log on to "Special Report" online, we will continue and take your questions and comments as well. There you see it,

    That's it for this panel. But stay tuned for a clarification on a debate moment.

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