There’s a great profile of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson over at Slate that’s worth checking out:
A 57-year-old fitness fanatic who climbed Mt. Everest in 2003, Johnson chooses the New York Athletic Club on Central Park South as the venue for our interview. Besuited and with reading glasses dangling around his neck, he answers almost every question with a smile and, sometimes, an idiosyncratic, wide-eyed expression. The overall effect is of a courtly, mildly eccentric uncle. This, in itself, makes him seem like a misfit in today’s aggressively orthodox — and virulently partisan — GOP.
Ask Johnson what he thinks of Barack Obama, for instance, and rather than the stream of vitriol that might issue semi-automatically from the lips of some party colleagues, he answers: “You can’t help but like him.”
Obama, he says, “touched” him with his rhetoric during the 2008 campaign, though he adds that the president has proven disappointing and disingenuous since then.
Johnson seems ill at ease with the belligerent icons of modern-day conservatism. What does he think of the idol of the Tea Partiers, Glenn Beck?
“I have not watched Glenn Beck. I don’t watch him.”
Does he listen to Rush Limbaugh?
“I don’t. Not that I haven’t [ever]. But I don’t tune in to Rush.”
He isn’t comfortable with other elements on the fringe, either:
He went to a Tea Party event in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago, he says, and was impressed when one attendee gave him a handout that claimed to identify the movement’s top 10 priorities.
“Basically, one through 10, it had to do with the economy and spending and taxes. And I thought, ‘This is who I am! This is what I care about!'”
Then he adds: “There was a lot of fringe there.”
What does he mean by “fringe”?
“My son had a conversation with somebody who was a birther, [who] described ‘birther’ to my son. Well, I didn’t have that conversation, but –”
Johnson stops abruptly. A full six seconds of silence ensue. Would he like to complete the thought?
“Well, just to get to hear that … To me, it’s just hard to grasp,” he says, a little sadly.
On other issues, Johnson doesn’t bother to hide his disdain for his party’s hard-liners. Take the incendiary new immigration law passed in Arizona, for instance:
“I just don’t think it’s going to work,” he says. “I think it’ s going to lead to racial profiling. I don’t how you determine one individual from another — is it color of skin? — as to whether one is an American citizen or the other is an illegal immigrant.”
Johnson is non-committal about future plans (i.e., 2012), but this much is true:
Johnson is betting that the country is in the mood for some more tough love, albeit wrapped in flamboyantly libertarian garb. It’ s a risky wager at best. But one thing is guaranteed: If Gary Johnson runs for president, he’ s sure to freshen up the national conversation. And those debates with Mitt Romney should be fun to watch.
Indeed they would.