In our spree of interviews for BeingLibertarian.com, I had the privilege to speak with the legend of news, the great libertarian speaker, and the master of the mustache, John Stossel. Stossel, who has been a media icon for decades now (I think he found a little insult in me reminding him of that), and now is the first person ever to bring the Libertarian Party a nationally syndicated debate and I had a brief phone call which we recorded for our readers’ enjoyment, and hold a transcript we will place below the article, to discuss the Libertarian Party, the 2016 debate and a bit of other fun stuff.
The thing I began with was what got us here as a movement. I didn’t want to have to go to the Libertarian Party for this election cycle. I was ready to give up on third party politics and ready to take the big stage and vie for the Republican nomination with Senator Rand Paul as the man for that. I was ready to win. I feel that John Stossel, while maybe not openly going out of his way to back Rand in a Napolitano fashion, did join in with this and did make it known he was a Rand Paul man early on. He said on his show and in interviews that Rand was the best on foreign policy, economic policy and even a bit better on social policy.
When I asked Stossel about what he thought of Rand Paul now, I didn’t sense that much excitement regarding his campaign. Stossel knew the results were far less than ideal and even with a competitive field, falling below Ben Carson and Jeb Bush, should be shown as a testament of Rand’s failures doing this. He said things such as Paul not really being much of a libertarian. He said that he chose to not focus on the bread and butter issues that libertarians cared about, and it didn’t come off well with the base. He said things suggesting Rand Paul tried to appease the establishment and it just backfired. Stossel said what many libertarians, including myself, would really peg as the truth. Overall, he kept the positive views of Paul clear, but said on issues that people cared about, such as economic liberty, ending the War on Drugs, and non-interventionist foreign policy, he was sort of a flat soda to his father’s fresh Coca-Cola.
Moving into this debate, one thing that I can conclude for those watching the forum that Stossel is putting together, is that he does have a sweet spot in his heart for Gary Johnson. When I brought up Rand Paul, he did make the subject turn to Gary and just reciting how strong he felt his resume was. Being an early morning call, Stossel and I both had a bit of the pretty coffee blues in our voice, but discussing Johnson, a certain energy fired with Stossel. He spoke with excitement and the feeling that the man knew public policy. He mentioned all the great things he did as Governor of New Mexico, and did seem to really care for the guy as a candidate and him being ideal. He wouldn’t give a flat-out endorsement to Gary, and assured me later on that he was tough to everyone in the debate; but there was a slight feeling that he views Gary Johnson as the destined nominee and the man most likely to grow liberty to new levels.
For this interview, I did want him to give a positive and negative attribute about each candidate he put into the debate. I asked him to say something about Austin Petersen. Just to cement his stance on Gary again, he moved the subject to once again list positive attributes about him. He did, however, say one sort of sad truth about Gary that most people do recognize. He can come off as a little dull. He can come off as not the best speaker. His criticism of Johnson came purely from what he sees as a member of the audience when Johnson talks, and that the Governor can speak a bit too much about himself. He agreed with me using the term “wonkish” to describe him, and said he can come off as rambling on about how he’s an athlete or how he’s a businessman a little too much. For that, I feel it cements again that Stossel is a Johnson fan, but does see some faults in approach.
When we did finally get to Austin Petersen, he answered that his greatest strength and weakness is one of the same: his youth. He said that Austin is visibly not very seasoned, and pointed out the fact that he’s barely even old enough to run for office. He said to anyone watching this debate, Austin’s youth will be something any viewer can notice and it, at moments, reflects negatively and positively on him. One thing that he did say, however, is that Austin did pretty well in the forum for someone as new to the game as he is. He said that confronting the issues of being virtually unknown to the general public that his certain charisma to him, might be the thing to help him progress further into the race and represent liberty on a greater scale. He didn’t really seem that excited about Petersen, but did hint on his candidacy almost being a reflection on how the liberty movement is still this young thing with members who are far to his junior.
On John McAfee, I felt his opening words on him could perhaps cement a bit on what we will see in the Libertarian forum for tomorrow night. He opened up saying “Well, the guy has this checkered past.” and Stossel didn’t really come off as that confident on McAfee’s chance of benefiting the liberty movement or really seeming to understand what McAfee’s mission is in this run. He did, however, compliment McAfee in his knowledge of cyber security. He called it a growing issue with the American public, and did say he feels McAfee could be a brilliant guy to talk about it. However, when asked if this is really a big centerpiece issue for the liberty movement, Stossel came off a little less confident in that. He seemed to state throughout the conversation that the bread and butter to the liberty movement is ending the War on Drugs, ending the wars overseas and freeing the market in a way people can be happy about. While he didn’t particularly say anything bad about John McAfee, I just from the tone in his voice or words said read him showing the same level of excitement as he did with talking about Gary Johnson. Even with Austin Petersen, he seemed to show a bit more confidence over McAfee. Really, this could just show how another voice in the liberty movement is concerned that McAfee’s wild history could be a major problem if made the nominee.
Moving on, though, he did show confidence in all three candidates. He said each one is utilizing media well and they are working to grow the movement with their own sense of style. Stossel didn’t seem confident any of them could win, but earlier on in the conversation, I mentioned Johnson’s 11% in the Monmouth poll which did seem to give him a glimmer of excitement. A certain excitement I felt Stossel carried when I opened up saying how his show was an inspiration for me to become a libertarian and get involved in the liberty movement. He did come off as a bit of a veteran on this going “Well, glad some people are benefiting.” where Stossel almost felt as the aged guy in a movement just sitting there waiting for the first giant leap in victory to happen. Maybe that first leap could be Friday night…
On the debate as a whole, he told me to tell everyone to watch out for the second half of the debate. That’s when he described it as him going much harder with the candidates and things do develop a certain excitement with it. He said all libertarians will enjoy this forum and each candidate did get a feeling that they had a good time and put a strong message out there.
Overall, I’m not going to use this article to praise any of the candidates running. I’m not going to use it to gloat that this debate is going to be the turning stone for the liberty movement. I am however going to say this: Thank you, John Stossel! Thank you for spending generations in media and having the integrity and courage to change your views at the most critical time in your career and come to really be a hero for libertarians. Thank you for setting this debate up and I hope it can get the liberty movement a path towards brighter days ahead where all Americans know who we are in the next few years.
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