John McCormack of the Weekly Standard has a very interesting interview with the former New Mexico governor here. The headline draws attention to Johnson’s recent drug use, following a 2005 paragliding accident. As a prospective 2012 presidential candidate he was going to face an uphill battle with social conservatives to begin with. This disclosure, coupled with his straightforward support for abortion rights (“I support a woman’s right to choose [abortion] up until viability of the fetus. …. I don’t personally have a sense that life starts at conception”), is a kiss-off to values voters.
The more surprising news in McCormack’s piece concerns Johnson’s foreign-policy ideas. He confirms his opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars and that he’d like to downsize the Pentagon, but he also reveals a penchant for humanitarian intervention: “If there’s a clear genocide somewhere, don’t we really want to positively impact that kind of a situation? … Isn’t that what we’re all about? Isn’t that what we’ve always been about? But just this notion of nation building—I think the current policy is making us more enemies than more friends.” On Israel, he tries to sound a conventional Republican note: “I think that we really do have a vested interest in Israel and that we shouldn’t walk away from that interest.” I don’t think that’s going to go very far with AIPAC.
Johnson comes off as ingenuous bordering on naive. Ron Paul’s conservative qualities made it hard for the Dobsonites to demonize him — not that they didn’t try — but Johnson is setting himself up to play the libertarian stock villain in the GOP’s quadrennial opera buffa. If Rep. Paul runs as well, the opposite of what many conservative libertarians have been hoping for might happen: instead of the Johnson-Paul tag team making anti-statist and anti-interventionist views more mainstream, Johnson might sidetrack Paul into discussions that would make it easier for the party establishment to marginalize both of them.