PENN JILETTE: Al-Qaeda, ISIS, what do you do, Gary? Solve that.
GARY JOHNSON: Well, we cut off the funding, and that, and um, cut off the funding. We get Congress involved. You realize that all these military interventions are, um, executive, executive orders essentially, and the military. Congress has left themselves out of declaring war. It would be great to have a national discussion on what is it we’re doing. What are the strategies we are implementing? I just think that at the end of the day, regarding all of these military interventions, that boots on the ground, dropping bombs, uh, and flying drones that kill thousands of innocent people. That at the end of the day, making the situation worse, not better. And that is not to discount the very real threat that’s out there. But look, get rid of the funding, involve Congress, um, and with regard to national strategy, an impenetrable national defense. Defense, not offense.
JILETTE: You know, there’s a big article in The Times yesterday. I’m sure you saw it that Obama is now, in history, the president who spent the most time at war. He’s beaten Abraham Lincoln, Johnson, all of them. He spent eight years with two wars going.
JOHNSON: I think, uh, I don’t wanna, in no way do I want to pick on Obama because, it’s, it’s the political animal. Um, you need to elect somebody, and I’m making a pitch here for myself. You need to make a pitch for somebody who’s not afraid to actually do what they think is right. And of course, what they think is right, you’re gonna have that stamp of approval going into the job. Obama got a stamp of approval going into the job based on the fact that he was going to get us out of, he was gonna extricate ourselves out of all these wars. And you can argue that yes, it’s been scaled back but you can also argue that “No, he didn’t”. That he had a clear mandate to get out. That’s what he talked about. He talked about closing Guantanamo. I mean he ran… I’ve always said Obama’s words have been like music. Is there anything that he said that doesn’t, isn’t just wonderful. It’s just that the actions belie the words.
GLENN THRUSH: So back to the foreign policy thing. You hear both Hillary and Trump talk about the threat that ISIS poses. No question that ISIS poses…
JOHNSON: No question.
THRUSH: … an existential threat. How do you do that, cutting 20 percent of the federal defense budget, and how would you go after ISIS? Would you go after ISIS?
JOHNSON: Well, first of all, involve Congress. We've got treaties with 69 countries in the world, to defend their borders, that were not congressionally authorized treaties. They were executive treaties along with the military. Our decisions with regard to the military are executive and they're the military. Involve Congress. Let's get an open debate and discussion and declaration of war, if that's the way that we want to treat ISIS.
But how about a skeptic at the table? Skeptics, Bill Weld and myself, we're planning to do this as a partnership. I mean, I think there's a real symbiotic relationship between the two of us.
THRUSH: And the presidency. By the way, having covered the White House for three years, I can tell you the presidency is sufficiently demanding now that the vice presidential role has expanded. I mean, Cheney was a bellwether in that regard. Biden has followed through.
JOHNSON: Now Cheney, was he the president or the vice president? I'm trying to remember.
THRUSH: Read Bart Gellman's book. But I interrupted you. You were talking about sort of the skeptics at the table. Would you-
JOHNSON: With skeptics at the table, boots on the ground, dropping bombs.
THRUSH: Would you order-
JOHNSON: Flying drones.
THRUSH: … Would you, for instance, if you had reasonable intel, would you have done the bin Laden raid?
JOHNSON: Yes. Yes, that was our goal. That was our goal from day one. Get bin Laden. He was responsible for this. Going into Afghanistan, initially, that was bin Laden. Yes. You attack the United States, we're going to attack back, and let's not label Libertarians as isolationists. Let's label them as diplomacy to the hilt, just smart about this.
THRUSH: So you're with Rand Paul, the sort of second iteration of Rand Paul's foreign policy of skepticism but in instances where, and you do believe ISIS is an existential threat to the country?
JOHNSON: Right, but how is it best, how is it best dealt with? Clearly, we cut off the head of Al Qaeda. Now we have ISIS. We go in, we take out Saddam Hussein. He's really the check when it comes to Iran. Now we're having to deal with Iran, where prior to that Iran's only concern was Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Unintended consequences relative to everything we do.
THRUSH: Well, remember, billion dollar a month check, the Clinton administration had that no-fly zone in Iraq, and that seemed to stabilize things for a period of time.