Friday, April 1, 2016

Live-blogging the 2016 Libertarian Party primary debate

I'll be live-blogging the Libertarian Party's first televised presidential primary debate of 2016 (or ever). Keep reloading this post for more updates.

9:03 — Gary Johnson uses his opening statement to talk about his "wonderful family," including his grandchildren and his fiance, with whom he shares "a passion for health and wellness." "It's great to be in love, and I'm in love!" He talks about starting a successful "handyman business," then selling it in 1999 — "nobody lost their job." He also points out that he got elected governor in a state that's 2 to 1 Democratic, New Mexico. And he's adventurous: "I climbed the tallest mountain in each of the seven continents!"

9:05 — John McAfee's opening statement strikes a different tone — philosophical, not personal: "Libertarianism is grounded in the concept of liberty. What is liberty? Liberty is the idea that our minds and bodies belong to ourselves. . . . Liberty cannot be extinguished . . . through laws; it can only be unjustly punished."

9:06 — Austin Petersen sketches his biography to highlight how he's learned the value of liberty. He grew up on a horse farm near a town called Liberty, Missouri. He learned about "economic liberty" as a kid, when his parents sent him to sell chrysanthemums. He learned about "personal liberty" from "the Golden Rule." "I may be the youngest candidate in this race, but I'm the oldest in libertarian years!"

9:09 — Johnson is asked how we can trust him on military issues when he wants to cut military spending. He says the terrorist threat is real, but our drone strikes have made things worse.

9:10 — McAfee is asked about the perception that libertarians are "isolationists." McAfee cleverly turns the tables by saying that "isolationism" is "taking on the role of world policeman, making ourselves separate from the rest of the world: we're the policemen, and you're the ones we police."

[I missed the first few minutes and added the above posts later. Here's where I started actually live-blogging:]

9:11 — When should we go to war? Johson and Petersen say: "When we're attacked." McAfee tries to cut the Gordian knot: "Why do we need war?"

9:12 — McAfee on drugs: "A heroin addict's addiction is its own punishment; we don't need any more."

9:18 — Petersen proposes a "penny"-based budget, where we take away one penny of every dollar from every federal program — with a way to bring that penny back in cases where Congress decides it's needed. He declares: "No one is going to be hurt!" But the moderator, John Stossel (a libertarian), seems skeptical of that.

9:19 — Johnson would cut the federal budget by 20%, including Medicare, Medicaid, and military.

9:21 — Stossel asks what specifically they'd cut. Petersen says everything — but in particular, he'd repeal Obamacare. Johnson says the Departments of Commerce and Education. McAfee says the FDA.

9:27 — When asked how to fight ISIS, the candidates all give pretty unexciting answers: McAfee says we need better intelligence, Petersen says we should fight them while following the Constitution, and Johnson says Congress should declare war on ISIS and we should cut off their funding.

9:30 — On foreign aid, Petersen forcefully says he'd get rid of "all" of it. Johnson is more cautious, saying he's uncomfortable with the word "all" — but he's generally against foreign aid. "It sounds nice, like you're giving them food, but it's really propping up dictators."

9:36 — Stossel asks each candidate about their flaws, starting with Johnson: He lost in 2012, he's "low-key," and he admits he sometimes smokes marijuana. Johnson says he hasn't had alcohol in 27 years, and legalizing marijuana would reduce the overall harm caused by all addictions.

9:38 — McAfee is asked about his shady alleged activities in Belize and Guatemala. "You're still technically a fugitive!" He was also arrested for driving on Xanax. McAfee says . . . well, he's never been charged with murder! (That's reassuring.) He admits his DUI was "the stupidest thing I've ever done."

9:39 — Petersen is asked about his young age. "I'm 35, so I'm constitutionally eligible. . . . Don't hate me because I'm young and pretty!"

9:40 — Johnson is asked how he can appeal to Democrats. He says he took a quiz on, which tells you what percentage you agree with each candidate. He agreed with himself only 90%! But the person he agreed with the second most was Bernie Sanders, at 73%. He agrees with Sanders on civil liberties.

9:42 — Petersen challenges Johnson on his support for requiring bakeries to make cakes for same-sex weddings. "Should a Jewish baker be forced to bake a Nazi wedding cake?" Johnson says: "Yes!" [Added later: Who would have though the most extreme, crazy statement made in the Libertarian debate would be in favor of government forcing a business to make goods that promote Nazism?] Petersen accuses Johnson of not understanding the free market. Petersen frames his argument as pro-gay: "Let the bigots out themselves!"

9:48 — On abortion, Petersen says Congress has no power to legislate, but we should be "morally pro-life." "Ending the federal war on drugs would allow women to buy birth control over the counter." Johnson and McAfee are strongly for legal abortion.

9:49 — Stossel does a lightning round on a couple issues. They're all against the death penalty, and they're all for same-sex marriage. McAfee jokes: "I met Austin [Petersen] in a gay bar!"

9:50 — Should government fix the fact that "women are paid less than men"? Johnson says women should be paid the same as men, but "the devil is in the details," and he'd have a hard time signing any legislation about it. McAfee says women and men should be paid equally — but "the employer should decide." Petersen correctly says the "gender pay gap" is because of "women's choices." More women than men go to college — should government force more men to go to college?

9:52 — If there were no Libertarian nominee, would they vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? They'd all refuse to vote for either. Johnson says he'd find another third-party candidate to vote for.

That's the end of the first half of this pre-recorded debate. The second half will air at 9 pm Eastern on April 8.