Gary Johnson: “I would not sign” legislation banning burqas

GaryJohnson  2012

“I would not sign that legislation because I think that it would end up being government intrusion on you or I,” Johnson told The Daily Beast.

The 2012 Libertarian nominee pointed to how France and Belgium already have bans on the burqa and critics of the policy allege that it has resulted in police overreach. Johnson added that such a law could be interpreted by government to infringe on individuals’ ability to wear face-covering garments that aren’t religious in nature.

Read the rest at the Daily Beast.

34 thoughts on “Gary Johnson: “I would not sign” legislation banning burqas

  1. Thomas L. Knapp

    In that Daily Beast piece, he characterizes the whole thing as his “kneejerk response to Reason.”

    I call shenanigans.

    He told two other journalists THE SAME THING. On THE SAME DAY. Anyone who believes that three writers from three publications all chose the same day to ask Gary Johnson if he would sign legislation banning burqas — an “issue” that hasn’t been above the fold for months, maybe years — and that all of them got nearly, but not quite, identical “kneejerk responses,” needs to lay off the crack pipe.

  2. Losty

    He’s a Flip Flopper.
    Simple as that.
    NOTA is Consistent. NOTA is Trustworthy.
    Just a Thought…

  3. Joe Wendt

    What about legislation that would ban Halal/Kosher foods? Would he ban the right of Hasidics to self-segregate themselves to live in a community separate from the rest of the world? Would he ban the similar practices of the Amish? He views Sharia as incompatible with the freedoms upon which America is founded. What would stop him from discriminating against Muslims, Jews, and the Amish who choose to life by a certain interpretation of their faith?

  4. Stewart Flood

    He walked back from it…wow! Admitting that it upset Libertarians is a good step, but to be honest I need to think about this quite a bit before deciding to look at his candidacy again.

    I’m not sure he can reclaim all the delegates he’s lost.

  5. georgephillies

    Stewart is right. There was a good step. However, Johnson’s kneejerk response included:

    (A) Sharia is not an expression of religion but of “politics” and hence many of its practices could be banned or limited without running afoul of the Constitution.

    Johnson either does not support or does not understand the First Amendment, whose core thrust was to protect political expression.

    (B) one of his chief concerns is the rise of sharia law around the world and the way he believes it underwrites Islamic terrorism, which he says is a major global problem and a rising threat here in America,

    Johnson has bought into the ravings of the Republican right fever swamp.

    If Johnson is our candidate his kneejerk responses will not go away, and he will make similar statements again and again and again.

    Saying that his remarks were a kneejerk response is worse than saying “I believe some minor deviation from libertarian purism will win us many voters”. The latter is WRONG AS AN APPROACH, but it at least shows some thought if no understanding of our party.

  6. georgephillies

    Johnson is very good at walking back from things.

    For example Johnson walked back his April 2012 FEC disclosure, the last one many people would have seen before the convention, claiming that at the end of March his campaign was $152,373 in debt. After he got the nomination, he eventually admitted that at the end of March 2012 his campaign was actually $1,048,651 in debt, seven times as much. Except, later on, he changed his mind, and admitted that at the end of March 2012 his campaign was actually $1,078,371 in debt.

    Some would suggest that the knowledge that the campaign was in the hole by more than a million dollars, at the start of the campaign season, rather than being in the hole by a hundred thousand dollars, might have had an effect on the nomination.

  7. George Whitfield

    Happy to hear that Gary Johnson has changed his mind on the burqas ban. It troubled me. There are other religious adherents who also wear unusual clothing: Amish wearing black and dark blue clothing only, Mennonite women who always wear a bonnet, Catholic and other Christian monastic orders wearing dark robes and gowns. And then there are totally different types of costume such as on Halloween, different skirt lengths, beards or not beards, etc.

    I think some Libertarians were able to give Johnson some perspectives on this subject over the past 24 hours and he realized the implications of what he has said.

    Anyway, I can imagine that if I were a candidate I might make some mistakes in responding to questions and have to restate, rephrase or retract. So I can understand.

    I am relieved at his change in position because I think, all things considered, Gary Johnson would be the best Libertarian Party Presidential candidate of the current contenders.

  8. Thomas L. Knapp

    George W,

    Let me see if I have this right:

    After nearly 30 years of having known about and been involved to one degree or another with the Libertarian Party;

    and after an election cycle as its presidential nominee and nearly a full election cycle as its immediate past presidential nominee;

    you’re “relieved” that Libertarians “gave him some perspective” on whether or not Libertarians think it’s just not OK, but of such burning importance that the position must be highlighted to no fewer than three reporters on the day he announces his next presidential candidacy, for the government to decide what kind clothing people can wear?

    Pardon my French, George, but that’s fucking stupid.

  9. George Whitfield

    And Thomas Knapp you are offensive. That might not be so smart, either. And that is just plain English.

  10. Darcy G Richardson

    It’s one thing for an individual’s thinking to evolve on an issue. It’s quite another to do a complete reversal, or flip-flop, in a span of less than twenty-four hours.

    Gary Johnson isn’t ready for prime time and he never was. It’s too bad more Libertarians can’t see that…

  11. Robert Capozzi

    dgr: Gary Johnson isn’t ready for prime time and he never was.

    me: I agree. He’s been bouncing between the AA and AAAs. The field is mostly Little League and maybe high school.

    GJ mostly has a handler problem. Staff is like the coach, getting the player ready for the game. That he is coached — or non-coached — to the point that he makes the burqas gaffe is evidence of the importance of staff and prep time.

    It’s unwise to run for prez by winging it.

    A dogmatist can appeal to fellow Kool-Aid drinkers and fellow travelers, but that’s about it. One thing that CAN be said for the Little League dogmatist is they will rely completely on dogma when running for office, and thereby not meander into major gaffes like Burqa-Gate. There’s no risk in spouting dogmatic tautologies, but of course there is no reward, either, other than perhaps energizing the Faithful.

  12. Darcy G Richardson

    I agree. That’s an insightful observation, Robert, but do you think it’s really a “handler problem,” or just a lack of basic political instincts? Gary Johnson never struck me as a knowledgeable or well-read individual and has never come across — at least in my mind — as particularly conversant on any specific subject.

    I remember the time when he appeared on a C-SPAN call-in show during the 2012 presidential campaign when he obviously had no idea what the caller was asking — it was an astute question, but one that anybody running for president should have been able to answer — yet the former governor feigned technical difficulties, dramatically removing his headset during the live broadcast as though he couldn’t hear the caller’s question. He had no idea what the caller was asking and it was a very reasonable question that anyone paying attention to the financial news at the time should have been able to answer. He never asked the host of the show to repeat the question and seemed more than eager to move on to the next caller…

    Like I said, he wasn’t ready for prime time then and he certainly isn’t now.

  13. Robert Capozzi

    dgr: Gary Johnson never struck me as a knowledgeable or well-read individual and has never come across — at least in my mind — as particularly conversant on any specific subject.

    me: My sense — based solely on my viewings of his TV interviews and other speeches — is that GJ is not especially intellectual nor steeped in the issues of the day. I think he has a good heart, loves liberty, and was at a time a driven, focused guy who through determination became quite successful in business. He parlayed that into a political career in a low-pop state, and he did a generally great job. (I’d really need to study how this neophyte got himself elected guv. I think his sincerity and a lot of luck probably had a lot to do with it.)

    I think his instincts in 12 when he entered the GOP race were pretty good, but I think he completely miscalculated the GOP’s willingness to consider a pro-choice nominee. I also don’t sense that he did the deep intellectual and (I’d call it) spiritual work to make himself a big-league communicator. This takes hard work and training, and I don’t see any evidence that he’s done so. He didn’t, in short, do the work he did in the business world to make himself a Jedi politician. He’s phoning it all in, barely showing up.

    Still, he sees what I see: That the country needs to move in a L direction if the nation is to progress. The endless wars, the repressive social conservative backlash, and the increasingly-politicized-crony economy are suppressing our greater angels, making the US into a failing, crypto-empire. A pro-freedom/anti-war message could prevail, but it requires leaders who can articulate the case for a major course correction, toward peace and away from force.

    He’s also miscalculated the LP, which my sense is a kluge of NAP dogmatists and Ron Paul wanna-bes (a slightly different kind of dogmatism). While they like him as a good guy and they like his resume, his (generally) more practical approach to politics lacks the sanctimony that they crave. Neither of these camps really want to hear about GJ’s cost/benefit analyses.

    I did see the possibility that 16 could be a break-out year for the Ls, something approaching a Perot-type of phenomenon. This is especially so if Trump is the R nominee. With this start, the long odds got a lot longer.

    To the extent he has staff, it seems they are somewhat open-minded right-wingers who probably watch WAY too much Fox News, witness this whole Sharia Law blind alley GJ has gone down. It smacks of really poor staff work.

    So, I wouldn’t say he’s an empty suit but I also wouldn’t say he’s Luke Skywalker. He’s something in between.

    Again, this is just my sense of things, filled with wild interpolations and extrapolations. But you asked….

  14. Thomas L. Knapp

    George Whitfield,

    Well, I’m sorry if I’m offensive. Let me take this from the top, with a disclaimer aimed at Bob Capozzi first, and see if I can put it in non-offensive terms.

    Disclaimer for Bob: This is not about purist versus pragmatist, at least to my mind. One of its two elements IS ideological, but it’s ideological at such a basic level that I have trouble seeing anyone in a “big L tent” disagreeing with it very much.

    The first, ideological element:

    The government deciding what clothes people may or may not wear is not “libertarian” under any plausible construction of the term. As George Phillies points out, if Johnson is still operating on “kneejerk reactions” at this point, his knee seems to be jerking in the wrong direction.

    The second, practical element:

    Gary Johnson is a former two-term governor whose name has long been associated with “small-l libertarianism” and he is also a former Libertarian Party presidential nominee. This is far from his first rodeo. At this point, it’s eminently reasonable to expect him, if he wants to continue to be the national public representative of the Libertarian Party, to demonstrate a basic grasp of what that party is about.

    Yes, even experienced politicians have brain farts now and again. That’s unavoidable. They say something without thinking. They blurt out something that isn’t well-phrased. They insult someone they didn’t mean to insult. And then they have to “walk it back.”

    There’s just no way to turn this incident into one of those little stumbles.

    Gary Johnson didn’t give a “kneejerk response” to one question from one journalist, as he claims in the “walkback” at The Daily Beast.

    Johnson carefully laid out the same position to no fewer than three journalists, and as someone (I think Jed Ziggler) points out in another thread, it’s a position evolved from thinking he was publicly mulling months ago in other interviews.

    It wasn’t an accident. It was a planned thing, the most likely reason for the plan being to appeal to Trump supporters. It didn’t work. And now instead of ACTUALLY “walking it back,” he’s just lying about how it happened. He turned his campaign’s official launch into a PR disaster, and then doubled down on the disaster.

    Even if he had no past history of e.g. complete dishonesty and/or incompetence vis a vis campaign finances, this would be a big deal. Given that past history, it’s about time for the party to wake the hell up, realize that they bought a lemon in 2012, and go with another model (or, if necessary, walk instead of driving) in 2016.

  15. georgephillies

    Johnson retracted on Burqas as political speech that we should ban, a claim that is simply stupid.

    Johnson continues to support his position that we can and should ban non-violent political speech. He rejected the First Amendment and still does.

    Johnson continues to support has racist nonsense (he’s pointing at things that are Arabic, not Islamic) about the threat of Sharia. He rejects our party’s bigotry plank, and still does.

    Perhaps one should wonder if the bit about the burqas was a red herring, to distract our attention from is stands on larger issues.

  16. Robert Capozzi

    tk: The government deciding what clothes people may or may not wear is not “libertarian” under any plausible construction of the term.

    me: Recall that I too was appalled by Burqa-Gate, to the point of considering not voting this year. My point that I guess I’ve failed to explain well in the past is:

    * There are no “L” positions, as there is no authority who can deem what is L and what is not; there is no Pope of L-ism, thankfully.+

    * Instead, Ls take positions. In this case, GJ took a profoundly unwise one, one that probably most who call themselves L found ridiculously poor judgment on GJ’s part.

    + The closest thing to an authority is the LP’s platform, but most who read it and knows why it currently says what it says would not use it as anything more than a very rough template for a L agenda.

  17. Root's Teeth Are Awesome

    George Phillies: Johnson continues to support his position that we can and should ban non-violent political speech.

    Johnson is indeed a Constitutional Idiot.

    According to one law site:

    the U.S. Supreme Court has afforded dissident political speech unparalleled constitutional protection. However, all speech is not equal under the First Amendment. The high court has identified five areas of expression that the government may legitimately restrict under certain circumstances. These areas are speech that incites illegal activity and subversive speech, fighting words, Obscenity and Pornography, commercial speech, and symbolic expression.


    Of all the kinds of speech, the First Amendment grants political speech the greatest degree of protection. This is well-established law.

    That Johnson is so ignorant on this subject is mind-boggling.

  18. paulie


    The appeal to Trump theory seems doesn’t seem to me to hold up.

    From the same interview that included the original burqa comments:

    “I get why Donald Trump is appealing,” said Johnson. “I get the notion of ‘I’m my own guy, I make my own decisions.’ I made that same pitch in 2012. I don’t think I said anything as stupid. He’s going to build a wall along the border with Mexico. Muslims are going to be barred from entering the country! He’s going to kill the families of terrorists! That is just whacked—just nuts. Holy cow! It’s crazy!”

    Ted Cruz, currently leading polls among Republicans in Iowa, is essentially acting as Trump-lite. “He wants to build this fence also,” said Johnson. “Cruz is following Trump’s lead on this whole deportation idea.”

    That doesn’t sound like a dog whistle to Trump fans to me. Does it to you?


    There are no “L” positions,

    And a belated Merry Orthodox Christmas to you as well.

  19. Robert Capozzi

    Thanks, PF, member of the Holy Synod you! 😉

    I lean, btw, to TK’s view…not that GJ was literally appealing to the Trumpets, but that he maybe feels the need to immunize himself from the know-nothing, knuckledragger voter.

    I can see it to some extent for the less-unrefined elements within the knuckledragger class. But most of them are hopeless, the lumpen. Banning Burqas was among the worst ideas of the millennium, however, IMO.

  20. Chuck Moulton

    Darcy G Richardson wrote:

    Gary Johnson never struck me as a knowledgeable or well-read individual and has never come across — at least in my mind — as particularly conversant on any specific subject.

    I strongly agree.

    During his 2012 campaign pre-nomination Johnson was repeatedly asked by Libertarians whether he had read a list of libertarian philosophy and policy books… he said he wanted to, but didn’t have time in his busy campaign schedule to read books.

    Well, now he has had almost 4 years of off time. The “I don’t have time for that” excuse isn’t going to cut it anymore. I will be asking Johnson about that reading list at the first possible opportunity, and if he decided not to do any libertarian catch-up reading (as I suspect he hasn’t, but would love to be pleasantly surprised), then I will go to considerable effort to make all delegates aware of that fact (literature, an op-ed, and possibly a mailer).

  21. Chuck Moulton

    Robert Capozzi wrote:

    There are no “L” positions, as there is no authority who can deem what is L and what is not; there is no Pope of L-ism, thankfully.

    That’s ridiculous! Of course there are libertarian positions… there are often a multitude of libertarian solutions on any given issue, and banning burqas ain’t one of them.

    Growing government and restricting freedom is unmistakably an authoritarian position. When you shrink government and/or expand freedom, that is a libertarian position. The idea that lack of a central planner makes classification and sorting impossible is absurd.

    Johnson is a libertarian. He has some un-libertarian positions and he is rightly given flack for them.

  22. Steven Wilson

    I have always thought that people who lived in the third party realm were prone to investigating and vetting candidates individually. This is something I saw when I was younger (undergrad).

    As I have moved on from party politics I can see clearly that these past “anomalies” like 2008 and Barr/Root or Buchanan for the Reform party as indicative of a human core trait: stupidity.

    I would go as far to say there is a hint of masochism in the LP as well. Not so much in the Greens though.

    Even with proof the LP base still wants more of Johnson.

    If a candidate needs a litmus test and a great performance on stage then just admit that you want another Reagan. There is nothing wrong with wanting dinner theater in DC. Just be honest about it.

  23. Matt Cholko

    I don’t judge our candidates by the books they’ve read. But, I do expect our POTUS candidates to have a solid understanding of libertarianism. Libertarianism, at the end of the day, is pretty simple. It’s basically just “don’t fuck with people.” How many books must one read to understand that?

    Anyway, while I’m willing to write some stuff off as human error, I’m not willing to give too many get out of jail free cards. Candidates don’t have to give a perfect answer every time. But, its easy enough to avoid giving obviously non-libertarian answers that my tolerance for it is pretty low.

  24. Robert Capozzi

    cm: there are often a multitude of libertarian solutions on any given issue, and banning burqas ain’t one of them.

    me: I was trying to be poetic, apparently with little to no success. There is no THE L position might have been a better way to put it.

    Banning burqas may be the single worst idea I’ve heard from a L candidate after the
    “right” to own private nukes.

  25. Chuck Moulton

    Matt Cholko wrote:

    I don’t judge our candidates by the books they’ve read. But, I do expect our POTUS candidates to have a solid understanding of libertarianism.

    I wouldn’t say book knowledge should be a litmus test for candidates; however, it is a pretty good signal to serious commitment to the libertarian philosophy.

    I’m more concerned about the reading list with candidates who are recent converts to libertarianism and the Libertarian Party (e.g., Johnson in 2012); or with candidates who screw up so royally that they display a misunderstanding of basic tenets of libertarianism (e.g. Johnson with burqas and the “Fair” Tax).

    But it’s not only about signaling ideological harmony; it’s also about signaling sales ability. Johnson did a piss poor job conveying the libertarian message, squandering many media opportunities throughout his 2012 campaign. I don’t expect our presidential candidate to be a perfect salesman, but I do hope he will put a minimum effort into learning about the issues and how to sell them. If you don’t want to waste countless hours reinventing the wheel, the best way to get up to speed is reading books and drawing on that material for messaging that has been proven effective.

    Matt Cholko wrote;

    Libertarianism, at the end of the day, is pretty simple. It’s basically just “don’t fuck with people.” How many books must one read to understand that?

    Apparently, more than Johnson has read.

  26. Thomas L. Knapp

    I’m with Matt: If a candidate takes libertarian positions on issues and can persuasively explain why those positions are right and why they matter, I’m not going to worry too much about how he or she arrived at them.

    But the “reading list” thing is the kind of thing that can be an indicator.

    It’s always dangerous to wing it as a candidate for political office. And if you’re going to go with “kneejerk responses” instead of well-informed positions as Johnson claims he did, I strongly prefer that the knee tend to automatically jerk in a libertarian rather than an authoritarian direction. Aaron Russo kept my blood pressure up in 2004 with off-the-cuff responses to questions that rubbed Libertarians the wrong way — since cleaning up those messes for him was MY job.

    And once again, this doesn’t seem to have actually been Johnson winging it or jerking his knee. It seems to have been something he’d been thinking/talking about for awhile, and that he specifically chose to use his campaign launch day to pitch. Unless, like I said before, you want to believe that out of a clear blue sky no fewer than three reporters popped him the “would you ban burqas?” question, which doesn’t seem very likely.

    Johnson has worn the “libertarian” label, to one degree or another, for decades now. He’s worn it as the Libertarian Party’s present or past presidential nominee for four years now. If he doesn’t get it by now, he’s not going to.

    Then, segueing completely away from ideology, I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds his public/media persona … well, half boring and half annoying. Like the fake heart attack thing he did on TV.

    The Republicans and Democrats can get away with boring/annoying candidates now and then because they’ve got the deck stacked in their favor and will win somewhere in the neighborhood of half the time each no matter who they run.

    We, on the other hand, accomplish nothing whatsoever with our presidential campaigns unless we run candidates who are not just right, but for whom people will put down the remote, listen, and say “hey, I like the way that guy talks, and what he says makes sense.” That might mean running a wild man, or someone particularly charismatic, or whatever. But it has to start with being RIGHT, and move from there to being INTERESTING. So far as I can tell, Johnson is neither.

  27. Robert Capozzi

    More on: There are no “L” positions,

    Of course, there are times when positions L’s advocate are directly opposed:

    Some Ls are pro-choice; others pro-life

    You could say both are L positions, or you could say some Ls are pro choice, others pro-life. I find the latter approach clearer and less dogmatic.

  28. George Whitfield

    I hope Gary Johnson will read the posts above as it will help him improve his preparation and delivery in interviews.

  29. Steven Wilson

    Americans want performances. If someone can operate and dominate a debate then that means a great deal…to the voter. But in the end the debate is just a performance.

    How many statements has Obama went back on during his two terms?

    Bush is almost retarded and got two terms because Al Gore acted like a replica of Clinton and John Kerry was as exciting as watching milk saturate a bowl of bran flakes. If American Presidents were not termed out, I believe Bill Clinton would still be president. Bill Clinton can perform.

    It is all theater.

    Johnson can’t sell it. Period.

    But the LP base is going to nominate Gary again even though Gary Johnson is the snooze button of politics.

  30. Losty

    Nukes, Assault Weapons, Etc.

    And Mary’s Book and Position on Child “labor” was Rough

  31. Robert Capozzi

    Losty, yes, there are a range of issues where the lessarchist, L path could involve apparently contradictory positions.

    For ex., if properly structured, I might support a negative income tax as a trade-off to slash federal spending. A plumbliner might condemn my support as an egregious NAP violation. S/he would be correct, in a sense, but that would not deter my conditional support for the idea.

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