Libertarian Presidential Forum: What You Missed

Last Friday, the first nationally televised Libertarian Presidential Forum aired on the Fox Business Network’s Stossel. The first hour was aired on April 1st at 9 P.M. ET, the second part will be aired next week on Friday April 8th.  The Forum featured the three leading Libertarian presidential candidates and was moderated by John Stossel. The candidates were former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, The Libertarian Republic founder Austin Petersen, and cybersecurity guru John McAfee.

Gary Johnson was recently featured in a poll by Monmouth University where he captured 11% of the vote against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and has been endorsed by former Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis.

Austin Petersen has upped his attacks on Gary Johnson in recent weeks, culminating in a one on one debate with Johnson in Oregon last month.

McAfee has refrained from attacking either of the candidates, instead focusing on spreading his message of improving cybersecurity. He is the first of the three to announce a VP choice, libertarian movement socialite and professional photographer Judd Weiss.

The forum covered the war on drugs, gay marriage, abortion, ISIS, and criticisms the candidates would likely face in a general election.

Austin Petersen spoke with standard libertarian dogma, though he strayed when he discussed his plan to deal with ISIS using letters of Marque and Reprisal, an idea advocated by Congressman Ron Paul after the 9/11 attacks. Petersen is also pro-life, separating him from both McAfee and Johnson on the issue. One of the criticisms of him, highlighted by Lisa Kennedy (host of Kennedy) and Matt Welch, editor for Reason Magazine, was that he was too scripted. Kennedy said that he spoke slogans and “bumper stickers” and Welch called him a hustler. He seemed nervous at times and at times he had a bit too much energy. However, as the forum went on, he calmed down and managed to trap Johnson in a question about Nazi cakes and Jewish bakers. Petersen also spoke powerfully about his youthfulness, saying that the Founding Fathers were all young men when they revolted and that young people would take their country back.

McAfee’s main focus, like his campaign, was on cybersecurity. He emphasized intelligence gathering in the fight against ISIS, while also declaring that China was at war with the United States. Kennedy and Welch hit him on his demeanor: “What is a drug?” McAfee asked Stossel when asked why libertarians were perceived weak on drugs. “I don’t know you tell me. You’re the one running for president,” Kennedy snarked in response.

McAfee, however, spoke calmly and was able to connect well with the audience. He called the accusations from his sensation passed, raised by Stossel, false and kept on message. McAfee also strayed from libertarian dogma when he said that foreign aid shouldn’t be cut to the degree which Petersen and Johnson called for. He shared a personal moment with Johnson when the former governor kissed him on the cheek. All in all, McAfee appeared to be able to keep his persona of the most interesting man in the world while also not looking like a crazy man.

Johnson had the most mixed night. On one hand, he was able to draw upon his executive experience as Governor of New Mexico and the fact he is the only one with any political experience in the Libertarian field. Johnson called for a declaration of war against ISIS and to cut off their funding, which seems much more realistic and feasible than letters of Marque and Reprisal. He also gave a great answer to Stossel’s question about his smoking cannabis and being low energy. His kissing McAfee gave the strangest and funniest debate interaction between candidates since Jeb Bush and Donald Trump’s high-five. However, he gave many non-libertarian answers.

Johnson said that bakers should have to bake cakes for everyone and cannot discriminate (Petersen asked him about Nazi cakes and Jewish bakers and he fell straight into Petersen’s trap). He also peddled the worn out notion of equal pay for equal work.  But overall, Johnson appeared with much more energy than he has had before. As the likely nominee, he will need to work on his energy if he’s going against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the debate stage.

Each of them would be a better choice than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Don’t miss the next segment next week at 9 PM ET on Stossel. 

If you missed the forum, watch it below.

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