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Libertarian town hall: Johnson and Weld sell a ticket of 'optimism'

By Shawn Price

NEW YORK, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld tried to make their case at Wednesday's CNN Libertarian Town Hall for being part of the presidential debates.

The Johnson/Weld Libertarian ticket is currently polling between about 9 percent and 12 percent, just short of the 15 percent needed to qualify them for the debates, according to the rules of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

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Johnson told Anderson Cooper, "There's no chance of winning without being in the debates."

Weld preferred to sell the basic idea of Libertarians, but also acknowledged any third party is currently at a disadvantage.

"We stand for the proposition ...we want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom. And the polling shows a majority of Americans think that," Weld said.

"The idea that we should not be at those debates expressing what is a majority point of view in the country, can only be laid at the door of the two-party monopoly... that has a stranglehold on power in Washington," he said.

Weld also said it would be "refreshing" to build a coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the White House and as part of the cabinet.

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"Our proposals would not say, 'Take that you stupid D Party or you stupid R Party,' it would be 'here's what we think this is kind of in the middle, can we come together around this' and the recipients of that information would not feel attacked so they might be more likely to come to the table." Weld said

Both men resisted the notion that the United States is no longer great, with Johnson saying they were selling "optimism."

However, both carefully chose their criticisms of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Johnson criticized the Clintons for "making money off this. Bill goes out and does a million dollar speaking gig and the next day, Hillary signs a deal with the sponsor of the speaking gig and that's not good. That's beholden, if you want to say that. It smacks of pay-to-play."

Weld called Trump "the Pied Piper. He's the Music Man. More recently, it's gotten a little more serious. What comes to my mind is a screw loose. I say this almost with affection. Maybe he should consider some other line of work, like anything other than President of the United States."

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Johnson also pushed back against the current sentiment against free trade.

"Unfairly, the world has really connected crony capitalism and free trade," he said. "The thought is that it's one in the same, when in fact, it's the opposite. We're all about free trade."

Johnson tried to make clear that Libertarians are not isolationists, a common criticism, but are anti-interventionists.

He agreed the United States is war with terrorism, "and we will do everything we can to protect the United States from that threat, but not we're going to support regime change," he said. "Our military interventions, when it comes to regime change, have led to the unintended consequences of making things worse, not better."

There should be no change in the nation's gun laws, Johnson said, at least when it comes to criminalizing weapons like semi-automatic weapons.

"Let's just say we passed a law that outlawed semi-automatic rifles. You'd have maybe half of those rifles turned in and the other half -- 15 million rifles -- would be owned by law-abiding citizens that are now going to become criminals."

The Libertarian nominee also said LGBT discrimination was taking place "under the guise of religious liberty" and that he would not support "discrimination in any form. That is the law."

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The Libertarian ticket has also endorsed the decriminalization of marijuana, though for adults only. Johnson said it's medical uses have yet to be fully understood.

"So much research and development needs to take place that hasn't taken place," he said.

Education has traditionally been seen as state, not federal responsibility for Libertarians, so Johnson said he would eliminate the Department of Education and said states should focus on preparing people for real world jobs, not unrealistic ivy league schools.

Johnson told a Bernie Sanders supporter that government was unlikely to accomplish fixing income inequality, but could do more to support equal opportunity.

Both acknowledged the Black Lives Matter movement and the crisis in race relations, particularly between police and young black men, was "a national emergency."

Johnson admitted: My head has been in the sand on this. Let's wake up. This discrimination does exist."

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