Nov 1, 2012
In the final days of the 2012 Johnson/Gray presidential campaign, Libertarian Jim Gray is an extremely busy vice-presidential nominee as he criss-crosses the nation with a packed schedule.
To get an hour alone with Judge Gray in his home state of California was a bit of a miracle. It happened, though, and what a fascinating hour it was with a dynamic and accomplished Californian.
A conversation between Californians is bound to be wide open, opinionated, unpredictable and jarringly candid. This particular visit with Judge Jim Gray was all that and more.
The following interview is a Californiality exclusive containing statements from the candidate never expressed before in any interview.
Judge Jim Gray Interview
Judge Gray, it is an honor to finally meet you. I'm familiar with your many accomplishments, your fantastic reputation in our state, and your rising national popularity. I must congratulate you on a very exciting campaign.
"Thank you, Mark, this is also a pleasure for me. Let's not leave the presidential nominee out, though. Governor Johnson's accomplishments in New Mexico are at such a level that it compliments me greatly to be on the same ticket. By the articles you've already written, I know you are familiar with his outstanding record."
Yes, I am, but both of you are certainly qualified to lead the nation. As a Californian, I am impressed that a fellow Californian as qualified as yourself is willing to make the current sacrifice you're making for the nation. I believe you are the only Californian on a 2012 presidential ticket, right?
"That's right. I am also the only current nominee to have a distinguished military record. I am proud to be a Californian, proud to be a veteran, and proud to be an American. I am ready to serve and to sacrifice whenever necessary. Governor Johnson and I care deeply for this nation and we know America's best days are ahead."
You are a U.S. Navy veteran, right?
"Yes, and very proudly. I would like to be candid here, if I may. I spent time in combat over in Vietnam and was awarded a combat action ribbon along with other members of our ship. I have seen for quite some time that many veterans are not doing well. When I see the staggering number of homeless veterans, just in L.A. County, it makes my blood boil. When our brave men and women come back from combat, they should be taken care of, not just given lip service."
I can see that this affects you on a really deep level.
"Yes, it certainly does. It is something close to my heart that aches in my gut. How can any commander-in-chief not move heaven and earth to make sure those who have sacrificed their bodies and minds for our nation have something to eat and a roof over their heads? The primary job of the President of the United States is to protect Americans. That includes troops returning home. This has to be a priority, but the current president has never served, so how much can he really care?"
You know, Judge, I have to tell you. I hear so many folks say that Libertarians are all about slashing the size of government down to nothing and leaving the needy out in the streets to die. Do liberal Democrats hold a monopoly on caring?
"Absolutely not. Governor Johnson and I care about people. WE CARE. In fact, we care so deeply about people that we don't want to see them ending up completely dependent upon the government. We don't want to see anyone in a position of slavery, economic or otherwise. Individuals are best served by being helped along until they can help themselves. That instills dignity and self-esteem. The federal government, though, is not the primary answer for the needy. Washington should be used as a last resort."
Then who helps an individual best?
"Ultimately, the individual does. In the meantime, family is the best source of support. Strong families are absolutely essential to a thriving society, no matter what country. That's not always an available option for everyone. That's why there is a community. Within a community are churches, charities and nonprofit outreach programs. Beyond that, there is the city, the county and the state. Beyond the state level, though, that's where things get sticky. We have the Tenth Amendment for a reason. Washington, DC should not be in the business of micro-managing the lives of individuals."
So, you and Governor Johnson are strong supporters of the Tenth Amendment?
"We are emphatic supporters of the Tenth Amendment. States have rights and we will ensure that they keep those rights. This Union is a collection of states that willingly cooperate. We do not need a centralized government constantly butting into the affairs at the state level. With the last two Republican and Democratic presidents, we appear to be going further down that dangerous road. Governor Johnson and I will expect the states to manage their affairs at their discretion."
Would it be fair to say that you have a heart for the homeless?
"Yes, I do. To arrest someone who's homeless for trespassing when they have nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep is a travesty. It's heartless. It's ridiculous. Society should not help struggling people because some piece of legislation demands it. We should help people simply because we care. Governor Johnson cares. I care. We are all human, and we're in this thing together. Yes, we want to cut the size of government, but we do not want to lose our safety net in the process."
Are you a Christian?
"I am a follower of Christ's example and I believe The Golden Rule. I will help one who falls because I would want to be helped if I should fall. Americans have a long history as a sympathetic and empathetic people. This campaign has me everywhere across our nation, meeting so many good people who want to help their neighbor, help our country, and help the world. It brings a tear to my eye. To specifically answer your question, though, I value my personal relationship with God. That doesn't mean, however, that it's my job to tell others how to live, how to worship, or how to think. Government needs to stay out of religion. Faith is personal, and the best way to act out faith publicly is by helping others."
Personally, I would rather have a non-religious president who sticks to the U.S. Constitution than to have a professing believer in God who does not. Do you agree?
"Mark, you've really hit the nail on the head. I've heard so often how people believe Obama is a Muslim. Who cares? What I care about is a president honoring our founding document. The Constitution is the road map that made our nation the greatest on earth. Neither Governor Johnson nor I would take a single word out of it. Leave it the way it is and don't mess with it. Lately, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party haven't seemed as concerned about The Constitution as they used to be. Would you agree?"
Well, I'm not as enthusiastic about political parties as I used to be, actually.
"Mark, we have something in common besides being Californians. We both spent a lot of years as Republicans. We didn't leave the Republican Party, the party left us. Of course, I'm borrowing a bit from Reagan's quote about the Democrats, but you see my point. I struggled with the issue since the Patriot Act was signed. I felt the sting of Republican betrayal at having my rights stripped. What else was there besides 'Republican' or 'Democrat'? You know that online political quiz? Well, I took it. I was a Libertarian. Libertarian means Liberty. Do you know the quiz I'm referring to?"
Sorry to laugh but, yes. I felt the same frustration you did. The GOP just wasn't the party of Ronald Reagan anymore. I had a friend tell me that I should take that political quiz online. When I asked who sponsored the quiz, I was told that a libertarian-minded group did. That was too much for me. I was not going to vote for free drugs for the masses and hippie sex in the streets of America. After being urged to do research, I found a lot of things that were favorable about the Libertarian Party - and without free love, by the way.
"Exactly. Libertarians just want a smaller, more efficient, more responsive government. Libertarians want to cut the waste in government, so that policies that actually help ALL Americans can get the focus and support needed. My own decision was not made lightly after a lifetime of being a Republican. I was a judge for 25 years, so I'm used to weighing both sides of an issue. I am extremely happy to be a Libertarian today. The Libertarian Party is the party of the future because Liberty is our future."
Speaking of being a judge, let's get into that. You were a longtime trial court judge in Orange County, so you must have seen it all and heard it all from the bench.
"I certainly did. I really can't think of any issues that I haven't dealt with from the bench. I've seen the best and worst of society while weighing difficult issues. I was also a federal prosecutor, so I'm familiar with both sides of the bench. The subject of an individual's personal responsibility was a constant theme in the courtroom."
Is there a particular issue you handled that experienced a big positive change? I mean, is there a case that completely turned around with your action? What sticks out in your memory the most?
"I was an attorney in Los Angeles County and a judge in Orange County. I found myself thrust in the middle of the hotbed issue of sexual molestation accusations against Catholic priests in both the L.A. diocese and the O.C. diocese. My action on the issue was mandatory reporting of child abuse to law enforcement authorities, as opposed to simply reporting abuse to superiors within the Roman Catholic Church. That resolution was important and satisfying."
Would you consider yourself a revolutionary individual?
Let me just say that I am a lifelong fan of Thomas Jefferson, who espoused the idea that there should be a revolution in every generation."
I like your response. That prompts me to ask if you have done something revolutionary before. What have you done to shake things up?
"All right, I'm up to your challenge. One brainchild of mine is a program known as 'peer courts,' in which high school students examine actual juvenile court cases involving their peers. The conclusions the students reach are submitted to real judges for review. On many occasions, peer court decisions have greatly impacted the legal court's decision. The peer court prototype is now operating in 14 high schools. Rehabilitated young lives are resulting, and it works so well because juvenile offenders are, in part, being judged by youths of similar age and experience. How's that for revolutionary? Have you ever heard of a program like that?"
If I was wearing a hat, it would be off to you now. That is such a cool concept. It sounds like a model program for the nation.
"Let's hope so, Mark. You know, there are so many great ideas from so many creative people across our nation. Governor Johnson, for example, made revolutionary changes as Governor of New Mexico, but it came after daring to make revolutionary changes in his own life. He is a very accomplished individual, businessman and public servant. He even left office with a $1 billion surplus on the table. In today's world, that alone is revolutionary. Governor Johnson will be a tremendous president. He is absolutely fearless."
Well, Judge, Governor Johnson seems to think you will be a tremendous vice-president and president yourself. Judging by the avalanche of emails I get daily, others feel the same way about you both. Campaigning for the White House is a huge sacrifice, though. I know it can suck the life out of a candidate. Why are you doing this? I mean, what drives you on, day after day, month after month?
"Ever since I was a boy, I wanted to serve in government. The idea always appealed to me, you know, to help improve the lot of my fellow man; to alleviate human suffering; to have an impact for positive, constructive change. For most of my life, other opportunities came my way. Now, though, I can see how all the puzzle pieces of my life were necessary to be a better decision maker, a better leader, and a better human being. I am more prepared and equipped to serve today than I thought I would be. To step up to the plate for my fellow citizens with a leader like Governor Gary Johnson is a dream opportunity."
I spend my days writing about California, and most of my readers are Californians, so I'm compelled to ask how you feel about the Golden State.
"Where do I begin? California has it all, and I love living here. Tens of millions of California citizens agree, obviously, and Yosemite is absolutely God's gift to mankind."
But? I know there's a 'but.'
"Well, Mark, let's just say that my working philosophy of financial responsibility and social tolerance gets tested at times in this state. Just ask yourself two questions: Will the current governor really make revolutionary changes to optimize this state, and will he leave a billion dollar surplus on his way out? I would also urge all Americans to ask the same questions about their president."
Okay then, Judge, how do we start optimizing the federal government, specifically?
"The first thing Governor Johnson and I will do is perform a complete audit of every sector of the federal government. We will leave no stone unturned. Every item will be evaluated. Any non-essential item that stems from a 'good-ole-boy' relationship or special interest will face elimination."
You mean like in that movie "Dave," when the acting president invites his accountant friend to examine the federal books, and the chopping began? As I recall, the entrenched players had a lot to lose and they fought him tooth-and-nail. I'm sure you and Governor Johnson would experience the same kind of fierce opposition.
"We are aware of that going in. We are not weighed-down by such 'relationships.' We have nothing to fear. The waste, the pork, the fat will be chopped aggressively. If it's not done, our nation will roll off a cliff. A financially sound nation is a secure nation."
You really sound like an activist.
"I am an activist. Governor Johnson is an activist. Fortunately, we are both on the same page. We are working toward the same goal. We want a safe, secure and prosperous nation again. That is why we're doing this. This is a battle. There are adversaries. We are activists for Freedom. We are in this race 100 percent to win."
One of the ideas from the Johnson for President campaign is a retail consumption tax instead of an income tax.
"Yes. The sales tax would be the same for everyone, rich or poor, and it includes a rebate. For example, if the tax were to be 10 percent, every adult in the country would receive a rebate of $100 per month. That means if a person were to pay $1000 per month for goods and services, that person effectively would pay no taxes. And if someone were really poor and spent less than that, that person would actually come out ahead, so that would address the needs of the poor. The income tax and the IRS would be gone."
It seems like the people who would do the best with this tax structure are those who generate all the income they can while being thrifty with their spending. This encourages thrift, does it not?
"Absolutely, it does, and it would change the mindset of Americans toward prosperity and charity as well. It really is the best tax solution."
California is the world's center of creativity and bold entrepreneurship. You are a Californian who is also creative as a songwriter, an author and a playwright. I am sure that many of your decisions as a judge were uniquely creative. Your 'peer court' concept is highly creative as well. As Vice President of the United States, one of your duties would be presiding over the U.S. Senate. What changes would you like to see in the Senate?
"The first thing I would like to see is gavel-to-gavel coverage of daily Senate business made available for the public to see, like on C-SPAN and the Internet. Boring? Yes, at times it would be, but taxpaying constituents would like to see what goes on, how lawmakers vote, which ones show up for work, and which ones do not. We need more transparency."
There is definitely an audience for it. I agree. What other unusual kind of changes would you like to see? Any ideas?
"Actually, yes. I haven't publicly discussed this particular idea yet, so let me attempt to describe it the best I can. Not all ducks are in a row, so it's just a concept right now."
Go ahead, Judge. What is the idea, in a general sense?
"In this country, we have a certain number of representatives in the House, probably because there were 435 seats built into a room. The needs of our nation have greatly evolved over the centuries. I believe that we need far more members of Congress to further serve Americans where they live. Our nation has grown tremendously. What if we had, like, 6,000 representatives, all hooked-up by the Internet, all working part-time? They wouldn't always be together in the same physical location in Washington, so lobbyists would be out of a job."
I like the sound of that. Lobbyists would certainly have difficulty spending time with 6,000 members of Congress who are everywhere all the time.
"Yes, and the representatives' part-time status would also factor into the equation. The part-time Legislature idea has worked out fine in several states like Texas. Right here in California, Michael Reagan is heading the movement for a part-time California Legislature in 2014. Why not at the federal level as well?"
Yes, I have written about Reagan's part-time Legislature movement on Californiality. It is attracting a lot of support, and I agree with you. There are millions of great ideas across this nation, if only we would listen to creative minds and try their ideas.
I'll bet your private conversations with Johnson are extremely dynamic. You guys must constantly interrupt each other with new thoughts.
"Well, we try not to, but we are like-minded. We have a lot in common, and our goals for this nation match-up over and over. I love working with Governor Johnson. Let me tell you, this is one exciting journey. Life is good."
Judge Gray, I totally agree. Life really is good. More of us should see it that way. I will say that your campaign with Governor Johnson is fresh, bold, very new, and very positive. You guys are miles apart from the other two major campaigns for president. I'm glad you are Governor Gary Johnson's running mate and I wish you success.
"Mark, I wish all Americans success. We all want freedom. We all want liberty. Together, we will enjoy it once again. Americans can do it, and Americans will do it."
Visit the official website of Judge Jim Gray, featuring many unknown and interesting facets of the Libertarian vice-presidential nominee's dynamic life.