He's kind of mellow, or maybe a lunatic, a man who sounds a little flaky
but says momentum is growing behind his controversial crusade.

Those are among impressions of Gov. Gary Johnson in the national media
following his recent trip to the East Coast to talk up drug
legalization, accept an AIDS award and speak at a convention of the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"Johnson had bravely gone where no governor had gone before - to a
convention of America's foremost pro-pot organization, where the
T-shirts showed the Cat in the Hat toking from a water pipe and the
bumper stickers read 'Pee for Enjoyment, Not Employment,' " observed a
Washington Post reporter describing the NORML conference.

Johnson is back in the national media spotlight - big time - after
taking his drug-law-overhaul crusade on a two-week East Coast road trip
that ended Tuesday.

The governor's contention that the nation's war on drugs is a "miserable
failure" is no surprise to New Mexicans, who have been hearing Johnson's
drug talk for nearly two years now.

But it still plays well in the national media, winning Johnson spots on
such prominent programs as NBC's Meet the Press, where the governor
squared off Sunday against former drug czar Barry McCaffrey.

Not all the press accounts are prized scrapbook material. Jake Tapper,
the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Salon online magazine, had this
to say:

"Johnson seems much younger than his 48 years, and he speaks with a
distinct Santa Fe inflection, which ... can sound a little flaky, and
makes it easy for the Washington establishment to dismiss him."

The article nails Johnson for his kid-glove treatment of President Bush
and his drug-czar nominee, John Walters, whom even McCaffrey has
criticized as too much of a supply side drug warrior.

Johnson, a maverick Republican, told Salon he wanted to give his
"personal friend" Bush the benefit of the doubt on the nomination.

"He seems liberated," Tapper wrote of Johnson, "whenever Bush is not the
subject of conversation."

In the Post article, First Lady Dee Johnson reflects on her husband's
appetite for risk, expressed through activities such as skydiving.

"My mother always celebrated every year that I wasn't a widow because
the man is such a lunatic," she said with a smile. "If I worried about
him, I'd be a basket case."

Johnson was honored Monday by AIDS Action for backing a new state law
allowing pharmacists to distribute syringes to drug addicts - one of
three of the governor's drug-law bills to make it through the
Legislature this year.

The governor's office has said the bulk of Johnson's two-week trip was
paid by NORML and others who invited the governor to speak, including
Florida State University and Harvard University.

But state taxpayers will foot the bill for the governor's security
contingent, which will run about $5,200 for airfare and hotel rooms plus
other costs to be tallied

Newshawk: http://www.cannabisnews.com/
Pubdate: Wed, 25 Apr 2001
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)
Copyright: 2001 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Contact: letters@sfnewmexican.com
Website: http://www.sfnewmexican.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/695
Author: Mark Hummels, The New Mexican
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/johnson.htm (Johnson, Gary)