SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This week's CNN's town hall with the Libertarian candidates for president and vice president won the cable network ratings on Wednesday night. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have what pollsters say are the highest unfavorability ratings ever measured in major party candidates for president. Does this present a chance for another party to break through? William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts and vice presidential candidate to the Libertarian Party, joins us from Reno, Nev., now. Thanks so much for being with us, Governor.
WILLIAM WELD: Scott, It's my pleasure.
SIMON: What do you think your party offers that major parties don't?
WELD: Well, we offer a ticket that is fiscally responsible and socially inclusive and welcoming. And that, unfortunately, does not describe either of the other parties, the so-called monopoly parties. The Democrats are going to have a hard time balancing the budget. I would not describe them as fiscally responsible. The Republicans are most certainly not socially tolerant and welcoming and they weren't even before Mr. Trump (laughter) became the nominee, and now they're most certainly not.
And polls have shown that that combination of approaches describes 50 to 60 percent of all voters in the United States. So we think we've got a six-lane highway going right up the middle, and we've got one party to the left of us and one party to the right of us.
SIMON: Well, let me ask you about some of the specific points that are in the Libertarian platform. Would - for example, would you get rid of the Affordable Care Act?
WELD: No. I've never been one of those - and Gary and I were both two-term Republican governors back in the 1990s, him in New Mexico, me in Massachusetts, and we know each other well. No, that's not my be-all and end-all, like a lot of congressional Republicans who - all they can talk about is, let's totally repeal Obamacare. You know, I would want to move it more in the direction of having greater competition and greater control by individuals so they could buy a Chevrolet plan if they wanted to instead of a Cadillac plan.
And I would allow individuals to shop across state lines for insurance. I'd allow them to shop in Canada for pharmaceuticals. It seems to me the one thing you can say about the Obamacare law, which is a little unfortunate, is that decision-making seems to be made largely by the government and insurance companies. And neither one of those stakeholders has a primary focus of the quality of care.
SIMON: There's a section of the platform called self-ownership and I'm going to quote - "individuals own their bodies. Individuals have the freedom and responsibility to decide what they knowingly and voluntarily consume or what risks they accept to their own health, finances, safety or life." Would that mean decriminalizing heroin?
WELD: Well, I don't know what it would mean, but it's not (laughter) something I've ever said or I'm going to say. And, you know, I don't think anybody that runs for office is bound by every word in the platform of their party. Certainly all the times I ran for office as a Republican, I disagreed with 50 percent of the Republican Party platform because I'm a social-liberal or a social-moderate and I'm welcoming and tolerant.
And the Republican Party, starting with the election of 1994, got increasingly taken over by what I'll call movement conservatives, who, at present, are very icy towards gay marriage. I pioneered gay and lesbian rights back in the '90s when no one else was doing it.
SIMON: Another plank in the Libertarian platform on foreign policy says avoid foreign entanglements, including military and economic aid. Is NATO a foreign entanglement? Would you get out of NATO?
WELD: No, no. The one place where I think we probably are to the left of Mrs. Clinton is on boots on the ground in foreign countries or spilling blood on - American blood on foreign soil. Both Governor Johnson and I think that the instinct towards regime change can have a lot of unfortunate, unintended consequences, and they can be moral and they can also be economic and they can be military.
The strikes that Syria and Libya - the people we wound up signing up with turned out to have very close links with ISIS. So that's been enormously destabilizing in those countries and enormously counterproductive in terms of our interests, however good it might have felt at the time to those deploying that tremendous American power.
SIMON: William Weld, vice presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, thanks so much for being with us.
WELD: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.