Michael Johns (born September 8, 1964 in Allentown, Pennsylvania) is an American health care executive, former federal government of the United States official and conservative policy analyst and writer.
He also was one of several influential proponents of the Bush administration's 2006 launch of Medicare Part D, which expanded the federal Medicare program to cover pharmaceuticals for the elderly and chronically disabled, arguing that Medicare was spending too much on preventable hospitalizations and surgeries and too little on disease prevention and management.
In his health care roles, Johns has advocated a moderate course on American health care policy, supporting increased biopharmaceutical and free market health care innovation, while simultaneously defending the need to protect Medicare, Medicaid and other governmental health programs for the nation's elderly, poor and disabled.
He is credited with helping shift Washington's intellectual tide away from containment of the Soviet Union (as advocated by post-war American leaders, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman) and toward a more aggressive approach dedicated to the "rollback" of global communism. Many historians now credit this latter approach with leading to, or at least accelerating, the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
Johns was one of the most vocal U.S. conservatives in defending Ronald Reagan's controversial description of the former Soviet Union as an "evil empire." In a lengthy Policy Review article, "Seventy Years of Evil: Soviet Crimes from Lenin to Gorbachev," for instance, Johns labeled the Soviet system "history's most sophisticated apparatus of rule by terror" and lambasted its "crushing of the human spirit." He offered 208 examples, dating back to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, that, he argued, warranted the labeling of the Soviet system as evil. The article reinforced with some that Reagan's use of the phrase, while criticized as inflammatory by some world leaders, was warranted, with National Review praising the Johns article as "the tale of a state as brutal as it is petty; as unnatural as it is brutal; as enduring as it is unnatural.
In the final years of the Cold War, Johns and other conservatives helped develop, implement and sustain a vastly more aggressive U.S. foreign policy, in which the U.S. consciously and pro-actively challenged the Soviet Union's global military engagements and alliances in Africa, Asia and Latin America in what columnist Charles Krauthammer, in a Time magazine column, first labeled the "Reagan Doctrine." The doctrine, espoused by Johns and other conservative foreign policy experts, was rooted in a belief that Soviet nuclear capabilities, combined with Soviet global aggression, represented a serious, growing threat to U.S. security that needed to be confronted. Unlike earlier proponents of containment, however, the doctrine's advocates also held that the Soviet Union was overextended globally, beginning to face major opposition at home and abroad and that even one high-profile victory for these anti-communist forces was likely to expose these vulnerabilities, inspiring democratic rebellion against Soviet-supported governments around the world and within the Soviet Union itself. Reagan Doctrine advocates argued that this offered the best opportunity to inspire the emergence of global democracies, or at least non-hostile governments, and end the Cold War without a need for direct U.S. engagement.
Johns maintained close relationships with the leaderships of resistance movements challenging Soviet-backed governments in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Laos, Mozambique, Nicaragua and other nations, sometimes mitigating these resistance movements' concerns with Washington, sometimes carrying their messages to key Reagan administration officials, and almost always raising the profile of these conflicts as new and critical front lines in the overall Cold War conflict.
Johns was influential and heavily engaged in securing U.S. assistance for resistance forces in Angola. After Soviet and Cuban military forces were deployed to Angola with the goal of eliminating Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA resistance forces, a Vietnam War-era statute that had prevented the Reagan administration from coming to the aid of Savimbi and UNITA was repealed and Johns and other conservatives quickly made a successful case that the U.S. had a moral and strategic obligation to promptly come to Savimbi's defense. Johns visited with Savimbi in his anti-aircraft-protected compound in Jamba, Angola, where he provided private counsel to the Angolan rebel leader, and while U.S. military aid for Savimbi was kept covert, presumably to protect third party countries such as South Africa, Zaire and others involved in delivery of it, U.S. aid to Savimbi's forces quickly bolstered UNITA as a major military and political opposition force in the country. In addition to visiting Savimbi in Angola, Johns also was influential in organizing visits by Savimbi to the U.S. As Savimbi's importance as a U.S. ally in the Cold War gained broader recognition, Reagan invited Savimbi to meet him in the Oval Office during one such visit. Following the meeting, Reagan spoke supportively of Savimbi "winning a victory that electrifies the world," suggesting that a UNITA victory in Angola would raise the spirits and prospects of other anti-communist movements around the world, and possibly within the Soviet Union itself, that were engaged in resisting the Kremlin.
As the Angolan conflict escalated, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev responded by urging Reagan and then President George H.W. Bush to cease U.S. support for Savimbi. But Johns returned from Angola to argue that Gorbachev's promises of "new thinking" in Soviet foreign policy, designed to end such proxy Third World conflicts, were absent in Angola where, Johns argued, Gorbachev was actually increasing Soviet military commitments in the Soviet-supported war against Savmibi and UNITA. "If Mikhail Gorbachev cannot be trusted in Angola," Johns asked in 1990, "can he be trusted anywhere?
The Angolan conflict was ultimately subjected to multi-party international negotiations, which provided for the removal of Cuban troops from the country. Johns wrote from Angola that Savimbi told him that he had not felt sufficiently consulted on the negotiations. But the negotiations did ultimately lead to an agreement to meet UNITA's long-standing demand for national elections in the country, and Johns and other Savimbi supporters strongly urged Savimbi to run for President, which he did. In the primary election, neither Savimbi nor Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos obtained the 50 percent of total votes necessary to win the election, and a run-off election was scheduled. Savimbi, however, alleged that the primary election had been tainted by substantial Angolan governmental fraud. In a controversial Savimbi decision, the Angolan resistance leader withdrew from the election process and returned to war, which continued until February 22, 2002, when Savimbi was killed in action in an Angolan military ambush.
Johns also was a strong advocate for U.S. support to other resistance movements confronting Soviet-backed governments. In Nicaragua, Johns visited regularly with the Nicaraguan contras, and he vocalized several ultimately successful arguments in support of U.S. aid to the contras, including that Soviet military support for the Marxist Sandinista government and a neighboring Marxist insurgency in El Salvador (the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, or FMLN) represented Soviet violations of the Monroe Doctrine and that U.S. support for the contras was justified under the doctrine's self-defense provisions. U.S. aid for the contras was authorized and the Sandinista government, under contra military and global political pressure, ultimately agreed to hold the free and fair elections the contras sought, which the Sandinistas then lost in one of several global indications that the Cold War was dissolving. Two years before his assassination by the Sandinistas in Managua, contra military commander Enrique Bermúdez, during a meeting in Tegucigalpa, asked Johns to author his autobiographical essay, "The Contras' Valley Forge," which is based on extensive discussions between the two and received substantial global media coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post and elsewhere. It is one of the few first-person contra accounts of the war, and turned out to be Bermúdez's last major commentary on the conflict before his death.
Johns also assisted the U.S. in other Cold War conflicts, including in Soviet-backed Cambodia, where the U.S. wished to apply the Reagan Doctrine but was understandably reluctant to support Cambodia's primary opposition movement, which was run by former leaders and members of the former Khmer Rouge government. Johns denounced both the government and the Khmer Rouge resistance, and instead urged U.S. support for yet a third Cambodian political and military force, a coalition of the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, known as the KPNLF and then run by Son Sann, and the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, known as the CGDK and run by Norodom Sihanouk. Johns was one of the few Americans permitted to visit the Cambodian front lines of the CGDK/KPNLF resistance, and he wrote supportively of the coalition, urging the U.S. to aid it in an effort to build a political and national security foundation that could ultimately provide Cambodia with a non-communist, democratic political alternative.
Less than a year before Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf War, Johns warned that the likelihood for strategically threatening Persian Gulf conflict made it important for the U.S. to encourage political stability in Somalia and to maintain U.S. access to the airbases and seaports of Berbera and Mogadishu. In Sudan, immediately following Omar al-Bashir's rise to power, Johns strongly urged the U.S. government to work with al-Bashir on regional security issues and to end the Sudanese Civil War by granting southern Sudan greater autonomy so that the region's predominantly Christian population could be granted exemption from Sudan's Islamic Sharia laws in a step toward ending the war. Al-Bashir's relationship with the U.S. later became a focus of the investigation into the September 11, 2001 attacks when the Sudanese leader alleged that he offered the Clinton administration intelligence information that could have led to the capture of Osama bin Laden in 1996, when bin Laden was living in Sudan, but that the Clinton administration failed to act on the information. In southern Sudan, al-Bashir ultimately upheld the Sharia laws and enhanced the persecution of the region's Christian population, which culminated in the Darfur conflict.
Johns was in Windhoek, Namibia for that country's first independent election, and was highly supportive of expanded economic and political liberalization on the continent. He wrote for the The Wall Street Journal that a stable and democratic Namibia was "critical for the strategic and economic composition of the region.
Johns also gained global notoriety for his willingness to urge an end to South Africa's since disbanded policy of racial segregation, known as apartheid, at a time when other U.S. and European conservatives, fearing the rise of the South African Communist Party in a post-apartheid South Africa, were being widely criticized in the early 1990s for their silence on the issue. After Johns spoke on South Africa at the United Nations in New York City on November 27, 1990, during which he criticized the world body openly for continuing economic sanctions in ways that he said were hurting South Africa's black majority under the auspices of helping them, William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote in his December 27, 1990 Universal Press Syndicate column that Johns' appearance at the U.N. was influential and "did not meet with critical reception because Johns has for many years been a voluble critic of apartheid, so that it was not thought necessary to pass much time on the disavowalist rituals." Buckley wrote that "Johns recited statistics that were not effectively challenged by the U.N. committee. He said that 'combined unemployment and underemployment figures for South Africa's black majority now stand at 47 percent, largely because South Africa--an export-driven economy--has been denied access to foreign markets.' He then went on to cite the latest Gallup poll addressed to South Africa's black majority: Do you oppose sanctions as a means for ending apartheid? Opposed: 82 percent.
Following the Cold War's end, Johns helped advance pro-active American engagement in the post-Cold War world, running U.S. government-funded international economic and political development programs in post-Gulf War Kuwait, Turkey and other nations. While Johns was one of the first and most adamant American advocates for U.S. aid to anti-communist resistance movements in their military uprisings against Soviet-backed governments during the Cold War, he also was quick to encourage U.S. restraint once they ceased being superpower conflicts. In March 1991, with the Cold War nearly over, Johns told The New York Times that the U.S. State Department's repeated denunciations of Muammar al-Gaddafi and threats of military conflict with the Libyan leader were becoming monotonous and counterproductive and the U.S. would be better served by simply developing "policies to curb his power projection.
Throughout the 1990s, he was a prominent critic of several components of the Clinton administration's foreign policy. As the United Nations, with support from the Clinton administration, began repatriating Thailand-based Hmong veterans from Vietnam's "Secret War" to Laos, Johns was one of several influential opponents of the policy, labeling the repatriation a "betrayal. Johns' position on the issue drew support, and the U.N. repatriation ultimately was halted. Tens of thousands of Hmong refugees at Wat Tham Krabok and various Thailand refugee camps subsequently were afforded expedited United States immigration rights. However, when Clinton's decision to participate in a NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina drew criticism, Johns defended the Clinton decision, arguing that the conflict was a defining moment for U.S. engagement in Europe and that ignoring Serbian ethnic genocide against Muslim Bosniaks would prove permanently damaging to U.S. human rights credibility in the Arab world.
In the late 1990s, Johns was one of several U.S. conservatives who successfully urged the Clinton administration to reverse the U.S. government's long-standing policy of officially denying the existence of the CIA-supported covert "Secret War" in Laos and to honor the thousands of Hmong who provided support to U.S. air and ground combat operations against the North Vietnamese Army and Việt Cộng during the Vietnam War. On May 15, 1997, in a major reversal of the long-standing U.S. policy of denying the Secret War's existence, the U.S. government officially acknowledged it, recognizing the Hmong's contributions to the U.S. war effort with the opening of the Laos Memorial, which was dedicated and opened in Arlington National Cemetery between the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame and the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Johns has proven an influential proponent of many of the policies of President George W. Bush, and has defended the Bush administration's military engagement in Iraq. "The Iraq War has become the epicenter in the global war against terrorism, and the outcome in Iraq will ultimately be a key factor in determining whether September 11, 2001 was the beginning of the end for al-Qaeda, or whether, conversely, it was just the beginning of an era of global terror that grows in both scope and duration," Johns wrote in a widely-cited May 4, 2007 essay opposing a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.
Johns also has challenged the allegations of some of Bush's harshest critics that the Bush administration consciously misrepresented U.S. intelligence findings on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Johns has responded that numerous Clinton administration officials, including Vice President Al Gore and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, cited nearly identical intelligence conclusions regarding Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction in justifying Clinton's four-day 1998 bombing of Iraq, known as "Operation Desert Fox." Johns represents that the Clinton administration's nearly identical intelligence findings regarding Saddam's harboring of chemical and biological weapons is evidence that the Bush administration acted in good faith, and probably was technically correct, in alleging that Saddam was in possession of these weapons when the war was launched in 2003.
"It's certainly an extremely reasonable conclusion that Saddam's political maneuvering around United Nations-ordered inspections, which ultimately invited this war, were not designed to hide nothing," Johns argued in May 2007.
Johns is one of a handful of prominent U.S. conservatives and other political leaders who, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, have strongly criticized the U.S. news media's decision not to rebroadcast footage of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center because some viewers purportedly found the footage unsettling. Johns has countered that the U.S. runs the risk of forgetting the magnitude of the September 11 attacks "because some components of our modern culture seem to want us to forget." And "we should be unsettled. We need to be unsettled."
Johns has been a strong advocate for revisions to current U.S. energy policy, arguing that, while alternative energy sources such as ethanol may hold long-term usefulness in meeting some or all U.S. energy needs, U.S. access to petroleum is essential in the meantime and too little is being done to address this need, especially given vastly increased petroleum consumption in China and India. Johns has supported the relaxation of some U.S. energy regulations, including simplifying federal and state regulations that currently govern gasoline's formulated and unformulated contents, which the petroleum industry has said raises the cost of gasoline's production. Like other conservatives, Johns also has advocated expanding the U.S. oil supply by eliminating several federal and state regulations that currently prohibit petroleum drilling in various U.S. coastal waters and in the oil-rich portion of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as ANWR.
Johns was a senior aide to New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean prior to Kean's appointment by President George W. Bush as Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. He also was a White House speechwriter to President of the United States George H. W. Bush.
In the George H. W. Bush White House, Johns was one of several senior Bush aides who helped define and advocate some of the policies that have come to be known as "compassionate conservatism," focusing on outreach to low and middle-income Americans and non-traditional Republican constituencies. In a June 2007 interview, he echoed a similar theme, saying: "the American dream is a great concept, but it's just that--a dream--if it doesn't touch people's lives in tangible ways. In his federal and state government capacities, Johns has worked exclusively with Republicans, but he also has been a staunch critic of what he sees as excessive partisanship in American politics, which he says is precluding greater national unity on critical national issues. He has been praised for his ability to "position conservative ideas in ways that appeal to American moderates and sometimes even liberals.
Johns is the author of one book, U.S. and Africa Statistical Handbook (Heritage Foundation, 1990, second edition, 1991), and a contributing author to two others, Freedom in the World: The Annual Guide of Political Rights and Civil Liberties (Freedom House, 1993), and Finding Our Roots, Facing Our Future: America in the 21st Century (Madison Books, 1997).
Along with Jim Cramer and other prominent financial analysts, Johns is also a global market and stock columnist for the Wall Street newsletter Seeking Alpha. In his May 7, 2007 column, Johns correctly predicted that global demand for petroleum was increasing at such a rate that the price per barrel, then selling at $65 per barrel, was likely to reach $100 per barrel before the end of 2007. In the column, Johns wrote: "With light sweet crude futures for June currently priced at roughly $65 a barrel, an ambitious short and long-term energy policy that enhances supply becomes important if, for no other reason, than the fact that, at $100 a barrel, the impact on this economy and the American people would be hugely painful. And in such a scenario, which could yet emerge this year or next, ethanol will not be this nation's salvation. U.S. oil futures increased steadily from there, surpassing the $100 a barrel mark eight months later, on January 2, 2008.
Johns appears frequently on national and local television and radio, usually representing conservative and Republican-leaning views on public policy and politics. He is a regular guest on several Sirius Satellite Radio shows, including Ron Silver's Indie Talk show.
In addition to his industry, government and public policy roles, Johns is also one of several prominent U.S.-based conservative blog authors. As of August 2007, his blog ranked highly, among the top 0.5 percent of all blogs on the World Wide Web in terms of total readership, according to the blog index Technorati.