Gary Johnson Just Has One Simple Question: ‘What Is Aleppo?’

(The Washington Post ) -
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson at a campaign rally at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday. (AP Photo/Scott Morgan)
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. (AP Photo/Scott Morgan)

It would be easy to describe Gary Johnson’s appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday as having doomed his third-party candidacy for president were it not for the fact that his candidacy was already doomed. The English language lacks a good way to describe something that was already in very bad shape and then, somehow, becomes far worse rather dramatically. Like if the Titanic had begun sinking but then blew up.

Johnson was talking politics with the “Morning Joe” crew when regular guest Mike Barnicle shifted gears.

“What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?” Barnicle asked.

“About?” Johnson replied.

“Aleppo,” Barnicle said.

“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson asked.

A beat. “You’re kidding,” Barnicle replied.

“No!” Johnson said, prompting Barnicle to explain that Aleppo is a city in Syria that epitomizes the country’s refugee crisis and has seen some of the worst horrors of its civil war. But … you probably knew that.

Johnson is running for president on the Libertarian Party line. He’s a noninterventionist. Once he got his bearings (perkily replying, “Got it!” to Barnicle’s explanation), he suggested that the Syria problem was a function of American “regime change” efforts (presumably because of the instability in Iraq) and that the best way forward was to partner with Russia.

Host Joe Scarborough pressed Johnson on his whiff.

“So Aleppo is the center of a lot of people’s concerns across the planet about the terrible humanitarian crisis that is unfolding not only in Syria, but especially in Aleppo,” Scarborough said. “You asked, ‘What is Aleppo?’ Do you really think that foreign policy is so insignificant that somebody running for president of the United States shouldn’t even know what Aleppo is, where Aleppo is, why Aleppo is so important?”

“No,” Johnson replied, fumbling a bit. “I do understand Aleppo and I … understand the crisis that is going on. But when we involve ourselves militarily, when we involve ourselves in these humanitarian issues, we end up – we end up with a situation that in most cases is not better, and in many cases ends up being worse.”