Gary Johnson just can’t catch a break. Despite being a independent presidential candidate in a presidential race with arguably the two most divisive and disliked Democratic and Republican candidates in history, he has received almost no media coverage. He managed to get an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, however, but the interview didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated. Here’s a partial transcript:
(WILLIE) GEIST: Joining us now, the Libertarian candidate for president, former Republican governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico. Governor, good to have you with us.
(GARY) JOHNSON: Great to be with you. There was a — there was a super PAC that did an ad — Abe Lincoln ad, and it’s now had close to 20 million views —
(MIKA) BRZEZINSKI: My goodness.
JOHNSON: — in 12 days.
GEIST: Wow, which is really —
BRZEZINSKI: What does that tell you?
JOHNSON: Well, I think that there’s — I don’t know. Maybe a — maybe a little spice needs to get added to the two-person race that’s currently going on.
BRZEZINSKI: Maybe a little less —
BRZEZINSKI: — by me.
GEIST: That’s a good place to start. For people who don’t know a lot about you and haven’t had a chance to hear and learn about where you stand on the issues, what is the lane for the Johnson-Weld ticket between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? What do you bring that’s different from those two?
JOHNSON: Well, I think there’s a big six-lane highway down the middle that encompasses 60 percent of Americans. And broadly speaking, fiscally conservative, socially inclusive, skeptical when it comes to our military intervention. Skeptical when it comes to our going in and supporting regime changes that have not resulted in a more safe world — free markets.
So I think that that encompasses about 60 percent of the electorate and I think that the two-party system has really, really got to the fringes on both sides.
(MIKE) BARNICLE: Which of those candidates of the two-party system — Republican candidate, Democratic candidate — do you draw the most votes from?
JOHNSON: You know, in all of these polls it’s just, remarkably, 50-50. Amazingly, I think, though, that with the exception of just a few polls it’s more votes from Hillary.
BARNICLE: Do you —
JOHNSON: But I think — I think when it ends up it will really be 50-50.
BARNICLE: But do you worry about the Nader effect in 2000?
JOHNSON: I don’t worry one bit about it. I really do think that the two-party system is broken. I don’t think Democrats are able to balance a checkbook these days. That’s it’s all about bigger government and higher taxes. And then Republicans with, I think, the social agenda. Look, whatever your social inclinations are just don’t force it on me. And I think the Republican Party has gotten really extreme in that category.
BARNICLE: What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?
JOHNSON: And what is Aleppo?
BARNICLE: You’re kidding.
BARNICLE: Aleppo is in Syria. It’s the — it’s the epicenter of the refugee crisis.
JOHNSON: OK, got it, got it.
The media coverage, unsurprisingly, has been fierce, calling it a “huge gaffe” and “embarassing”. It is embarassing, sure, but not only for Johnson. Mike Barnicle’s interview questions were poorly stated and explained. Here’s why:
-The awkward and immediate segue from talking about third-party candidates into foreign policy. As an interviewer, you should use some sort of lead-in question like “And now I would like to discuss (next subject)”. This is for the viewer’s benefit, as I guarantee that anybody watching that interview was as momentarily confused as Johnson was.
-The usage of Aleppo in the question. Aleppo, while an important city in Syria, is not a city normally used on a first-name basis like Los Angeles, Moscow, or Beijing. I would bet that most of the people calling Johnson an “embarrassment” over the Aleppo answer wouldn’t even be able to find Aleppo on a world map. Barnicle should have either elaborated on the context, or at the very least, he should have said “…about Aleppo, Syria?”
Gary Johnson may have committed a foreign policy blunder, but with the 72-hour news cycle, I bet most people will have forgotten about it by this weekend. And hey, at least it’s not as embarrassing as Donald Trump being unaware of Russia’s occupation of Ukraine, despite his tryhard bromance with Vladimir Putin and despite his daughter being BFF’s with Putin’s mistress.