Gary Johnson blew another opportunity while trying to answer an easy foreign policy question:
It was, in Gary Johnson’s own words, another “Aleppo moment.”
During a town hall-style interview on MSNBC on Wednesday night, Mr. Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, was asked by the host Chris Matthews to name his favorite foreign leader.
Mr. Johnson, appearing flustered, was at a loss to come up with a name.
The question may not have been very important, but Johnson’s inability to remember even a single name was cringeworthy. Eventually, he recognized Vicente Fox’s name when it was mentioned to him, but it’s strange that it should have taken much reminding when Fox was president of Mexico at the same time Johnson was New Mexico’s governor. As a border state governor, he had met with Fox on occasion, and under normal circumstances this is the sort of thing that a governor would be eager to cite as evidence of past foreign policy experience. Alternatively, Johnson could have said that Matthews’ question was silly, but he still should have been able to recall someone–anyone–from around the world whom he respected on at least one issue. No one really cares who Johnson’s “favorite” leader is, but when someone wants to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate it does matter whether he has made the effort to get up to speed on basic information about other governments and political leaders.
Back in 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush was asked to name the leaders of four specific countries or regions around the world. He famously couldn’t name three of them, and was widely (and correctly) mocked for his ignorance. The “pop quiz” that he failed wasn’t that important in itself, but it showed how little Bush knew and how little effort he had made to be prepared on these issues. As we discovered later when he was president, he continued to lack interest in and knowledge about the rest of the world to his detriment and ours. It turned out that Bush’s inability to identify foreign leaders correctly did reflect how little he knew about the world, and the country ended up paying a steep price for having a president who didn’t know much and wasn’t inclined to learn.
My impression is that Johnson’s foreign policy views are better on the whole than Trump’s or Clinton’s, but he can’t win voters over with those views if he can’t answer the most basic questions effectively. Since the major party candidates both have such poor judgment and horrible records, this is the best opportunity for a third-party candidate specifically on foreign policy in decades, and Johnson is letting it slip away.