Tags: Trump Administration | johnson | libertarian | aleppo | morning joe

Libertarian Gary Johnson: 'What Is Aleppo?'

By    |   Thursday, 08 Sep 2016 08:37 AM

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, with a blank look and four simple words, may have scuttled his chances of being an alternative for voters who doubt Hillary Clinton and refuse to back Donald Trump.

Those words: "And what is Aleppo?"

His question about the Syrian city, at the epicenter of the Syrian civil war, eclipsed the former New Mexico governor's comments on the national two-party system, quickly becoming a hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and drawing criticism and dismay Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," where Johnson was giving an exclusive interview.

The question was put to Johnson by political commentator Mike Barnicle, who asked Johnson "what would you do if you were elected about Aleppo," and Johnson seemed momentarily stunned.

"Aleppo." Johnson responded. "And what is Aleppo?"

"You're kidding," Barnicle said.

"No," Johnson responded.

"Aleppo is in Syria and the epicenter of the refugee crisis," said Barnicle.

"OK, got it," Johnson responded. "Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it’s a mess. And I think the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end. But when we've aligned ourselves with, when we've supported the opposition, the Free Syrian Army, the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists, and then the fact that we're also supporting the Kurds. And this is – it's just a mess."

The situation, he continued, "is the result of regime change that we end up supporting and, inevitably, these regime changes have led to a less safe world."

"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," show host Joe Scarborough asked him. "You asked what is Aleppo. Do you really think that foreign policy is so insignificant that somebody who is running for president of the United States shouldn't even know what Aleppo is, where Aleppo is and why it is so important?"

Johnson then insisted that he does "understand Aleppo and I understand the crisis that is going on."

He said he opposes involving the United States militarily in "these humanitarian issues," as "we end up with a situation that in most cases is not better, and in many cases ends up being worse. And we find ourselves always, politicians are up against the wall, and ask what to do about these things, and this is why we end up committing military force in areas that, like I say, at the end of the day have an unintended consequence of making things worse."

After the interview ended, Bloomberg Politics Editor Mark Halperin, who's also a "Morning Joe" panelist, met up with Johnson off the soundstage.

The Libertarian nominee said he was "incredibly frustrated" with himself over his Aleppo comment.

In a phone video Halperin made of the exchange and shown on camera by host Mika Brzezinski, Johnson agreed that "sure it should" become a big flap in his campaign, and indicated he may have been clarifying Barnicle's question.

Story continues below video.

"I use this as an example, in New Mexico, there is an area called Colonius, which is really destitute, if you will, it's between the borders," said Johnson. "Well, I'm asked running for governor, what do you think about the Colonius, and I say, what do you mean Colonius? I mean, what is that?"

After the interview, the "Morning Joe" panel continued to react with shock about what they'd just heard.

"It is staggering that somebody would run for president of the United States, get 14 percent - 15 percent in polls and be so ignorant about foreign policy, they would ask the question, 'What is Aleppo?'" Scarborough said. "That was on national television."

Barnicle said he does not really know what happened, and he was stunned at Johnson's question.

"It's been on the front page of every newspaper in the world for months," said Barnicle. "It is, as we tried to indicate, the epicenter of the refugee crisis. It's in the middle of the cauldron that is Syria. It's home to thousands of people, civilians being slaughtered on daily basis, and the governor's a candidate for president of the United States."

He said Johnson's answer added another "element of depression" for him in the course of a "dreary campaign" year, and marked "one more indication that the people in this country are so much better and deserve so much better than we're getting from this current campaign."

Michael Crowley, senior foreign affairs correspondent for Politico, commented during the panel discussion that Johnson's question was "stunning and it was mortifying. You would almost have to be trying not to be able to know what or where Aleppo was."

"It is like averting your eyes from the front page of the newspaper," Crowley continued. "A giant picture of people starving, children in hospitals, I mean, it's kind of mind boggling."

The flap is also likely disappointing for people who want Libertarians to thrive, said Crowley.

"I think they have a reputation for being fixated on lifestyle issues, legalizing pot, maybe being flaky and not being serious, not ready for the primetime commander in chief test . . . and this just plays right into that stereotype."

The situation also led to a heated argument between Scarborough and show co-host Mika Brzezinski, after she contended that the Johnson flap leaves Republicans "all voting for Hillary Clinton or not voting" if they oppose Trump.

"We are not pulling the lever today," Scarborough responded. "We'll see what happens over the next two months. Mika, you don't know what is going to happen to Hillary Clinton over the next two months. We don't know. Every morning is a new revelation . . .

"With all due respect, it's almost at the point — I need to be really careful wording this. I think you have to hope nothing happens with her. Because you know what you're going to get, at least. Look,  am I alone here? The devil we know versus the devil we don't know."

"But, Mika, what you're trying to do is what you're trying to do every day, force Republicans to say they are going to vote for Hillary Clinton," Scarborough shot back.

"I'm forcing Republicans to tell the truth about exactly what their options are," she said.
"You are not going to get them in early September to sign a blood oath to you, a life-long Democrat, that they are going to vote for Hillary Clinton," Scarborough told her.

"Fifty-five percent of Americans think that other candidate that you are trying to force Republicans to vote for in early September should, yes, it is about you, because you are trying to force every Republican that comes on to say that they have to either vote for Hillary Clinton or they don't love their country."

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Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, with a blank look and four simple words Thursday morning may have scuttled his chances of being an alternative for voters who doubt Hillary Clinton and refuse to back Donald Trump. Those words: "And what is Aleppo?"
johnson, libertarian, aleppo, morning joe
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2016-37-08
Thursday, 08 Sep 2016 08:37 AM
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