On MSNBC's Morning Joe, Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson was asked by Mike Barnicle to comment on the war in Syria:
Barnicle: What would you do if you were elected, about Aleppo?
Johnson: And what is a leppo?
Barnicle: You're kidding?
Barnicle: Aleppo is in Syria. It's the, uh, it's the epicenter of the refugee crisis...
Johnson: Okay, got it. Got it.Johnson then went on to give a rambling answer to the question as the other MSNBC analysts at the table stared sternly at him. Although one of them, Harold Ford Jr., looked like he was covering his mouth to stop himself from laughing.
It was the job interview from Hell.
That was four hours ago. Since then, Johnson's leppo issue has only grown more dire. Reporters have smelled blood and are moving in. Mark Halperin ambushed Johnson as he was trying to escape Rockefeller center:
Halperin: People are making a big deal about this Aleppo thing. I'm just curious what your view is from just like, is it a gotcha thing? Should you have known it? In retrospect, do you know it?
Johnson: Well, when you, when you recognize what's going on in Syria. When you recognize that that Aleppo is in the kinda the epicenter between...(sudden sound like a stutterer makes)...Aleppo! Um...(sudden sound like a stutterer makes)...knowing that there is a city in-between the the two forces, really at the epicenter of the, uh, but not remembering or identifying that that's Aleppo. Uh, guilty.
Halperin: But but in retrospect, is it a town you, is it a name you know, a town you know? I mean this is going to be a big deal...
Johnson: Oh, no no no...
Halperin: This is like the first big flap of a campaign that's been doing pretty well, right? It's going to be a big flap. I promise you. I, like, it already is. So, I'm just wondering how you...
Johnson: Oh no, no, I, I, no, I'm, I'm incredibly frustrated with myself...
Halperin: Right. But how do you feel about it, like should it be a big flap, like...
Johnson: Well, sure it should! Absolutely!
Johnson (referring to his making an allegedly similar flub when he was running for governor): Is this going to disqualify me from being governor of New Mexico? I hope not. I hope that not recognizing Aleppo...but I understand the significance. I genuinely...believe me, no one is taking this more seriously than me. I feel horrible.
Halperin: What do you think will happen now?
Johnson: Well, that that I have to get smarter. And that's just part of the process.
Halperin: Have you heard from Bill Weld yet?A few seconds later, Johnson is herded away by a handler.
The transcript does not do justice to the above. You simply have to see it. Among other things, there are the weird exaggerated hand motions that Johnson starts to make as he is stuttering. The first looks like a sort of Libertarian sign of the cross. I played the clip to my wife a few seconds ago and she covered her face in shock.
Then later, on The View, Johnson had this exchange with Joy Behar:
Behar: I think it's a disqualifying statement, frankly.
Johnson: And fair enough. And fair enough.
Bear: So, will you get out of the race now?Johnson is like that kid being harassed by the bully. At first you feel bad and want to save him. But then when you see his goofy hangdog expression and cringeworthy obsequiousness, you feel like you want to punch him yourself.
I never realized he had such an annoying personal presence.
In his favor, I actually think Johnson is honest - too honest for a politician. It's clear he didn't know the name of the largest city in Syria (or what had been the largest city before war came to it). He could have just lied and said he momentarily blanked. But instead, he all but admitted he never even initially knew the answer and then (again, honestly) confirmed that that was sort of a big deal.
And let me revise. I do honestly feel bad for him. I don't want to punch him. I want him to get out of the race for his own safety.
Does any of this make any difference? Probably not. I don't think people vote for third party candidates based on how many gaffes they make or how bad they are at recovering from them or whatever.
But it does underline the fact that a vote for Johnson could only be a protest vote (not that there's anything wrong with it). On the million to one odds that Johnson actually became president, you could just see Vladimir Putin scooping him up with one hand and putting him in his pocket, while all the while, Johnson giggled and stuttered: "Biff, Biff, you're such a joker, Biff."