Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson speaks to moderator Richard Lui of MSNBC during a 2016 Presidential Election Forum at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Aug. 12, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty

Gary Johnson hurts himself with another ‘Aleppo moment’

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, recently appeared on MSNBC and was asked to reflect on the crisis in the Syrian city of Aleppo. He replied, “What is Aleppo?”

Hardball with Chris Matthews, 9/28/16, 7:37 PM ET

Gary Johnson: ‘I’m having an Aleppo moment’

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asks Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld a series of questions, including who is their favorite foreign leader.
Yesterday, Johnson, a former Republican, appeared on MSNBC again, and as Rachel noted on the show last night, he made matters much worse for himself.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said.
Note, Chris Matthews started naming specific countries and continents, apparently hoping to help Johnson focus. The Libertarian nevertheless came up empty. Johnson said he was having a “brain freeze.”

As recently as Monday, Johnson told reporters how concerned he is about current U.S. foreign policy, which he described as “horrible,” and how eager he would have been to discuss the issue with the major-party nominees had he qualified for this week’s official debate. Of course, presidential hopefuls who care deeply about foreign policy can usually name one foreign leader they like.

The broader problem, meanwhile, is Johnson failing to take advantage of the opportunity that’s been presented to him on a silver platter.

There’s ample polling that suggests a sizable number of American voters are open to supporting a credible third-party candidate this year, and on paper, Johnson – a former governor who’s sought national office before – appears well positioned to appeal to those looking for an alternative to the major-party nominee.

This is especially true for Republican-friendly newspaper editorial boards that can’t endorse Hillary Clinton, but don’t want to support Donald Trump.

But in practice, Johnson can’t seem to get out of his own way. His campaign antics are often clownish and confusing; his campaign platform is radical in a way that alienates potential progressive allies; and when given the opportunity to make a good impression before national television audiences, the Libertarian has “Aleppo moments” that suggest Johnson’s presidential candidacy isn’t altogether real.

Yesterday’s “brain freeze” display was just embarrassing, and represented the latest in a series of missed opportunities.

Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson hurts himself with another 'Aleppo moment'