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 takes another step in the wrong direction

For months, Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson has pushed aggressively for more attention for his longshot campaign, The good news is, the former governor has received the spotlight quite a bit lately. The bad news is, the spotlight hasn’t exactly been flattering.

It started with Johnson’s “What is Aleppo?” moment, which was soon followed by his “brain freeze” when asked to name a foreign leader he respects. This week, the Libertarian told a national television audience that his inability to find foreign countries on a map makes it less likely he’ll start a war.

A day later, the New York Times asked Johnson if he knows the name of North Korea’s leader. “I do,” he replied – before refusing to be more specific.

But it was this exchange with the Times that was especially problematic.
Attacking Hillary Clinton over what he criticized as her overly interventionist instincts, Mr. Johnson pointed to the hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians killed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, as well as civilian deaths caused by the American-backed coalition, and said Mrs. Clinton, the former secretary of state, bore at least partial responsibility.

But when pressed four times on whether he saw a moral equivalence between deaths caused by the United States, directly or indirectly, and mass killings of civilians by Mr. Assad and his allies, Mr. Johnson made clear that he did.
First, if Johnson can think of any reason Hillary Clinton is partially to blame for Syria’s civil war, he hasn’t shared it with anyone. Second, for the Libertarian presidential candidate to believe the United States and the Assad regime are effectively the same when it comes to mass civilian murders is completely bonkers.

It’s not too late for those newspaper editorial boards that backed Johnson over Clinton to publish “on second thought…” endorsements.

For his part, Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, hasn’t had too much to say about Johnson, but these latest comments were apparently a bridge too far. The Times reported overnight:
Tim Kaine forcefully criticized Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, on Thursday after Mr. Johnson equated the targeting of noncombatants by the Syrian government with the accidental bombing of civilians by United States-backed forces.

Mr. Kaine, who has a 26-year-old son in the Marines, said Mr. Johnson’s view was “incredibly disrespectful to the troops.”

“As the father of somebody in the military, I just can’t fathom a comment like that,” Mr. Kaine, a senator from Virginia and the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, told reporters during a campaign stop at an elementary school here.
Gary Johnson said he wanted more attention on his ideas. Be careful what you wish for, gov.

Gary Johnson and Syria

Gary Johnson takes another step in the wrong direction