You may have read that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has “made a fool of himself” once again. In an interview with Chris Matthews he “failed to come up with the name of a foreign leader he likes.” Sounds pretty bad right? How can we take someone seriously as presidential candidate if they can’t name one influential person on earth? Well, I have some thoughts on that.
First of all, have you watched the interview? If all you read is the headlines you’d get the impression that GJ just sat there going “ummmmm” while the crowd awkwardly waited for his response. This is not what happened.
After being asked what world leader he admires, he pauses then answers swiftly saying “I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment in the former president of Mexico…” (not sure what an Aleppo moment is? Click here.) Before he can finish his thought Chris Matthews puts the pressure on to remember the name and GJ responds saying “I’m having a brain freeze.” Then Gary’s running mate Bill Weld asks “Fox?” in reference to former Mexican president Vicente Fox and Gary says “Fox! Thank you, thank you.” The entire exchange takes less than 45 seconds. What appears to have happened is not that GJ can’t name a leader, it’s that he can’t think of the name of the one he wants to list. This is not the way the media has necessarily reported the incident.
Was this proof that Gary Johnson is an idiot or a very human moment happening on an unscripted show? Keep in mind that when Obama speaks his speeches are usually scripted. When Obama gives an interview it’s usually on a specific topic not literally on anything in the world. Even still, Obama has had his fair share of bumbles.
In a past life I competed in pageants where I underwent interviews similar to the ones Trump, Hillary and GJ are going through right now. Let me tell you that no matter how much you prepare, you will forget things. One time I couldn’t describe an amendment other than the first in an interview. It was embarrassing and strange because at the time I was actually studying the Bill of Rights in a class.
Think about the exhaustion of campaigning and the lack of resources GJ has as a grassroots candidate. He doesn’t have teams of advisors, helpers and specialists feeding him information and giving him security briefs. He doesn’t have teams of young people creating memes to make him look good (or put down other candidates). He doesn’t even have a romantic partner on the trail with him to provide constant moral support. (GJ is engaged but his fiancé doesn’t do much campaigning as she has a full-time job in real estate.) These are things the other two candidates have. These aren’t excuses just perspective.
Second of all, even if GJ just sat with a blank look on his face for five minutes is this even remotely close to disqualifying in this election? Does Gary have any scandals? Does Gary have skeletons in his closet? Does Gary blame the “fog of war” for mistakes that ended lives? When thinking of black people is the first thing that comes to GJ’s mind our “vibrant black churches”? Does he try to quiet abuse victims? Does GJ body shame women? Does he have a history of infidelity and womanizing? Did he trick people into paying for worthless seminars? Does GJ have a history of bankruptcy? As of right now, the answer is no to all the above. The other two candidates can’t say the same. I don’t blame you for wanting an informed president but please try and compare Gary’s mistakes to the other two. Can you even compare?
When you’re making decisions on what good leadership looks like ask yourself this question; What matters most, knowledge, or the intelligence to do the right thing when the knowledge is given to you? So far Gary has undoubtedly shown a lack of knowledge on several topics, but has he shown he lacks a moral compass or is less intelligent than the other two candidates? Furthermore, GJ represents the LIBERTARIAN PARTY. You know, the one that is borderline isolationist. Foreign policy is not what this party is all about. Do they want a strong and ready military? Yes. Do they want to play chess with the rest of the word? No. As one meme put it, asking a libertarian about foreign leaders is like asking a vegetarian how they like their steak cooked.
Third of all, pay attention to how GJ handles these sorts of “Aleppo moments.” The very fact that he brought up Aleppo when having a “brain freeze” this time around shows a remarkable amount of humbleness. GJ addresses his mistakes head-on. He knows he makes mistakes and he knows he’s not perfect. Most politicians lie when caught in a bind. GJ doesn’t do this (so far). He admits when he doesn’t know the answer to something, he admits when he’s not an expert on something and he’s able to poke fun at himself along the way.
I attended a GJ rally a couple weeks back and Aleppo was the very first thing he talked about bringing it up multiple times throughout his speech. He said he wanted to apologize for his blunder and assured the crowd that he does take national security seriously. He cares about our troops and spoke a few minutes on Aleppo and related topics to show he has thought about it and does have a rough plan in place. Maybe it’s a bunch of hoopla but his response was still incredibly refreshing.
Fourth of all, pay attention to media bias. With the exception of Fox News, it’s accepted by most that there is a liberal lean amongst the media and Hillary is worried about GJ. He is pulling voters away from both sides. Hillary’s campaign is actively working on getting those voters back to her side. Unflattering pictures, brash headlines and personal attacks are now being used against GJ mostly among the liberal camp (though I’m sure Trump is coming). Keep that in mind as you follow GJ coverage. Kind of odd that a man with an incredible professional (built a multi-million-dollar company, balanced his state’s budget etc.) and personal (Ironman, has climbed Mt Everest etc.) resume only makes national headlines when he messes up.
I am not writing this to make excuses or even convince you to vote for GJ, I understand the dislike. I am simply challenging you to think critically about what leadership means to you, do your own homework and look at all candidates through the same lens.