Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Leave Gary Johnson Alone: Let This Be The Final Word About Aleppo

Created: 14 March, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
7 min read

I'm not a member of the Libertarian Party.

I'm an independent voter.

But I am a small "L" libertarian.

I think our political institutions are vastly corrupt and tyrannical.

I've seen all the ways over the years in which the government in Washington violates its own charter, the U.S. Constitution, and hardly even tries to keep up appearances anymore that it is even trying to follow its own laws.

I've seen all the ways in which state and local governments steal money from their states' economies and waste resources.

And I've seen how both parties actively participate in this corruption, and how the two main parties are far more alike than they are different, how they are both privileged participants in a system controlled by entrenched special interests, how taken together, their activities closely resemble the one party rule of repressive foreign governments, and how fierce, bitter partisanship disguises this reality behind a loud facade of perpetual fake conflict.

That's why I'm an independent voter.

And that's why I cast a ballot for Gary Johnson for President of the United States, a vote of conscience for a candidate outside the corrupt two-party establishment. And although I am not a member of the LP, and don't see myself ever joining with any political party, everything I've seen happen under Obama's second term and Trump's first term has validated my inherent skepticism of anybody beholden to one of the two major parties.

So imagine my sore vexation at Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine's recent interview with Gary Johnson in which this libertarian magazine can't help itself but lead with the stale Aleppo story.

It's been 18 months since that MSNBC interview and 15 months since that election, so why is anybody still harping on Aleppo at all and why an ostensibly friendly libertarian magazine?

When George Bush's campaign ran fierce attacks against Dukakis over the Willie Horton scandal, Bush's campaign manager, Lee Atwater said, "By the time we're finished, they're going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis' running mate."

Yeah well in 2016 the hopelessly establishmentarian and sycophantic mainstream media decided by the time they were finished, people were going to wonder whether Aleppo is Gary Johnson's middle name. And a bunch of foolish– maybe perversely self-destructive– libertarians would happily allow themselves to be recruited to the establishment's campaign to tattoo Aleppo to Gary Johnson.

I never want to hear about Aleppo again.

So let's have a final conversation about it:

Gary Johnson was castigated by establishmentarians and libertarians alike for not knowing Aleppo is the largest city in Syria in a September 2016 MSNBC interview, in which some remarkably forgettable talking head asks him:

"What would you do if you were elected, about Aleppo?" Johnson replies, "And what is Aleppo?" to which the talking head feigns incredulity, "You're kidding... Aleppo is in Syria. It's the epicenter of the refuge crisis..."

The show's host, Joe Scarborough, then tells us all what to think about this exchange, and it seems like everybody listened to him unquestioningly except for me:

"So Aleppo is the center of a lot of people's concerns across the planet about the terrible humanitarian crisis that's unfolding, not only in Syria, but especially in Aleppo. You asked what is Aleppo. Do you really think that foreign policy is so insignificant that somebody running for president of the United States shouldn't even know what Aleppo is? Where Aleppo is? Why Aleppo is so important?"

Okay Joe, Aleppo's not "so important." And only in a United States that has become a global empire instead of a constitutional republic would a civil war in a small country halfway around the world be so important to the government of the United States.

Our Constitution does not give our government the authority to be the world's police, our people are not and have never been interested in being the world's police, and policing the world and maintaining global military-monetary hegemony has been a rotten deal for most Americans while enriching a few at the cost of vast amounts of American treasure and blood.

And that's exactly the answer that Gary Johnson gave, so whether he knew the name of a city in a tiny war torn third world country or not, Aleppo was Gary Johnson's brightest shining moment in the campaign, the one in which he advocated for a wise, prudent, and constitutional foreign policy, unlike the strong continuity signals we were getting from Hillary Clinton.

Or the deliberately vague and contradictory answers we were getting from Donald Trump, which turned out– predictably enough– to be cover for him to swing full neocon as president and give the military industrial complex and deep state everything they want.

But since people– even libertarians– can't seem to give up on the idea that not knowing the name of the city of Aleppo somehow made Gary Johnson look like an unserious presidential candidate, let's review just how stupid that really is.

Aside from the problem with caring about random trivia more than substantive principles, it's clear that every desk jockey typing in his scorn for Gary Johnson after looking up Aleppo on Wikipedia so they could pretend they knew what it was the next day, hasn't even been paying close enough attention to world politics themselves to remember this is a game the media has been playing with presidential candidates for a long time.

Some smart-ass journalist in 1999 asked George W. Bush to name the presidents of four foreign countries, knowing he wouldn't be able to name any of them (because who would?), and when Bush was only able to name one, the mainstream media gleefully went: "Gotchya!"

Here's the story:

'Texas Gov. George W. Bush was hit with a surprise quiz on foreign affairs and scored only 25 percent.

The Republican presidential front-runner sat down Wednesday with WHDH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Boston, and was asked to name the leaders of four current world hot spots: Chechnya, Taiwan, India and Pakistan.

He was able to give a partial response to just one: Taiwan.

That drew immediate criticism from the camp of Democrat Al Gore, which said the vice president could have answered all four correctly.

"I guess we know that 'C' at Yale was a gentleman's 'C,'" said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane, referring to the way Bush has described his academic record.

The Bush campaign brushed off the incident.

"The person who is running for president is seeking to be the leader of the free world, not a Jeopardy contestant," said Karen Hughes, Bush communications director.

"I would venture to guess that 99.9 percent of most Americans and probably most candidates could not answer who is the president of Chechnya," Hughes added.'

No one believed that this gotchya question really disqualified Bush as a serious presidential candidate. And as it turned out, Bush was widely praised in the years after 9-11 for cultivating a close working relationship with one of those foreign leaders he couldn't name, Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf of Pakistan.

So what mattered was not being a walking encyclopedia, but having a good executive skill set, a quality that no one can deny Gary Johnson has in abundance.

The mainstream media played the same game with Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008 when ABC's Charlie Gibson asked her: ""Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"

And despite the fact that virtually no one, even in political journalism– which I was following obsessively at the time– much less in common parlance, was referring to pre-emptive war as The Bush Doctrine (they were calling it "pre-emption"), people all pretended the next day that Sarah Palin was alarmingly ignorant for tripping over Gibson's likely deliberately obscure usage.

This isn't what good faith conversation looks like. This isn't how we earnestly investigate someone's credentials. It's just laying sophistry-based traps that look dramatic on television to shallow-minded people who have already made up their hearts and minds to shout and boo down everybody but their own "team."

You don't even have to hit the Independent Thought Alarm.

I'm so sick of still having this ridiculous conversation 18 months later I'll see myself out!