This George W. Bush & Gary Johnson Joke Is Awkward
Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson made a now-notorious appearance on Thursday's Morning Joe on Sept. 8 where he discussed his presidential platform with Mike Barnicle. Barnicle asked the nominee how he would approach the situation in Aleppo, Syria to which Johnson didn't have much to offer besides, "What is Aleppo?" It's not the first time, though, that Johnson was out of the loop. Back in 2000, Johnson and George W. Bush exchanged words at a conference on state government, the New York Times reported at the time, and this Johnson quote is both funny and telling. It resurfaced on Twitter Thursday.
Specifically, New York Magazine editor Eric Levitz shared the photo on Twitter Thursday morning that detailed the former New Mexico governor's exchange with Bush. The quote read, "George turns to me and says, 'What are they talking about?' I said, 'I don't know.' He said, 'You don't know a thing, do you?' And I said, 'Not one thing.' He said, 'Neither do I.' And we kind of high-fived."
I'm not sure what's most alarming about this — whether it's that all the way back in 2000, Bush and Johnson were high-fiving over knowing nothing and then Bush became president, or perhaps that Johnson still needs to brush up on some knowledge as he runs for the same office 16 years later. Can the world afford to have an American president who doesn't seem to know or understand why Aleppo is so important to the ongoing crisis in Syria? Aleppo is a war-torn city in northwest Syria that is so central to the country's refugee crisis.
Johnson's confusion over Aleppo was met with backlash from the show's host Joe Scarborough and other media networks. Scarborough specifically asked the nominee, "So Aleppo is the center of a lot of people's concerns across the planet. ... 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?"
It's true that everyone makes mistakes and one might forget about Aleppo from time to time, but an individual running for president of the United States should probably be more informed about a conflict that will be an important aspect of their future foreign policy platform. After the embarrassing TV blunder, Johnson released a statement in hopes of clarifying that he actually does know what Aleppo is and where it's located. He suggested:
Yes, I understand the dynamics of the Syrian conflict — I talk about them every day. But hit with "What about Aleppo?", I was immediately thinking about an acronym, not the Syrian conflict. I blanked. It happens, and it will happen again during the course of the campaign.
Can I name every city in Syria? No. Should I have identified Aleppo? Yes. Do I understand its significance? Yes.
Maybe Bush is taking some time today to send Johnson a few virtual high-fives.