Gaffes aside, Johnson could handle policy

Jack Hunter is politics editor for the website Rare.

Last month Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson made headlines when he didn’t know what Aleppo was. It’s a city in Syria that is at the heart of the current refugee crisis. Someone running for president should probably know this.

Last week Johnson created headlines again when he couldn’t name a single foreign leader he admired. It was an odd question, and one I’ve certainly never thought about. I can’t imagine it’s something most Americans, including public officials, have pondered.

Still, Johnson looked bad. He continues to make a weak and embarrassing national impression too often. In politics, as in most things, perception is reality.

But if we’re talking foreign policy, which candidate would realistically be the worst between Johnson, Clinton and Trump?

Johnson’s basic outlook is far more sober. It’s not even close. When you break down what kind of foreign policy would be most practical, or which is most in-line with how most Americans say the U.S. should approach affairs abroad, Johnson prevails.

Clinton knows exactly where and what Aleppo is — because she would bomb it, deliver more American weapons there, and eagerly devise how to have the U.S. become even more intertwined in Syria’s civil war.

This is simply what Clinton does. She’s a wholesale, true believer in the bipartisan Washington consensus that more foreign intervention is always preferable to less. The former secretary of state is unquestionably the most studied and knowledgeable foreign policy candidate compared to Trump and Johnson.

But to what end?

Clinton is among the most hawkish members of her own party. Observers on left and right have said she’s similar to Bush-Cheney Republicans a decade ago. My former boss, Republican Sen. Rand Paul called her a “neoconservative” during the Republican primaries, and he wasn’t exaggerating. Left-leaning Mother Jones has a quiz that asks, “Who Said It?: Hillary Clinton or John McCain?”

Trump also thinks we should bomb countries and take their oil. He thinks he can wipe out ISIS in a month. In other words, the very foreign policy boondoggles the Republican nominee rightly criticizes Clinton over, seem to be the same kind of reckless interventions he would engage in so long as they were branded Trump. American foreign policy could become just an extension of the president’s ego.

I would take a bumbling Gary Johnson over a Commander in Chief Trump.

Still, as Ashford notes, “Though Johnson’s gaffes are not unique — politicians have committed worse sins of ignorance in this election and in past ones — they continue to undermine his campaign’s attempt to present a pragmatic foreign policy alternative.”

“For a politician, it’s not enough to have great ideas,” she adds. “You also have to sell them.”

Too many voters probably think Johnson’s foreign policy views sound dumb, because the person selling them has sounded dumb. They might think Trump’s positions sound crazy, because he sounds crazy.

Similarly, and unfortunately, voters will also likely believe Clinton’s foreign policy sounds superior and thus acceptable because the person selling them sounds like she knows what she’s talking about. Whether Hillary Clinton’s actual policies are good for America’s long-term security become beside the point.

It would be great to see Gary Johnson pointing this out, instead of spending so much time explaining his own mistakes.