Saturday, September 10, 2016

Gary Johnson and the Aleppo ambush

Election 2016: It’s a Presidential Campaign, Not a Geography Quiz | The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism - Thomas L. Knapp:

September 9, 2016 - "On September 8, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where panelist Mike Barnicle hit him with the question:
Barnicle: “What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?”
Johnson: “About?”
Barnicle: “Aleppo.”
Johnson: “And what is ALEPPO?”
Barnicle: “You’re kidding.”
Johnson: “No.”
"Maybe you’ve heard about this exchange. Maybe you know (or maybe you Googled and found out) that Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and a focal point of the war between Syria’s government and Islamic State rebels.

"Be warned: If you listened to MSNBC’s 'expert' on Syria, or read the New York Times account of Johnson’s 'faux pas,' you got bad scoop. They didn’t know much about Aleppo either, inaccurately describing the city as the Islamic State’s 'capital' (that’s Raqqa, not Aleppo).

"My gut feeling is that the average American will come down on Johnson’s side of this teapot tempest, for two reasons.

"First, most Americans likely know little if anything about Aleppo and don’t care to, so they can probably sympathize. Johnson’s foreign policy focus as a presidential candidate is 'big picture.' He wants the US to stop militarily intervening everywhere around the world at the drop of a hat. He doesn’t have to know the name of every city in the world to know that he doesn’t want to bomb them.

"Secondly, the question was transparently framed as an ambush. Barnicle’s obvious intent was to try and get a Dan Quayle or George W. Bush type howler or malapropism out of Johnson.

"Any TV talking head who queried Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump on the subject would do so roughly as follows:
Moving on to Syria: If elected, what is your plan to address the civil war there, destroy ISIS and bring peace to the region? And what do you think of reports of new chemical attacks in the country’s largest city, Aleppo, where fighting between regime forces and ISIS has flared up again?
"Not: “What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?'

"To Johnson’s credit, he quickly owned up to and apologized for his knowledge gap in the area of Syrian geography. But he shouldn’t have had to, because he shouldn’t have been asked that question in that exceedingly unprofessional manner.

"Running for president is not a geography quiz.

"And Morning Joe isn’t — or at least shouldn’t be — an arm of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, charged with helping her regain traction among voters who have abandoned her for third party candidates because of her demonstrated personal corruption and incompetence, not to mention her dangerous foreign policy belligerence."

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Public domain: To the extent possible under law, Thomas L. Knapp has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. This work is published from: United States.


  1. I notice this story is already being reframed. For example, "The Independent" (UK) today reported that Johnon was asked "what would he do about Aleppo and the refugee crisis that the killings there have helped stir?" - adding in precisely the context that (as Mr. Knapp points out) Barnicle omitted.

  2. Similary, ABC (Australia) had it that The gaffe came during an MSNBC interview about the continuing battle for Syria's biggest city, Aleppo, which has been divided for years into government and rebel sectors and has been in the news daily in recent weeks" - as if they were already talking about Syria and the refugee crisis. In fact, Barnicle's question came out of the blue, completely without any of the context ABC supplied.

  3. Notice that ABC's story came verbatim from Voice of America, so the same charge of misleading framing applies to VOA as well.

  4. Even Fox is claiming that "the Libertarian was [asked] about what he would do to resolve the crisis in Aleppo, a Syrian city at the heart of the nation’s civil war" - exactly what he was not asked. So it's not just the pro-Clinton media trying to spin this.

  5. And, of course, the New York Times had it that: " Mr. Johnson’s credibility suffered a blow when he fumbled over a question about the crisis in Syria, asking an MSNBC commentator, 'What is Aleppo?' - again implying that this came in the context of a discussion about 'the crisis in Syria' - when in fact any clues that 'a leppo' had to do with Syria, the war there, or the refugee crisis there were left out of the question.

  6. Gary Johnson is the man. We need him in there and I am a Canadian saying this. Gary Johnson should be the president just like Ron Paul should have been.