Third party candidates have often changed the course of the election cycle by bringing new issues to the forefront of debates and by stealing votes from Democratic and Republican candidates. In 2000, Green Party’s Ralph Nader did just that, winning 2.7 percent of the national votes which many claim stole the presidency from Democrat Al Gore, who lost to Republican George W. Bush by a measly five electoral college votes.
In the 2016 election, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, a former New Mexico governor, has polled relatively well for a third party candidate at around nine percent. Although he has not polled well enough to meet the threshold for presidential debates, Johnson had the opportunity to catapult his fringe party onto the national stage.
But … then he went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and lost all his remaining credibility.
On the show, one of the regular guests Mike Barnicle asked Johnson, “What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?”
“About?” Johnson replied.
“Aleppo,” Barnicle said.
“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson asked.
Barnicle responded, “You’re kidding,” to which Johnson emphatically said no, prompting Barnicle to explain that Aleppo is a city in Syria that epitomizes the refugee crisis.
That is just not acceptable. If you run for president, you should at least have a general sense of global affairs as you could possibly take on the roles of Chief Diplomat and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military. I mean, if I a 16-year-old girl who cannot vote knows where Aleppo is, then I am pretty sure that a candidate running for the office of the United States president should as well.
However, Johnson is not the first candidate to fumble on foreign policy questions. During the 2000 election cycle, a Boston NBC affiliate asked George W. Bush to name the leaders of four hot spots in American foreign policy: Chechnya, Taiwan, India and Pakistan. Bush could only give the name of the president of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui.
Donald Trump himself has spoken incorrectly about a multitude of foreign policy issues, most notably U.S. involvement in NATO. During a CNN town hall on March 9, Trump remarked, “The other thing that’s bad about NATO, we’re paying too much. We’re spending a tremendous — billions and billions of dollars on NATO. …We’re paying too much! You have countries in NATO, I think it’s 28 countries – you have countries in NATO that are getting a free ride and it’s unfair, it’s very unfair.” However, the annual direct contribution is under $500 million a year.
I fear that in this upcoming election voters undervalue factual and viable policy solutions. I completely recognize that specific tax policy and legislative agendas are not as intriguing as shocking scandals, but we must remember that we will head to the polls in November to decide the future of our country and I can assure you that we do not want a president who has failed to identify Aleppo on a map.