Governor Gary Johnson’s campaign is at a critical junction. His attention in the media has spiked due to two main reasons: foreign policy gaffes and his fairly decent polling in states such as Colorado and New Mexico.
Johnson came to the University of Chicago to address both of those reasons today. His campaign billed his speech at International House as a foreign policy address, arguing that “our foreign policy deserves more than a quick sound bite… it deserves serious thought.”
He started the event off by telling everyone that the first presidential candidate he voted for was George McGovern, and that he actually voted third party in 1984 instead of for Ronald Reagan.
In his actual comments on foreign policy, he likened the world stage to a chess game, remarking that he is a “chess player” who looks far ahead. He said that the fight against ISIS is unwinnable, and that the most that the US can do in the fight against ISIS is to contain it down the road. He argued that the US must improve relations with Russia, and that working together in Syria will be a natural starting point for that. He doubled down on his infamous inability to name a foreign leader that he admires, noting that it has been a week since he made headlines for failing to name a world leader he admires and that no one has come to mind. I find it impossible to believe that there is no world leader worthy of admiration (notice that he was not asked to find one with whom he agrees!).
Perhaps the most interesting part of the event was during the question period, where Johnson was asked how his inability to identify Aleppo should be weighed by voters. Johnson became noticeably angry at this question, and, in the word of one of the reporters covering the event, “rail[ed] against those who think naming foreign leaders is a qualification to be president.” From my perspective, it is far more concerning that Johnson believes that Russia is a partner for peace in Syria than his initial failure to identify Aleppo. Johnson had mentioned that he spends every day doing hours of interviews, so I would imagine (and this is being generous) that there are times when he had a brain freeze. However, his continued insistence that Russia is a potential partner is very troubling.
The day before Johnson’s foreign policy address, a fellow third party candidate called him unfit due to his stances on the topic he spent today addressing. Evan McMullin called Johnson unfit for the presidency because Johnson “equat[ed] Syria deaths caused by Assad and the West.”
Will this attempt at a foreign policy reset matter? UChicago’s own Nate Silver thinks that it is possible for Johnson to just carry New Mexico on Election Day, while Trump and Clinton both fail to clinch 270 electoral votes. Crazier things have definitely happened this election cycle.