In Defense of Gary Johnson

The Clinton smear machine, having finally noticed that Gary Johnson is cutting into what they regard as Hillary’s rightful share of the so-called “millennial” vote, has set its sights on the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate. It wasn’t supposed to be this way: the conventional wisdom was that the Libertarian ticket of Johnson and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld would split the traditionally Republican base, providing an outlet for the “Never Trump” crowd to vent their spleen.

This delighted the pro-Clinton “mainstream” media, which gave both Johnson and Weld more publicity – most of it highly favorable – than any third party ticket in memory. And these ostensible Libertarians reciprocated in kind: in an unforgettably baffling CNN “Town Hall” with Chris Cuomo, who asked the duo how they would describe Hillary Clinton in a word or a phrase, Johnson answered: “Hillary Clinton, a wonderful public servant.” Asked the same question, Weld averred:

“Old friend. Nice kid. Knew her in her 20s. We shared an office in the Nixon impeachment, a real bond, lifelong. Seriously. Not kidding.”

Nope – not kidding! Even more baffling – and telling – was their evaluation of Barack Obama: Johnson opined he’s “A good guy,” while Weld praised him as “statesmen-like.”

This kind of talk presaged the kind of campaign Johnson-Weld would be running: ditching libertarianism and adopting a platform that resembles the public effusions of the Ripon Society, circa 1964, which declared at its inception that it would “fight for the middle ground.” The campaign has sought to redefine libertarianism as “centrism,” a grotesque ploy that reduced a radical ideology with a long and distinguished history to an anodyne phrase that George Romney or Nelson Rockefeller might have coined: “Fiscally conservative and socially inclusive.”

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This strategy has had consequences that hardly anyone foresaw. While Johnson-Weld went out of their way not to criticize Mrs. Clinton except in the mildest possible terms – saving their venom for Donald Trump, whom Weld likened to Hitler – what everyone overlooked is that Trump was defining the race. One was either for Trump or against him – and the Libertarians wound up splitting the anti-Trump vote.

This was exacerbated by their left-sounding campaign rhetoric, which embraced a carbon tax (Johnson later retreated), a “Fair Tax,” an explicit rejection of measures to ensure the religious liberty of Christians and others opposed to gay marriage, and a guaranteed spot for Mitt Romney in his administration. Add to this Johnson’snotoriety as a marijuana advocate, and the campaign’s targeting of “millennial” voters, and polls of a four-way contest (including Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate) began to show that Johnson-Weld spelled trouble for Hillary. This was the signal for the Clintonian regiments of the Fourth Estate to go into action.

It began with an interview on “Morning Joe,” when Johnson was asked: “What would you do about Aleppo?” His answer was to look baffled for a long moment, and then ask: “What is Aleppo?”

Mike Barnicle snarked: “You’re kidding.” Johnson said no, he wasn’t kidding. In tones of barely restrained contempt, Barnicle explained that Aleppo is “the epicenter of the refugee crisis” – a somewhat disingenuous assertion, because that city is more accurately the “epicenter” of the Islamist revolt against the government, and refugees are coming from all over Syria. In any case, once Johnson understood what Barnicle was referring to he gave an excellent answer:

“Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it’s a mess. I think that the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end. But when we’ve aligned ourselves with — when we’ve supported the opposition of the Free Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists.

“And then the fact that we’re also supporting the Kurds and this is — it’s just — it’s just a mess. And that this is the result of regime change that we end up supporting. And, inevitably, these regime changes have led a less-safe world.”

This is a perfectly rational answer – and, as readers of this column will note, it’s practically identical to Trump’s view – but Joe Scarborough wasn’t about to let it go: “Do you really think,” he railed, “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?”

This is utter nonsense: while the interventionists have latched on to Aleppo as a “humanitarian crisis” created by Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad that requires US intervention, the campaign to paint the city’s defenders as angels of mercy is laughable. Aleppo is in the hands of Islamists who behead children. The battle for the city is indeed important, albeit not for the reason Scarborough and his fellow interventionists would give: it is the last gasp of the US-supported Islamist rebels and their even more radical allies in al-Qaeda and affiliated groups, who are being pushed out of Syria by the combined government-Russian offensive. This the War Party wants to prevent at all costs: regime-change in Syria is their goal, not fighting terrorism. Thus the cry to “Save Aleppo!” is heard throughout the media, amid a longstanding call from Hillary Clinton for a “no-fly zone.”

This would lead to a direct military confrontation with the Russians, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress. Responding to a question from Sen. Roger Whicker (R-Mississippi) about establishing a no-fly zone, the Marine Corps General averred:

“Right now, Senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria it would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia. That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make.”

The desirability of a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia is a regular theme put out there by the Clinton camp, and so this dire prospect bothers the Clintonians and their media cheering section not at all. As far as the rest of us are concerned, however, the idea of approaching the brink of World War III over Syria is absolutely loony. Given a choice between “saving” Aleppo and not turning much of the globe into radioactive ash, Gary Johnson chooses the latter.

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