Gary Johnson's confusion over Aleppo on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on...

Gary Johnson's confusion over Aleppo on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, lit up social media. Credit: MSNBC / Morning Joe

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was asked on MSNBC for his view on Aleppo — where Syria’s Bashar Assad and rebel forces wage war, creating a torrent of refugees.

“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson replied.

Video of the gaffe went viral within minutes of the broadcast on Thursday.

Tweeters and Facebookers joked about Johnson’s acknowledged pot consumption. They also recalled how Johnson in June had to ask who Harriet Tubman was.

Of course, plenty of other Americans cannot locate Aleppo on a map or describe what’s happened there. But most Americans aren’t running for president, even if Johnson does so on a ballot line that opposes constant U.S. intervention.

Johnson later explained: “I immediately was thinking about an acronym, not the Syrian conflict. I blanked. It happens, and it will happen again during the course of this campaign.”

Longshot Johnson’s flub offered light distraction from a very grim veterans’ forum the night before, where contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced questions.

Trump falsely insisted again, despite his own recorded statements from the time, that he opposed the Iraq invasion.

American generals, he said, are “reduced to rubble.” Did this mean, as his friend retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn later suggested, a “disconnect” between the military and the White House? OK, but what rubble?

In hailing ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin’s “very strong control” over Russia, was Trump hinting that as president he should have authoritarian “control” of America?

Trump references a secret plan to defeat ISIS. President Richard Nixon, whose likeness is tattooed on the back of flamboyant Trump adviser Roger Stone, supposedly had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War — but never did.

Clinton cannot travel lightly through this territory. As former secretary of state under President Barack Obama, she becomes part owner of the status quo.

Chastened for a decade over her famous Iraq vote as senator, she said: “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we’re not putting ground troops into Syria.”

That left questions about troops now in Iraq and led analysts to wonder what slippery distinction there might be between ground troops and combat troops. And a Clinton surrogate, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) later called it a mistake to say it.

Some might find Johnson, in his hazy way, less cloud-shrouded than his major-party rivals.

“Can I name every city in Syria? No,” Johnson said Thursday. “Should I have identified Aleppo? Yes. Do I understand its significance? Yes.

“But when we involve ourselves militarily,” he added, “we end up with a situation that in most cases is not better and, in many cases, ends up being worse.”

On Friday, word came that North Korea did another nuclear test, underscoring the sober side of it all.


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