Election 2016 Featured Contributors Gary Johnson Libertarian Party

Un-Banal Is Not Unserious

Written by Ron Litchman

Poor, Gary Johnson.  He just can’t be banal when it would do him some good (like on stage with Chris Matthews).

And he pays the price.  The gaffes get all the attention, drowning out all meaningful thought.

On a MSNBC “Town Hall,” Matthews looked down at his note cards and read to Gary the question:  “Who’s your favorite foreign leader?”

Any moderately slick pol, however vapid, would have vaulted over that sand trap with some canned platitude like:

Oh, that’s Theresa May, Britain’s new Prime Minister . . . I admire how she’s shouldering the challenge of leading Britain out of the EU and cutting the best deal.  

– OR–

Oh, it’s Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, for her political courage in accepting Syrian refugees, against popular opposition.

– OR–

Oh, Francois Hollande, of France, who has stood so strong in the face of ISIS’s most recent series of attacks, (even though he is a socialist . . . listen-up Bernie-istes, we can have common ground.)

– OR–

Oh, Japan’s Shinzo Abe . . . he has struggled to help dig Japan out of its decade-long economic doldrums, against much criticism.  (This would upset the Radical Libertarians who would abolish our Fed and surely don’t want to hear any kind words for Japan’s aggressive central bank – demonstrating Gary is not mindlessly shackled to the Libertarian Party’s platform.)

– OR–

Oh, Justin Trudeau . . . he’s got some young and fresh charisma we haven’t seen in some time in North America and he agrees on legalizing marijuana.  (Having hyperlinks at the ready would have impressed the trendy Matthews.)

Or, even, “No, I don’t have a favorite.”

BUT, NO – Gary just can’t follow the usual script.

He had to reach for something substantive to say.   To pause, to think of a foreign leader he actually favored.  A real answer.  That brought to mind Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, whose name escaped him.  Fox’s term as Mexico’s president overlapped for about three years with Gary’s term as governor of New Mexico.  They shared a common border.   Not many state governors have official business with foreign heads of state, but Gary may well have had direct dealings with Vicente Fox.  That likely involved drug trafficking or immigration, a couple of the central issues in this presidential election campaign.

But we reached none of this substance because Gary got flustered when Matthews hammered him – “any country, any continent” – into feeling that another “Aleppo”-type  “gaffe” was arising.  Then the media maelstrom in its wake, drowned out any chance for a meaningful discussion.

Hillarians are giddy over this . . .

. . . with equal measures of professed scorn and schadenfreude.  One particularly adamant person of my acquaintance sites this as proof that Gary’s not “smart.”  Smart?  Well, compared to Einstein or me, nolo contendere.

But “smart” compared to that string of brilliancies from Hillarycare to the private server?  Hillary is “smart” enough (like “likeable enough”) to memorize the names of 25 heads of state, but she lacks circumspection, the ability to think ahead to visualize the ramifications of her actions and decisions.  That’s Hillary’s judgment problem.  Smarts without judgment are more dangerous than a “gotcha” on TV.

Is Gary “unserious” because he’s un-banal?

(Herein the columnist bites the hand that feeds him.)

Elsewhere in this space, morning is greeted by “not being able to name two world leaders he admired, when he himself aspires to be in the club, makes him an unserious candidate.”

Let’s pause to consider that thesis.  To over-think this way more than it deserves, and parse it, what’s the definition of a “favorite world leader” – which was the actual question.  I understand “favorite team,” although, not a sports fan, I don’t have one.  Is a president required supposed to have “favorites”?  Do heads of state “Like” each other?

This campaign-by-pop-quiz-cum-gaffe has become silly.

On the other hand, eliciting a meaningful dissertation of a candidate’s political philosophy could be enormously illuminating.  Rather than a superficial thumbs-up or thumbs-down, ask what about some historical figure would a candidate emulate, what would the candidate avoid.  (Say, “President Kennedy inspired idealism among young Americans . . . but to think we could ‘pay any price, bear any burden’ was naive.”)

To hear more of this, put Gary in the debates and then see how he stacks up against those other two.

We the People of the United States have been presented two alternatives who are profoundly distasteful for substantive reasons.  There’s a third choice, whose story isn’t heard above the din of the media circus.

Succumbing to that superficiality is the mark of unserious voters.

Ron Litchman is Chair of The Manhattan Libertarian Party.  ManhattanLP.org.  (He expresses his own views, not necessarily those of the Manhattan, New York State or National Libertarian Party, nor of any other individual.)

Photo Credit:  Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com

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About the author

Ron Litchman

Ron Litchman, Chair, Manhattan Libertarian Party
(His views expressed herein are solely his own, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Party, national, state or county, or Libertarian Party candidates for office.)

A lawyer, portfolio manager and investment advisor, Ron Litchman was elected Chair of the MLP in 2016, and writes on economics, government policy and current politics with a Libertarian voice.