Thursday, September 29, 2016


By Dominique Paul Noth
Gary Johnson's Libertarian brain lock.
I think the former Mexican president Gary Johnson was trying to remember  was Vincente Fox, who famously threw the f word at Donald Trump on video.

Or it could have been Felipe Calderón, who was president for six years ending in 2012. But I think it was Fox,  who came before Calderon and thus would have overlapped Johnson’s time as governor of New Mexico.

Yes, New Mexico, a state of multicultural heritage. Yet the Libertarian candidate for president who led that state for two terms couldn’t think of the name of a single foreign leader he admired on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC “Hardball” Sept. 28. If his vice presidential compadre Bill Weld hadn’t been there to throw in Merkel (Angela of Germany), Johnson would have been left dangling. (Weld’s lightness on his feet is one reason many think the Libertarian names on the ballot should be reversed.)

Johnson admitted he was having “an Aleppo moment,” describing a deer in headlights look he gave weeks earlier on “Morning Joe” where he blanked on the  one Syrian city that has been all over the news because of the refugee crisis and raging combat to liberate it from ISIL.
I’m not running for anything so my knowledge is not at issue.  But  Johnson’s blind spots on foreign affairs had me running my mind over how many admirable foreign leaders I could think of quickly, and that was two minutes I’ll never get back.

Netanyahu?  No, I think Bibi is almost as self-centered as Vladimir Putin. I certainly admire Justin Trudeau, who is far more than a People magazine hottie and is carving an impressive record, in two languages, on environmental, economic and  indigenous people issues.

I’d understand if Johnson had trouble digging out Theresa May’s name since she has only been the United Kingdom prime minister  since July. And this may not have been the moment for him to point out a successful woman in high office. (Why remind voters that the only bright spot in the presidential race was Hillary Clinton? I think one reason so many Republicans hate her is they realize she is the far superior candidate and can't bring themselves to admit it.)

I do admire France’s Francois Hollande who has dealt with two large terrorist crises with aplomb – and on the other extreme is Myanmar’s noted chief  councilor (equivalent of prime minister) who has gone back and forth from house arrest to humanitarian prizes (including the Nobel for Peace) and now is technically leader if the country is serious about giving her some power.  Her name is Aung San Suu Kyi and I confess to having double-checked the spelling.

All the above have been in the news recently and should be instantly familiar to anyone seeking the White House.  I know some aspects of the libertarian credo have appeal to millennials  (legalizing marijuana, pro-choice) but Johnson is also keen on fracking, the TPP and less controls on business.  So it is hard to understand any Bernie Sanders fan slipping that way – or, on the other hand, disillusioned Republicans heading into those high weeds.

When Obama says a vote for him or  Jill Stein, or no vote, is a vote for Trump,  I understand --  but don’t completely agree. I would look hard at where the voter lives, because in some precincts it makes no difference. In others, it matters mightily. In Wisconsin it could matter wherever you live.

I mean, libertarians like freedom, but freedom from knowledge is a bit much.

It was ironic after thinking about Johnson’s gaffe, in the next  hours I had to think about Trump.

Trump trots out stagecraft in Waukesha.
He was in Wisconsin Sept. 28 for a rally in the reddest area of the state, setting up in the Waukesha Expo.  A word about staging. The Expo is noted for expandable space and adjustable seating depending on the event. Since state Republicans have been tepid about Trump, the arena was arranged so that a crowd of about 1,000 looked on the TV screen like a Packers game.

In another  bit of Barnum,  Trump kept referring in his talk to thousands more waiting outside.  Well ask the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which according to its Twitter feed had more people covering a rather standard rally  than would have been used had the Pope come to town.

I just dipped in by live stream,  and the first thought was that the Expo was the appropriate venue since the audience is penned like cattle and there were endless delays. Just my experience at events there.

The attendees, clutching their signs and trying to keep their cool,  were kept suffering through multiple replays of Trump’s amped up audio tape interspersed with Ted Nugent style  screaming heavy metal. The music choice was understandable because the crowd has be kept agitated and on  nerve ends and so many recording artists had warned Trump not to use their music anymore.

I heard my favorite spiel line several times on tape --   that America needed  “a leader in the worst way possible,” which spoke for itself.

The event finally started off with an invocation from a female minister. It flatly preached  Trump as the embodiment of Christ’s values and Hillary, well, there’s that other guy. In the live stream a video of Hillary’s coughing was inserted (the music should have been Cheap Trick) and Trump’s actual speech claimed victory in the Monday night debate though all the polls say he lost badly. So in fact did sensible people in Waukesha County who stayed home.

He was preceded by an almost endless array of  enthusiastic politicians (Waukesha County Exec Paul Farrow, Waukesha Rep. Adam Neylon, state GOP leader Brad Courtney, DNR’s bubbly blond deerstalker Cathy Stepp, current arms merchant and former Sen. Bob Kasten, former Gov. Tommy Thompson (whom,  Trump claimed,  told him Wisconsin was back in play) and Trump’s traveling majordomo Rudy Giuliani.

Obviously Trump needs huge turnout from Waukesha. Also obvious at the rally he has his work cut out for him. The only special moment for me in Trump’s 40 minute speech (after hours of waiting) was an unintentional prediction of his future:  “If we don’t win, it will be one of the great wastes of time, energy and money — certainly in my life, that I can tell you.”

The brain does  strange things shifting from Johnson to Trump – it is sort of like a nightmare where you only dream of losers. But back in the real world it clarified a difference.

Johnson at least doesn’t mind looking like a fool, though he should.  Trump would have handled the question defiantly, saying he doesn’t need to know names because there’ll be people in the White House to teach him.  He so hates looking like a fool, which considering how often he acts like a fool is egocentric shameless.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for

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