This week in an interview with The New York Times, Gary Johnson broke all the rules.
He criticized the NYT’s preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, for being a strong advocate for war (she is), and he even said Clinton deserves a share of the blame for the ongoing disaster in Syria (she does). Needless to say, these are not opinions that often make their way into the pages of the Times.
Even more remarkable, Johnson suggested that it’s just as bad when America kills civilians as when the Syrian government kills civilians.
These probably seem like eminently reasonable positions. But in the context of normal US political discourse, they are outrageous. Indeed, judging from the write-up, the good folks at the Times appeared to be genuinely flustered by the experience.
Consider how the Times responded to Johnson’s charge of moral equivalence:
But when pressed four times on whether he saw a moral equivalence between deaths caused by the United States, directly or indirectly, and mass killings of civilians by Mr. Assad and his allies, Mr. Johnson made clear that he did.
You see that? The Times was so shocked by Johnson’s answer that they badgered him four more times to see if he would retract it. Instead, Johnson did one better. He mocked them:
“Well no, of course not — we’re so much better than all that,” Mr. Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, said sarcastically. “We’re so much better when in Afghanistan, we bomb the hospital and 60 people are killed in the hospital.”
Here, Johnson is of course referring to the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last fall. His death toll might be a bit on the high side, at least from the bombing itself, but the point is spot on. We have to judge policies and actions based on their results. To the family that loses a loved one, it doesn’t much matter whether you are bombing for the sake of dictatorship, democracy, or simple electoral politics; the bombs still kill civilians in any case. They are notoriously indiscriminate creatures after all, those bombs.
To the Times and other conventional media outlets, this is a radical position. But everyone else should see Johnson’s comments for what they are: common sense.
The rest of the Times article proceeds in much the same fashion, and is accidentally a delight to read. Because Johnson is not their candidate, they are attempting to frame all of his positions in the most negative light possible. But their bias is so heavy-handed–and their own pro-intervention position on Syria so absurd–that the whole piece feels almost like a self-parody. You can check it out here: