Weld downplays Johnson’s Aleppo gaffe, plays up libertarian-style Republicanism
By Evan Lips | September 8, 2016, 19:37 EST
BOSTON — Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate and former two-term Gov. William Weld addressed Emerson College students Thursday at an engagement open to the media, and predictably spent the bulk of his time addressing questions about his running mate’s Syria gaffe.
Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who tapped Weld to run with him in his longshot bid for the White House, earlier that day appeared miffed when asked about Aleppo, the besieged Syrian city at the heart of the country’s refugee crisis, by MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle.
The clip of a stumped Johnson asking Barnicle “what’s Aleppo?” immediately made headlines. By the time Weld arrived at the school to address students and the media, the clip had gone viral.
— Gov. Gary Johnson (@GovGaryJohnson) September 8, 2016
“I saw the whole episode, I didn’t think it was that bad — it looked to me almost like a ‘gotcha’ moment,” Weld told reporters, referencing Barnicle’s ‘are you kidding?’ response to Johnson’s inability to answer. “People can be their own judges of that. I think probably 85 percent of the people in the country couldn’t put Aleppo on the map.”
Weld said he doubts the gaffe will hurt their campaign. He recalled how then-Gov. George W. Bush could not recall the names of “several significant prime ministers” when campaigning for president in 1999.
“I think people can understand that you can forget a detail, so no, I don’t think it will have any impact on the debates except to increase our name recognition,” Weld added.
WATCH: Weld talks about Johnson’s stumble:
The first presidential debate featuring Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, slated for Sept. 26, as of now will not include Johnson. The private Commission on Presidential Debates has said it will make a final decision within the next several weeks. The commission’s selection criteria requires that candidates “have a mathematical chance of winning the vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15 percent in the national electorate as determined by five selected national public polling associations.”
Weld on Thursday referenced a recent Washington Post poll that listed Johnson at 13 percent nationwide. Weld later cited polls showing Americans’ dissatisfaction with Clinton and Trump and criticized those who call a vote for anything but Republican or Democrat a “wasted vote.”
“I think people have a feeling around the country that all is not well,” he said, before making comparisons between George Orwell’s seminal novel 1984 and Trump.
Weld also compared Trump’s rise to that of the Know-Nothings, a party popular during the mid-1850s known for its its anti-immigration stance.
“I predict there will be a schism in the Republican Party,” Weld said at one point, citing Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a sign that the Manhattan real estate mogul is against free trade policies. “Gary Johnson and I are the only free trade ticket as even Mrs. Clinton has turned her back on free trade as a result of political pressure.
“I feel like in a way we’re holding the Republican banner and the Republican platform, without the mean-spiritedness on the social side.”
Weld added that he’s hopeful that the Commission on Presidential Debates will pay attention to the results of a USA Today poll showing that 76 percent of voters third-party candidates like Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein should be included in the debates.
“We think that we’ve got a big highway up the middle between the ‘R’ and the ‘D’ party,” Weld said.
Weld also raised the possibility that neither candidate reaches the necessary 270 Electoral College votes, in which case the House of Representatives elects the president from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes.
In this scenario, each state delegation is allocated one vote — meaning that a state like California, which boasts 55 electoral votes, would be reduced to standing on the same footing as a state like South Dakota, which holds just three votes.
“The Republicans are never going to give it to Mrs. Clinton, and the Democrats are never going to give it to Donald Trump,” he said. “So maybe I’ll get to do one of my favorite things — which is wheeling and dealing.”