Gary Johnson Declines to Name Leader of North Korea

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Candidate who may or may not know who Kim Jong-un is.Photo: Molly Riley/AFP/Getty Images

It appears that from now until Election Day, every Gary Johnson interview will include a pop quiz on foreign policy. Rather than studying up on the topic, the Libertarian nominee has decided to opt out of the test.

In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, Johnson was asked if he knew the name of North Korea’s leader. “I do,” he replied. “‘You want me to name’ the person, he said, then added, dryly, ‘Really.’” Johnson never answered the question.

Johnson has had two embarrassing foreign-policy gaffes in recent weeks. First, he failed to recognize Aleppo as a besieged city in Syria, and then he was unable to name a world leader he admired. He’s tried to recover by spinning his lack of detailed foreign-policy knowledge as an asset.

“Because Hillary Clinton can dot the i’s and cross the t’s on geographic leaders, of the names of foreign leaders,” he told the Times, “the underlying fact that hundreds of thousands of people have died in Syria goes by the wayside.” He went on to say that Clinton “bears responsibility for what’s happened, shared responsibility for what’s happened in Syria. I would not have put us in that situation from the get-go.”

Johnson also equated the targeting of civilians by Syrian government forces with the accidental bombing of noncombatants by U.S.-led coalition forces. When pushed four times on that point, Johnson said sarcastically, “Well no, of course not — we’re so much better than all that … We’re so much better when in Afghanistan, we bomb the hospital and 60 people are killed in the hospital.”

When asked about the other story distracting from his message — running mate Bill Weld telling the Boston Globe that he’s focused on preventing a Donald Trump presidency and discussing the possibility of helping the Republican Party rebuild after the election — Johnson went with the same strategy. He would not say whether Weld warned him about the tactical shift before the interview.

“That may be his primary mission,” Johnson said. “We’re not scripted at all. And so I guess my role will be Hillary and his role will be Donald Trump.”

Weld repeatedly clarified on Wednesday that his aim in attacking Trump is not to help Hillary Clinton — and he’s not abandoning ship. “My Libertarian hat is firmly planted on my head, and will remain there,” he said in a statement, adding that he “believe[s] Gary Johnson to be the best candidate for president.”

In fact, he thinks his running mate is a lot like one of our greatest presidents. In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday, he said of Johnson’s gaffes, “We would like to have those two sentences back. No question.”

“Gary is quick to assign blame to himself and to take responsibility. Not always the hallmark of a practicing politician. But he is a very humble guy. He is very ambitious and very strong, but he has tremendous humility,” Weld continued. “He kind of — don’t laugh. He kind of reminds me in many ways of Abraham Lincoln, another great truth-teller of his time.”