- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2016

Is Gary Johnson finished?

The more important question probably is, did the Libertarian presidential candidate ever really have a chance?

Although most Americans dislike and distrust both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, many think a vote for Mr. Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein is a wasted ballot or, worse, helps their more despised candidate. Last month’s Quinnipiac University poll found only 37 percent of likely voters were willing to go with a third party, whereas 61 percent were opposed.



Furthermore, Mr. Johnson doesn’t seem to be a very good candidate — or libertarian, for that matter.

On Thursday’s MSNBC “Morning Joe,” Mr. Johnson didn’t know what or where Aleppo, Syria, was when questioned. Given the country is going through a major civil war threatening the world’s security and is amid an enormous refugee crisis, that’s troubling.

“Finally, a good argument against smoking marijuana,” Spencer Ackerman, a U.S. national security reporter at the Guardian, tweeted in reaction to Mr. Johnson’s gaffe.

Mr. Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, has admitted using the drug, advocates for its legalization, and was once the chief executive of a business that sold recreational pot products.

Still, to err is human, so I’ll let this one slide.

What’s inexcusable was a CNBC interview Mr. Johnson did where he said he would be open to supporting a carbon tax. What’s free-market or fiscally conservative about that?

Under a carbon tax, businesses, utilities and individuals are taxed on the amount of carbon dioxide-emitting energy they consume. Mr. Johnson says he believes catastrophic “man-caused” global warming is occurring and that a carbon “fee” is a “free-market solution.”

“Johnson’s ‘solution’ could have a disastrous effect on the nation’s economy and would likely drive energy prices to all-time highs,” wrote Justin Haskins, executive editor of The Heartland Institute. “For some, the economic tradeoff may be considered worthwhile, but it is more than a little bizarre for a self-described libertarian to suggest the answer to any problem is to enact a massive government taxing scheme that would almost certainly be regulated by a substantial and centralized bureaucratic regime.”

Indeed.

Still, Mr. Johnson has been receiving the warmth of some #NeverTrump Republicans, who have said they’re considering the Libertarian ticket.

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney broke his monthlong Twitter silence to give a nod to Mr. Johnson, saying he should be included on the presidential debate stage. Mr. Johnson needs to garner 15 percent support in national polling to be included; Real Clear Politics average of polls has him at 9 percent.

Gaffes like not knowing where Aleppo is will not help Mr. Johnson get there. That comment, along with his carbon position, could also undermine a potential endorsement from Mr. Romney, which has long been rumored.

Libertarians, in general, have been criticized for being isolationist and lacking interest in foreign policy. Mr. Johnson put that stereotype on full display on Thursday.

“I’m incredibly frustrated with myself,” Mr. Johnson said after the “Morning Joe” interview. “I have to get smarter and that’s just part of the process.”

With two weeks to go before the first presidential debate, he’s running out of time. But then again, he may never have had a shot in the first place.

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