Looks like campaign 2016 reached its nadir this morning when Libertarian candidate former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson responded to a question on Morning Joe as to what he would do about Aleppo by saying, “What’s Aleppo?” Johnson did not say where is it but what is it! The inability to recall the tragic events transpiring in Syria’s second largest city makes some of Donald Trump’s mis-speaks pale by comparison. Just when he was pushing hard to have himself included in the presidential debates, Johnson probably has removed himself from any possibility that poll numbers will grant him entre to the debates. Meanwhile his blooper was so blatant no one needed fact check it!
The problem with a good idea like last night’s program was that the Commander in Chief Forum really had two agendas. On the one hand, there was a serious interest in displaying both candidates before a group of military people—mainly retired—to address questions concerning America’s national security. This included all the numerous arenas within which the American military is serving. It addressed the matter of possible future military conflicts and the nature of possible engagements by U.S. forces. On this matter, the candidates were asked to be substantive; which Clinton was and Trump was not.
It was the second agenda, however, which appeared to really be the focus of some of the Forum’s organizers; how will the next President treat America’s war veterans and will be their future benefit package. The matters included: hospital beds; availability of prompt medical attention; array of medical treatments; job training programs; educational opportunities; and psychological counseling. All of these needs can be improved rather efficiently if there is a willingness on the part of the Government to provide the funds for the necessary programs to operate at maximum capacity. There is a need for more V.A. hospitals; doctors and medical service providers; out-patient clinics; training and re-training; physical, occupational, and emotional therapy; psychological intervention; etc. On this matter the Forum was a transparent effort to lobby the candidates.
What was Hillary Clinton thinking last night at the Commander in Chief Forum when she announced she would not put ground troops in Iraq, or Syria, or in the battle with the Islamic State? Aside from the fact that America already has troops there–whether you call them advisers, combat troops, ground troops, or “boots on the ground”. As she was making repeatedly was categorical statements, she put her campaign’s military advisers into the worst possible corner. The only positive outcome achieved by Clinton in pushing this issue was to bolster support from the Bernie wing of the party. Most of Sanders’ supporters who intend to vote, ultimately will support her anyway. Meanwhile, this approach only served to alienate, independents, the middle, and disenchanted Republicans
As for Trump’s performance last night it was his classic bombast with foolish inaccurate charges delivered with convictions which belied any facts or sophistication. Trump embarrassed the military brass, mis-represented the role of the intelligence function, and appeared prepared to spend billions of government dollars to dramatically expand the military without ever explaining where he would find the funds to pay for such equipment.