Did Team Hillary commit a “Gary Johnson moment” on MSNBC’s Morning Joe? Joe Scarborough wondered aloud why campaign manager Robby Mook bothered to appear on the show at all to discuss debate prep this week after Mook sloughed off Mike Barnicle’s question on Aleppo — nearly the same question that stumped the Libertarian nominee earlier this month. Mook tried to dodge it by claiming it to be a new issue, which left Scarborough’s jaw hanging even lower:
BARNICLE: You are not Secretary of State, but in the debate next Monday evening, how would Secretary Clinton respond to somewhat of a version of the following question: We’ve had a relief convoy bombed, potentially a war crime, leading into Aleppo. What would you do, Secretary Clinton, about providing food, water, medicine to the citizens of eastern Aleppo today — right now, differently than what the Obama administration is doing? What would she do differently?
MOOK: I — again, I think you’re going to have to ask her that question. That’s a matter of policy, and I’m going to leave it for her.
SCARBOROUGH: [crosstalk] But what are you — We love you, buddy, but what are you here for if you can’t answer basic questions? I mean, I don’t know if there’s a — I mean, we may be tip-toeing into Gary Johnson territory here if you don’t know the answer to that basic of a question — What is the response to Aleppo? Then why do we have you here?
MOOK: I think — Look, you’re asking new policy questions. You have to ask the Secretary for that —
SCARBOROUGH: New? Aleppo’s been around for — Syria’s been around for some time. The red line being drawn has been around for some time. I’m not being difficult here at all —
MOOK: No, no, no —
SCARBOROUGH: — these are basic questions.
MOOK: And I’m not being difficult either. I’m just saying that she has laid out a plan to defeat ISIS, and if there are new questions pertaining to Aleppo, I’m going to need to let her answer those. And she will answer those in the debate, and we look forward to her having the opportunity to do that. And as I said, Donald Trump has been able — unable, rather — to release a plan, and we hope that he will reveal what his plans are in the debate.
Two basic points should be made here. One, Mook isn’t the candidate, so it’s not exactly a Gary Johnson moment. He’s not the policy guy either; he just runs the campaign. That said, the lack of response here is telling. Barnicle didn’t bring up an arcane political issue such as the funding for an obscure government agency or ask Mook to name the president of “Uzbek-bekistan,” as Herman Cain once put it. Foreign policy is Hillary’s main claim to experience for the job she seeks, and what’s more, the issue of Syria goes back to her tenure as Secretary of State. If there is any issue on which Mook and her campaign surrogates should be best briefed, it’s this issue — especially since Barnicle stumped Johnson about it last week.
Second basic point: Does anyone think Donald Trump would have a more substantive response? They certainly have enough warning now on this question, so one would presume that the campaign would brief Trump or his surrogates for a solid answer about Aleppo before appearing. Right now, though, despite an attempt by its hosts for a rapprochement, it’s not clear whether Trump will make an appearance on MoJoe before the election.