It’s not easy to run for president. Kind of like actually being president: People are always asking tough questions about cities you’ve never heard of and problems you don’t know how to deal with. And then, as if the United States weren’t big enough, people expect you to know the names of people who work in other countries — off the top of your head!
Gary Johnson, the libertarian presidential candidate who — despite not polling high enough to appear on major televised debates — is insistent on seeking the nation’s highest office this November, had to deal with this kind of pressure not just once but twice in the past month.
First, he appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” show. Asked what he would do to help Aleppo if he were elected president, Johnson asked, “And what is Aleppo?” Aleppo is, of course, widely known as Syria’s biggest city before the civil war, and one which has been largely destroyed — in part by Russian airstrikes — as Syrian government forces and U.S.-backed rebels battle to control it.
But even after the internet ripped him apart for drawing a blank on that one, Johnson agreed to appear for a town hall-style conversation with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Wednesday evening. And Matthews threw him a relatively easy question, asking him to name one world leader — anyone at all — whose work he admires. Johnson couldn’t name a single one. He’s still not quite on one-time presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s level yet, though, who famously admitted in 2011 that he didn’t know the name of the president of “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.”
But we here at Foreign Policy thought it might make things easier for Johnson if we made a quick list of foreign leaders he should read up on.
Barack Obama, President of the United States.
When you’re applying for a job — any job — it can be helpful to learn a little bit about who you’ll be replacing. That’s why we think you should take a few minutes to study up on Barack Obama, the president of the United States. Elected in 2008 and again in 2012, Obama is a Democrat whose tenure included the roll-out of universal healthcare, legalization of gay marriage, and the finalization of a nuclear deal with Iran. In his free time, he likes to play basketball and hang out with his two Portuguese water dogs. He currently lives in the White House. If you win in November, maybe you two will bump into each other while he’s moving out and you’re moving in!
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia.
In a 2014 interview with RT, you said that the United States should not get involved in Ukraine because that would be like Russia getting all worked up about Puerto Rico. Well, beyond that, we don’t really have much of an idea about your take on U.S.-Russia relations, but figured maybe you should look into learning a bit about Russian President Vladimir Putin. One of your competitors, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, has praised Putin a lot this year, so we wanted to offer you an introduction. Putin was elected president in 2012, after an earlier stint in the same role from 2000 to 2008. He also served as prime minister on two different occasions. But if you two are really going to get along, all you need to know is that it’s important you bring a jumpsuit to his private gym and are ready to quote Steven Seagal action movies with him. Also, maybe don’t bring up your problems with interventionism? His forces have been bombing Syria for a while now, and it might not go over too well.
Xi Jinping, President of China.
Possibly the most powerful man in the world, his name is pronounced roughly like “she” (we could see this going badly if you didn’t have a heads-up). The U.S. hasn’t been too pleased that Xi seems happy to take whatever islands he wants in the South China Sea, but with a libertarian mindset there might be less need for you to get involved in all that. Xi is also known for quoting Confucius and Mao as often as he can. Don’t tell me you don’t know them, either?
Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Remember Tony Blair? No? What about David Cameron, does that ring a bell? Well, Theresa May has the same job they both used to, and is the only woman other than Margaret Thatcher to hold this position. She previously served as Home Secretary but replaced Cameron after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union this summer. Her earlier claims to fame include tightening Britain’s immigration regulations and banning khat, the chewable stimulant imported from East Africa. Don’t worry if you didn’t know her name before now: As FP contributor Glen Newey wrote in July, she keeps a low-profile and is “not well-known internationally, or even particularly well-known nationally.”
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of Egypt.
We figured we’d throw this one in because both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met with him in New York last week, so maybe you should try giving him a call too. Sisi, as he’s often called, has been president of Egypt since 2014. Like Putin, Trump has also complimented him on a few occasions. He took over after leading a military coup to force then-president Mohamed Morsi out of power. When civilians tried to protest his takeover, about a thousand were killed by security forces. After Trump met the Egyptian strongman, his camp released a statement praising what Sisi has done to defend his country. After Clinton’s meeting, she issued a statement urging him to defend human rights. But we’ll let you figure out what you think for yourself!
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