Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson was widely ridiculed this week for asking “And what is Aleppo?” after being asked in an MSNBC interview about what he would do about the violence in that Syrian city. But an abashed Johnson redeemed a bit of good will by admitting that he had goofed.
“I blanked,” he said. “It happens, and it will happen again during the course of this campaign. Can I name every city in Syria? No. Should I have identified Aleppo? Yes. Do I understand its significance? Yes.” (Johnson also suggested that he thought Aleppo was an acronym.)
Contrast Johnson’s alacrity in confessing error to Donald J. Trump’s continued refusal to acknowledge a much more consequential lapse: his longstanding insistence that President Obama was not born in the United States.
In recent days various Trump surrogates have suggested that Trump, in fact, now realizes that the so-called birther bandwagon he led was on the road to nowhere.
“Donald Trump believes now that [Obama] was born in the United States,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said this week. “I believe it. He believes it. We all believe it. It took a long time to get out.” On Friday Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, also attested to this change of heart, telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Trump “believes President Obama was born here.”
So why doesn’t Trump himself admit that he was wrong? Even a sheepish Rick Perry-esque “Oops” would be an improvement on his continued silence. And by allowing surrogates to speak for him, Trump is hardly exhibiting the take-charge attitude that is supposed to be his selling point as a candidate.
Until he personally confesses error, Trump will be echoing Chevy Chase’s character in the movie “Fletch”: “It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. I am not a big man.”