Gary Johnson delivers the best line of the GOP debate and becomes a real candidate.

Gary Johnson delivers the best line of the GOP debate and becomes a real candidate.

Gary Johnson delivers the best line of the GOP debate and becomes a real candidate.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Sept. 23 2011 8:24 AM

The Best Line of the Night

At the GOP debate, underdog candidate Gary Johnson finally gets a moment in the spotlight—and seizes it.

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"Innocent people have probably been put to death in Texas!" he said. "I changed my mind on this issue based on the evidence." He told the story of a wrongful conviction in New Mexico that spun him around, getting more and more emotive. He offered up more differences with the front-runners.

"I'm glad the military supported 'don't ask, don't tell,' " he said. "I'm not a social conservative. I don't want to build a fence on the border."

It was all friendly—who wants to grind a 1 percent candidate down with details?—until a hawkish reporter from a foreign policy pressure group pointed a bulky HD camera at Johnson.

"Sir, the federal government has listed CAIR as a Muslim Brotherhood front group."


"You know," said Johnson, "this is the first I've heard of it. I probably should have heard of it."

"Are you familiar with CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations?"

"No, I'm not."

Johnson looks perplexed: Why is he being asked this? His interrogator, unsure just how to quiz someone who doesn't know about this, sweats and sputters.

"Uh, OK. Have you heard of the Holy Land Foundation trial, sir?

"No, I have not. I've been to Israel. I've met with Netanyahu. I feel like I have a sense of what's happening there."

The interrogator, sort of desperate, started raising his vocal pitch at the end of his questions. "The Holy Land Foundation trial is the largest anti-terrorism trial in the United States? They designated 254 groups as unindicted co-conspirators, and are tied to the Muslim Brotherhood?"

Johnson shrugged. "Based on what you're saying, this is a bad situation."

"We'd be happy to send you some information," said the interrogator, giving up.

"Good! That'd be great."

A Fox News radio reporter tried to bring the conversation back, to humanize Johnson. How did it feel to be excluded from the rest of these cattle calls?

"Do you take it personally?" the reporter asked. "Does it hurt you?"

Johnson leaned toward the microphone, left leg forward, as if he were winding up for a pitch.

"If you were in my shoes, you would be hurt," he said. "You would ask, what's going on? Is this the American system? Is this fair? Is this the media? I mean, really?"

Johnson's happy campaign team started applauding.

"I'm in this race because I think I can win. Now, that might sound terribly outrageous."