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    Bill Weld Goes Rogue

    So, William F. Weld, former Republican governor of Massachusetts, is running for Vice-President on the Libertarian ticket. That's a ridiculous thing, but it's a ridiculous year, and I'm less interested in this trivial fringe campaign than in what it says that Weld, who was once seen as a real comer in national politics, would even bother with this.

    Now, let's get one thing out of the way: Weld has a very old connection to Hillary Clinton. They worked together as lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. Later, Bill Clinton appointed Weld to be US Ambassador to Mexico, an appointment sabotaged by Weld's fellow Republican Jesse Helms. (This after Weld had already resigned his governorship, so some real intraparty payback. Did I mention that Weld got his start in politics going after Nixon?)

    So a conspiracy-minded type might see Weld's move as an attempt to help Clinton. Which, you know, it is. The whole goal here is to leach a few votes from Trump in the general election. But, like most conspiracy theories, it doesn't really make sense when you do a cost benefit analysis. Weld could probably help Clinton more by defecting to the Democrats outright, or by starting some Republicans Against Trump group. And there's no clear way for Clinton to pay Weld back after she wins. If Senate Republicans were willing to sabotage a Weld appointment in 1997, the 2017 Senate Republicans aren't about to welcome a new Weld nomination with open arms. So there's no payoff here. Weld has nothing to gain.

    So why is someone like William Weld,  who has all the money and accomplishment he could possibly need, doing this? I think the answer is that the Republican Party, in his current incarnation, has orphaned him. William Weld has become a man without a party. He has nothing left to lose.

    This is striking because Weld is as Old Republican Establishment as it comes. He's from a very old, very rich Boston family. The Welds aren't the kind of family who have a building at Harvard named after them. They're the kind of family that has two buildings at Harvard named after them. And that's a pretty short list. Weld is descended from a hero of the Massachusetts Indian wars, and from an important Union general from the Civil War. He's descended, on his mother's side, from a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (The F. in his name is from that ancestor, William Floyd.) When I say the Welds are Republican Establishment, I mean that some of the Welds were there when the Republican Party was established.

    Oh, and Weld spent a quarter-century married to a Roosevelt. Teddy's side family, not Franklin's. These people are not Democrats.

    Now that guy -- that guy! -- is running as a third-party spoiler to derail the Republican nominee. Something fundamental has changed.

    There hasn't been a place for Weld's brand of socially-liberal, economically-conservative Republicanism in the party for a while now. (I've always suspected that Weld's version of Utopia would be the most inclusive and broad-minded country club imaginable.) Remember, Weld's ambassadorship got torpedoed by a hard-right race-baiter who'd started his career as a Democrat. Northern moderates and liberals have been squeezed out. (This is why former Republican Lincoln Chafee briefly ran for the Democratic nomination this year, like former Republican Jim Webb. Today's GOP has no room for Northern guys named "Lincoln.") But Weld is clearly not going to defect to the Democrats. Being Republican is part of, well, his DNA. He's got nowhere else to go. So now he's on the street making (extremely polite and wittily self-deprecating) trouble.

    In the long run, this is going to be trivial. The Johnson/Weld ticket is not going into the history books as a game-changer. But it is a reminder that in turbulent times, the upheaval doesn't move in a single direction. The chaos takes many forms, in contradictory ways. It isn't that Trump gets to upend one of the major political parties and everybody else carries on as normal. Today a talented and loyal son of the Republican Party, a man whose Republican roots go back before Lincoln's election, has become an agent of electoral anarchy. We're living in weird times. And even the pros are getting weird.



    Then-governor Weld was invited  by Mass Senate majority leader John Powers to attend the St.Patrick's Day dinner  in South Boston where Powers introduced him by saying with pretend humility  "We're honored to be addressed  today at our little celebration by someone whose ancestors really did come over on the Mayflower ".

    Weld : " Oh no,they sent the cook and the housekeeper ahead to open up the cottage".

    As you say ,he and Hillary were working (on a joint assignment) for Archibald Cox when Nixon fired him.

    Just a piece of misc data :at the time Western Union had a response line you could call to send one line   messages to the White House. It was essentially closed down by the " firestorm" in response.

    The head of WU asked the guy in charge  "What are they saying?".

    "You're a bum".


    That's a funny story, which I usually hear attached to Billy Bulger (of the infamous Bulger brothers). Bulger was President of the Massachusetts Senate while Weld was governor, and his St. Patrick's Day breakfasts were legendary. That line of Weld's shows how good he can be when he's on his game.

    And yeah. A lot of went on in the 1980s and 1990s was Watergate payback of various kinds, including the Bork thing and the treatment of the Clintons.

    I think you're right it was Bulger.

    I had a friend who served in the "General Court" with whom I  could usually check but he ,sadly, just died.  BTW although he fairly conservative and fairly gay- phobic he approved of Barney Frank's legislative skills. And , I think, just plain liked him.

    My impression is that Bernie might not be as able to reject the consensus and  still be effective. It's not easy.

    " agent of electoral anarchy", ---nails it exactly.

    Of course my first response is to come up with reasons why this helps Clinton more than Trump. But in the context of this election, anything is possible.t may attract the patrician Republican vote---there must be a few of those in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida---who are embarrassed by Trump but wouldn't vote for Clinton.

    If the media gets behind this new upstart and Trump considers the ticket a threat, he will try to impugn the Libertarians---which would be very counterproductive. So, on balance, I think it helps Clinton.

    The western states and New England could produce interesting fallout.  

    I think that's definitely the plan. And it sounds reasonable.

    But on the other hand, I've had enough of too-clever tactical plans by Republicans who hate Trump. Their track record with the clever footwork has been abominable. At a certain point, they're just struggling against the fact that they need to choose between Trump and Clinton. Just vote for Hillary already. Don't goof around with procedural tricks.


    Fyi, this isn't Weld's first date with the Libertarians. In 2006, the Libertarian Party of NY nominated him for governor, but Weld dropped out of the race after he lost the Republican primary. You're absolutely right that he's a political orphan, but he's been one for some time.

    Well, yes, but that's an artifact of New York politics, where you can run on more than one party line simultaneously. Weld wasn't interested in the Libertarian nomination except in combination wth the Republican nomination, because he actually wanted to be elected governor. This is different.

    It's true that Weld's political star has been in decline for almost two decades; he never quite recovered from his (nearly-successful) attempt to take John Kerry's Senate seat from him. He doesn't have any clear path to high office any more. But this deliberately quixotic run is new for him.

    Ah, I got you. Yes, after he lost the Republican primary, he dropped out of the race rather than run solely on a Libertarian ticket.

    I know it couldn't have been significant for the Koch businesses, but one of the things about Johnson's time as NM governor is that he had a lot of roads paved to counties who voted for him and Koch controlled companies did well in that business.  Hard to say he bought favor from the Koch brothers, because NM didn't have the money to really do so, at the level those guys roll, but perhaps friendships were made back then?

    At the same time, Johnson was not a bad guy.  I remember him being for pot legalization, in an honest way, before it was popular.  Cheerleaders at my local high school even refused to perform for him over it, arguing that his stance on marijuana undermined what they had been taught about drugs ruining the community.

    If all this Trump stuff means that old school Republicans switch to a true Libertarian ideology that is really about maximizing social freedoms first, rather than tax cuts for the rich first, I think we're all better for it.

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