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Bill Weld On Foreign Policy, Impeachment, & Bridging Partisan Divides

Dan Tuohy/NHPR

GOP presidential candidate Bill Weld says climate change would have his full attention if he were to win the presidency, calling it one of his top two foreign policy concerns.  "That's an existential threat, not just to our country but to the planet."   

During an Exchange Candidate Forum on Oct. 8, the former governor of Massachusetts said he would also improve U.S.-China relations, calling it "the most important bilateral relationship in the world. ... We intersect on far too many plains to try to make foreign policy on tariffs and threats and sanctions." 

Weld called President Trump's decision this week to withdraw American troops from the border between Syria and Turkey a "betrayal" of the Kurdish forces that have fought ISIS alongside U.S. troops. 

"Meanwhile the Turks have announced they've prepared their attack. So the Kurds are trying to figure out should they dig their own graves and prepare to die.  It's not going to resonate anywhere in the Middle East or anywhere else where people have to rely on America as an ally. "

Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR
Exchange Host Laura Knoy shakes hands with former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld.

Below are excerpts from the candidate conversation. Listen or watch the entire event here

On his conditions for sending American troops into conflict:

"I do not believe in sending American boots on the ground into another country just because we see something there we don't like. You could almost argue that was the situation in Iraq in 2003.  On the other hand, the betrayal of the Kurds who have been a strong ally, leaving them to be overrun in a day by the Turks, who really hate the Kurds -- they regard them as secessionists -- is just too strong a medicine. That's not noninterventionism, that's betrayal."

On ending the war in Afghanistan:

Weld said if elected president he would withdraw the U.S. from Afghanistan in "year one."  "I say that with a heavy heart. Right now I think of the troops over there as sitting duck nation builders, and it's not a country where you're going to go build a nation." Weld said he did not take a position in favor of nor against the Afghanistan invasion, which occurred 18 years ago this month -- but then said he couldn't remember. 

On solutions for climate change:

Weld calls for a carbon fee, either by legislation or by executive order.  "We're going to have a price per ton of people putting carbon into the atmosphere -- could be $25; could be $40; could be $50. And then they can decide how much carbon they want to put in based based on that price." 

Although Weld acknowledged that imposing a fee on oil and natural gas companies could result in higher prices, he said the money collected in carbon fees would be returned to consumers. 

He also said nuclear power should be part of the solution, amounting to 25% of the grid. 

"People have been saying for a long time, 'If only they could invent something that had zero carbon emissions and could generate an infinite amount of power. They did. It's called the atom, and we just have to change our mindset."

On impeachment:

Weld, who served as staff counsel to the committee investigating President Nixon in the Watergate case,  said there is an "overwhelming" case for impeachment when it comes to President Trump. 

'It's ten times the case for impeachment that existed in the instance of Richard Nixon," he said. "The obstruction of justice alone as detailed in the Mueller case -- 10 felonies trying to obstruct an investigation into himself -- that would be enough.  But inviting foreign interference is much stronger even than that," he said, referring to the allegation that President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens to serve his own political interests. 

"The two things that the framers of our Constitution were most worried about, as you can see from the debates in Philadelphia in 1787, were foreign interference in our affairs and corruption of public office by using it for private gain. You have both of those wrapped up with a nice bow in the case of Ukraine."

On guns and gun laws: 

Weld supports red-flag laws but says his experience with the Libertarian party gave him a newfound appreciation for the use of guns for self-defense. As governorof Massachusetts, he supported a ban on assault-style weapons, and he appears to stand by that position: "If assault weapons means an automatic weapon or something with such force that it obviously has no sporting use, Yes."

Weld opposes the licensing of guns, however, seeing it as potentially leading to the wholesale confiscation of guns. 

His plan for uniting the country: 

"I think you can appoint bipartisan commissions. You can hold hearings on the approaches that people around the country think are best. If I get there, I'm going to have a bipartisan cabinet. It'll have Republicans. It'll have Democrats. It'll have independents. It'll have un-enrolleds," he said. "It might even have a Libertarian or two, believe it or not," Weld said with a chuckle. He ran as the Libertarian party's vice presidential nominee in 2016. 

As for strong Trump supporters who might resent him for his opposition to President Trump, Weld said his credentials as an economic conservative would serve him well. He also gave Trump some credit for the low unemployment rate.  "You know the best social program is a job," he said. 

On health care: 

Weld emphasizes giving people tax advantages for putting money into health savings accounts and also supports buying insurance across state lines, importing prescription drugs, and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry. 

Weld as novelist: 

The forum moderators asked Weld, the author of several novels, what book he would recommend the country read. He first said Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford. But then offered another. 

"If you want to have a good time, reread The Great Gatsby. That's a real upper."

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