With David Folkenflik
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is running for president. Has Trump’s team already put roadblocks in place to make any challenge impossible?
Bill Weld, 2020 Republican presidential candidate. Former governor of Massachusetts. Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president in the 2016 election. (@GovBillWeld)
James Pindell, political reporter for the Boston Globe. Former political director for WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire. Political analyst for WBUR. (@JamesPindell)
Matt Moore, former South Carolina Republican Party chairman. Partner at the political and grassroots strategy firm First Tuesday Strategies. (@MattMooreSC)
Interview Highlights With Bill Weld
On what his first 100 days in office would be like
“The first thing I would do would be to cut spending, which has not been done, and basically Congress and the president together are spending us toward bankruptcy. People think that can’t happen. But, when I came into office in Massachusetts, the outgoing Secretary of Administration Finance that January said ‘the state is bankrupt, it can’t pay its bills and if the Chinese stopped buying our treasury bills and we keep piling on a trillion dollars a year of debt, we won’t be able to pay those bills either.’ I don’t think people realize the seriousness of that, but we do need an economic conservative in Washington to change that. After you cut spending, then you can have more tax cuts, and I think that helps the economy, but you have to cut spending first. That’s probably the No. 1 thing in point of time.
“No. 2, I do think that this president, Mr. Trump, has made a habit of insulting our military allies. Matter of fact I know it. And praising dictators and autocrats and trying to move people like Viktor Orban in Hungary, who’s a nationalist like Mr. Trump — meaning he hates other countries — trying to move Hungary out of the Western orbit into the Soviet orbit. The president has questioned the efficacy and even utility of NATO, which is our sort of shield against Russia to its east. And nobody except Vladimir Putin would want that kind of approach to be taken in foreign relations. So there will be a sharp turn there if I get my hands on the levers, so to speak, and I really think the president is undercutting our national security and strategic position with those twin moves of cozying up to dictators and really insulting our military allies, and that’s true both in Europe and in and in Asia.”
On taxes and tax cuts
“I’ve never met a tax cut I didn’t like. I cut taxes 21 times. I think probably the first taxes I would go on to cut would be to further lower the capital gains tax, because I think that’s very good for the economy. It influences investment decisions and when people decide to invest that has a spillover effect on the employment rate. So I would go there. I also, and this is just a pet peeve of mine, but I think the death [estate] tax, the federal death tax, almost amounts to double taxation and it penalizes people for a lifetime of work. Those are not terribly expensive tax cuts, so they’d be a good place to start as opposed to further cutting taxes like the income tax of general application, because that would be very expensive. Down the line, I might want to take a look at flattening the income tax side of things. In the past, I’ve considered favorably the proposals by Steve Forbes and others to try to cut the income tax to say 19 or 20 percent and you need to do all the arithmetic to see that that would still be able to pay for everything we need to pay for.”
“I think the president’s stance on immigration is nothing short of shameful. It’s political sloganeering and grandstanding, and the president says he’s a nationalist. What he really means is he wants to stir up everybody into a state of great anger against other nations. A nationalist is someone for whom hatred of other nations is the touchstone. A patriot is someone for whom love of your own country and your own people is the touchstone. So, I’m totally on the other side from Mr. Trump, as a moral matter there. We’ve been a melting pot our whole history in the United States, and anyone who wants to undo that is really truly spitting into the wind. And that’s the moral matter and historical matter. Beyond that, there’s the economic matter, and we need more work visas to get the business of our agricultural industry and our construction industry done, particularly in the western part of the states. You ask any state governor west of Texas if they can get all the work done without the flow of migrants from the south over the Mexican border — and that’s not just Mexico that’s everybody to the south. But they get the work done or contribute to getting the work done in the construction and agricultural industries during their seasons, in those western states in particular. So I think that the president’s stance on immigration is purely polemical, not rooted in fact at all, and I’d be 180 degrees on the other side of that policy.”
On climate change
“I think the president’s being irresponsible. He’s got a one-word platform for global warming, which is hoax. Does he think all those scientists who took those measurements are falsifying the measurements because they’re going to make money on the deal? I mean, maybe he can’t conceive of anything else than they must have an angle to make money on the deal. But that’s ludicrous. We’re past the point of being able to dispute the science, so I would rejoin the Paris Accords. I think we’d have to adopt 2050 carbon dioxide targets that are consistent with what other industrialized countries have done. The president gets a lot of credit for quote ‘deregulating.’ If you look at what he’s deregulated, a great many of those regulations are the regulations designed to protect clean air and clean water. And the president has sided with the fossil fuel industry against clean air and clean water for all Americans.”
On civility in politics
“I think that’s a tone set right from the Oval Office, right from the top. A fish rots from the head and civility has to spring from the head. The president, of course, is famous for being mean-spirited, and disruptive, and divisive, and wanting anything but civility. He calculates that it suits his political instincts to have everybody’s teeth on edge, everybody looking around to see who’s the newest group that they can hate and fear, and it is just not the politics I was brought up with and I don’t think it’s good for the United States.
“In office, I constantly reached across the aisle. I set up a weekly luncheon with the Democratic leadership in the legislature and myself and my great lieutenant governor, Paul Cellucci. We met every Monday for two terms and it worked out so well that everyone since then, including Gov. Mitt Romney, has followed the practice. And it’s done to this day by my cabinet member Charlie Baker, who’s now the sitting governor in Massachusetts. So Massachusetts, and most other state capitals — not all but most — have that tradition of civility between the parties, and specifically between the executive branch and the legislature, and we made that almost an art form in Massachusetts. And you get so much more done that way. If you have a civil meeting with somebody once a week on a regular basis, it’s just harder to stab them in the back or tell the press that they’re an enormous jerk, because it’s inconsistent with your course of dealing with them.”
From The Reading List
Boston Globe: “Bill Weld says his primary challenge to Trump will be ‘ferocious’” — “As soon as former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld walked into his first New Hampshire diner as an official Republican presidential candidate Tuesday, he spread his arms and proclaimed, ‘I am back.’
“Two people clapped in a nearby booth. The rest of the crowd at the Red Arrow Diner appeared oblivious to the tall redhead in a leather jacket adorned with a Weld 2020 button.
“Weld, who served as Massachusetts governor from 1991 to 1997, announced Monday that he would become the first — and possibly only — challenger to President Trump in the GOP primary.”
“His campaign marks the first time since 1992 that a sitting president has faced a primary challenge, but it also tacks on another chapter in Weld’s often-meandering political career. After failed bids for an ambassadorship to Mexico and governor of New York, Weld endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and had a spot on the national Libertarian Party’s ticket in the last presidential election.”
Associated Press: “Trump campaign takes steps to prevent a challenge within GOP” — “Worried about a potential Republican primary challenge, President Donald Trump’s campaign has launched a state-by-state effort to prevent an intraparty fight that could spill over into the general-election campaign.
“The nascent initiative has been an intense focus in recent weeks and includes taking steps to change state party rules, crowd out potential rivals and quell any early signs of opposition that could embarrass the president.
“It is an acknowledgment that Trump, who effectively hijacked the Republican Party in 2016, hasn’t completely cemented his grip on the GOP and, in any event, is not likely to coast to the 2020 GOP nomination without some form of opposition. While any primary challenge would almost certainly be unsuccessful, Trump aides are looking to prevent a repeat of the convention discord that highlighted the electoral weaknesses of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter in their failed re-election campaigns.”
Politico: “Delaney calls for a Republican to challenge Trump in 2020” — “Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney on Thursday said a Republican, such as former Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, should challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.
“‘Unless Republicans believe that Donald Trump is a fair and accurate representation of the Republican party as a whole, they should put up a challenger to run against him in the primary election,’ Delaney said in a statement, adding that few Republicans ‘have shown the courage to stand up to Trump.’
“‘We can’t go very far as a country if only one political party is committed to decency, honesty, and character,’ he continued.
“The former Maryland congressman then called on Kasich or Hogan, who are both weighing a run, to challenge Trump.”
Anna Bauman produced this hour for broadcast.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.