2020 Candidate Conversation: Former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld will challenge President Trump for the Republican nomination. It's not the former two-term governor's first shot for the Oval Office: he was the Libertarian vice presidential nominee in 2016 with Gary Johnson. He recently changed his party affiliation from Libertarian to Republican.
We ask Weld about economic policy, the role of government in social programming and where New Hampshire fits in his strategy to win the White House.
Send your questions for Bill Weld to email@example.com or call in to ask your question on air, 1-800-892-6477.
Meet the Candidate: William Weld
Background: Bill Weld served almost two terms as Governor of Massachusetts. Elected in 1990 and re elected in 1994, Weld resigned in 1997 amid appointment hearings to become President Bill Clinton’s Ambassador to Mexico. Weld is running for the Republican Party’s nomination. Weld ran for vice president in 2016, sharing the Libertarian ticket with Gary Johnson and, at the time, claiming to be a “libertarian for life.” He endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, not his party’s own John McCain. He studied at Oxford and Harvard and holds a law degree from Harvard Law. He currently practices at Mintz, a Boston-based law firm.
Platforms/positions: Once a committed libertarian, Weld campaigned on tax cuts and smaller government in each of his bids for office. He believes that climate change is real and wants to get the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Accord. He’s supported marijuana legalization since the 1990s and believes national legalization is inevitable. He supports abortion rights and in 1996, tried to get the GOP to acknowledge that some Republicans are pro-choice.
Of Interest: Weld has hunted for wild boar and once sent a photo of himself with a boar he shot to The Boston Globe.
Read an edited transcript of our interview with Marianne Williamson. This transcript is computer-generated, and may contain errors.
Peter Biello [00:01:01] Just last week Bill Weld became the first Republican to launch a primary challenge against President Donald Trump. He called for the party to return to the principles of Lincoln: equality, dignity and opportunity for all. Weld served as governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997 where he was seen as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. In 2005 he ran for governor of New York before dropping out of that race in 20. In 2008 he endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president then in 2016. He was the Libertarian vice presidential nominee. Now he's back as a Republican candidate for president. And his slogan "make the Republican Party great again" He's here in the studio with us now. Welcome Governor.
Bill Weld [00:01:40] Thank you Peter. Good to be with you as always.
Biello [00:02:08] So Governor Weld during the 2016 presidential election you joined the Libertarian ticket and we wanted to play some tape here you are at the Libertarian Party National Convention Responding to fellow libertarian vice presidential candidate Alicia Dern asking you to commit to the party.
Tape: Alicia Dern [00:02:40] "Will you look me in the eye, will you look every Libertarian in the eye who has fought for this party for years and fought for our rights for years and tell us that you will not betray us?"
Tape: Bill Weld [00:02:41] "Alicia, Thank you so much for having me up here. As I think I indicated earlier in my remarks, I'm a libertarian for life." (cheers)
Biello [00:02:51] So Governor Weld given that pledge why are you now running as Republican?
Weld [00:02:53] Well, that's completely true. I've self-identified as a small l libertarian since I was in law school and discovered Friedrich Hayek. Interestingly you know after I decided to challenge President Trump directly to get the direct direct shot run as an R rather than as an L rather as a capital L most of my friends in the Libertarian Party who said we're with you all the way we know you we know your principles we know they haven't changed. We're going to be with you.
Biello [00:03:24] So you're saying you're philosophically a libertarian?
Weld [00:03:27] Yes. And you know I'm still in touch with the people who I saw when I went around to the various libertarian state party conventions since the 16 campaign I've stayed in touch with them.
Biello [00:03:37] And do you think that's how it was meant to be understood at the time that you meant when you said that in the tape we played that you are a philosophical libertarian and will always be regardless of how you're affiliated?
Weld [00:03:46] They were probably thinking about party registration in context but you know I'm the same guy I was both before and after the '16 campaign.
Biello [00:03:56] So what impact do you think your campaign with Libertarian Gary Johnson had on the 2016 election?
Weld [00:04:02] You know I think most of the votes we took were from Mr. Trump because a Libertarian vote is going to be a protest vote or a change vote and those votes were not going to go for Mrs. Clinton in that election. So I think that was some impact. But you know the thought did cross my mind. Here we were two two-term Republican governors reasonably successful in office getting 3 percent of the vote. So it proved to me that what we were complaining about in '16 was quite true namely that there was a hammerlock monopoly of the two parties, the R party and the D party and Gary Johnson I our our plan was to drive right up the six lane highway between the two parties because whatever else you can say about the two parties the Republican Party is probably not socially welcoming, in general and the Democratic Party is probably not fiscally responsible in general.
Biello [00:04:55] So how would you describe the difference between the Libertarian Party and the Republican Party.
Weld [00:05:03] Uh today?
Biello [00:05:03] Yes
Weld [00:05:03] Yes well I'm not a fan of the Republican Party in Washington today. I think they're almost an authoritarian party in the administration of President Trump. I rather like the Libertarian mix of ideas. You know they are fiscally responsible as am I. I was voted the most fiscally conservative governor, not voted but rated most fiscally conservative governor in the country when I was in office. I cut spending in real dollars. I want to do that in Washington. I want to cut spending. President Trump has not vetoed a single dime of spending in his last budget admittedly a multi-year budget bill would add another seven point nine trillion dollars to the accumulated deficit. So libertarians do pinch their pennies and they do balance their checkbooks and we need that in Washington D.C.. The truth is we should have a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget in Washington. Every governor has to balance his or her budget every year and every household in the United States has to balance their checkbook every month. And it's a mystery to me why the president can't understand that we should do that at the national level as well. That's really the first order of business. If I were elected would be to show some economic conservatism. I don't think the president is at all an economic conservative.
Biello [00:06:24] And I want to dive deeply into the fiscal and economic policy ideas that you have. I do want to circle back to the the the slogan of your campaign which is to "make the Republican Party great again." I want to ask you what you meant by that.
Weld [00:06:35] Well the Republican Party... You know, I worked in both the House and the Senate early on and at a time when, as I say, lions still strode the earth. And if someone was giving a speech on the floor of the Senate the galleries of the Senate would be filled upstairs with people who wanted to hear the speech and see whether they would be persuaded. And it was a time when people you know reached across the aisle and both parties were better than because they worked together to get the people's business done. Right now all I see in Washington is people being quiet while President Trump engages in frankly outrageous behavior. So you know I my hope is that we're going to return to the idealistic party that I called, for shorthand, the party of Lincoln.
Biello [00:07:25] Polls show that right now President Trump among Republicans has a great deal of support among people who identify as Republicans. So what does this slogan of yours say to people who believe that the Republican Party is is just fine?
Weld [00:07:38] Well, I think the president is, you know he's got rock solid support among the party officials in the Republican state committees. in fact his campaign has issued instructions to Republican state parties to try to make sure there is no primary, there is no conversation, there is practically no election. You know Their lines run straight to him but I think more broadly certainly people I come into contact with, a vast majority of them think all is not well in Washington and indeed there is a low grade anxiety throughout the country. I myself think a lot of that traces to the president's decision to be divisive and his entire campaign in 2016 was premised on trying to scare everyone that we were in terrible danger from other countries and we had to band together and get behind him or we'd all be involved in an irretrievable peril. You know the the the words he used were you know the immigrants are coming in, they're all rapists, they're all murderers. I don't know I think that might have been kind of code for economic insecurity and he was trying to scare people that if unless they rally behind him at the border that people who are not like them would come in and take their jobs because there was a certain amount of economic insecurity out there. And I think it was a cynical move on the president's part but it certainly had some success.
Biello [00:09:07] Don't let me put words in your mouth but it seems like what you're saying is that one of the biggest dangers that we face right now is the president himself?
Weld [00:09:15] Oh yeah. No I think that's right. I thought the Mueller report was highly illuminating. There you know someone in a position of chief executive whether it's a governor or a president has to make hundreds of decisions every day and over the long haul you're judged by the quality of those decisions. And Volume 2 of the Mueller Report, which is about the president and obstruction of justice, was highly illuminating as to his decision making process whenever there was a decision to be made. It seemed the president's first way of analyzing it was "how am I going to get out of this? I know a lie and I'm beyond that. I'm going to instruct other people to lie that way they'll never be able to catch up with me." So the report is replete with instances where he instructed senior national intelligence officers including Dan Coats who is the Director of National Intelligence, senior national security advisers including K.T. McFarland in his office and obviously senior legal people including Don McGann to lie and they would say "well no Mr. President, I can't say that," he would say "say this, that way they'll never catch up with me." And they'll say "I can't say that" and he'd say "Why not.?" They would say "because that's not true." And his reaction was essentially 'what's your point?' You know he's amoral when it comes to the truth. He's you know, even a broken clock is right twice a day. So he probably tells the truth twice a day but not perhaps not intentionally. And you just can't have that in the Oval Office. I know many, many parents who say the most distressing thing to them is when their 10 year old or 12 year old says to them "what do you mean Dad, why can't I lie? The president lies all the time. "
Biello [00:11:33] Before the program today we got an e-mail from James who wanted to know "do you plan to work with Democrats and Republicans equally by enforcing bipartisan legislation? And do you plan to refrain from one sided partisan issues." That's a question from James.
Weld [00:11:46] Well I think the way I governed in Massachusetts makes it pretty plain that yes, I reach across the aisle. I had a very diverse cabinet eight women three men always contain minorities. I instituted a process where every week lieutenant Governor Paul Celucci and I, both Republicans, would meet with a Democratic president the Senate, Democratic Speaker of the house for you know informal meeting tea and cookies once once a week every Monday. And I didn't summon people to my office. I said let's have the first meeting in the speaker's office. The second meeting we'll have in the Senate President's office. So I wasn't pulling rank as it were I was saying you know we're coequal coequal partners in government. And it worked very well. So much so that they repeat that to this day. It just it's commonsense. You know it's harder to stab somebody in the back or tell the press that that person is a jerk if you know you're going to be having a basically friendly social meeting within the next seven days. So that's illuminating of how I chose to work across the aisle and did so for two terms.
Biello [00:12:58] Do you think that style of governing is possible in Washington D.C.?
Weld [00:13:00] Absolutely, you just. It's like everything else in Washington D.C. You have to have the political will to do it. They can't cut cut spending because they don't have the political will to do it. But if people you know respond rationally to outreach and as Tom Birmingham, the Democratic President of the Senate once said of our meetings and our cooperative spirit he said goodwill begets goodwill. Well there's so much goodwill between me and Tom Birmingham that we're still writing pieces together about education in the Commonwealth.
Biello [00:13:34] I want to ask you about health care policy because a lot of a lot of Americans a lot of voters are thinking about health care particularly the high cost of health care. So I wanted to ask you when it comes to health care, what role if any should the federal government play in reducing the cost of health care?
Weld [00:13:50] Well the two great imperatives when you're assessing health care are number one maintain the quality of our health care system in the United States which is by far the best in the world and two to lower costs. And you know I'm not one who would pick either side in the rancorous partisan debate in Washington right now. Let's repeal Obamacare or let's you know let's reaffirm Obamacare. I think there are improvements that can be made but there's no consensus in Congress and in no way are they going to get an agreement either to repeal or to reaffirm the law in its entirety. I think it did succeed in getting 20 million more people enrolled. That means that number of people their health care needs are not paid for by others by social, By being socialized so to speak. So that lowers health care costs so that's that's a good thing. And coverage is a good thing just in itself. However I do think there's quite a bit too much government in the Affordable Care Act and government is making the decisions among other things it's mandating that everybody have a Cadillac plan the most expensive and not everybody wants a Cadillac plan. It's like when you buy insurance. Some people want a high deductible because it will make the insurance cheaper. Other people know they can't afford to take that risk. So they don't have a high deductible and people should be able to make their own decisions. I'd like to see more decisions made between people and their and their doctor and less less by the government I think people should be able to buy health insurance across state lines that would make it cheaper. They should be able to buy prescription drugs abroad. Canada they can assess the risks. Frankly I don't think the risk would be very great there. But people can make up their own mind about that and people should be able to have their own health savings accounts so that they can on a tax advantaged basis save up for when they're going to have a need for expensive health care and they shouldn't be directed to have a Cadillac rather than a Chevrolet. People see things differently and they can make their own decisions. And frankly I would trust them to make their own decisions.
Biello [00:16:06] I wanted to ask you about the allowing health insurance policies across state lines because some state insurance commissioners have really objected to that they said it would raise administrative costs or it would impose burdens on their own regulatory system each state has different...
Weld [00:16:19] It's baloney. It's just the old guild mentality we like everything just the way it is. We want to keep everybody else out.
Biello [00:16:26] Sure. But some libertarians would say you know states should be able to choose for themselves rather than have it handed down by the federal government.
Weld [00:16:32] Yeah I would be one of those people. I'm a big 10th amendment guy. Tenth Amendment says The power is not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.
Biello [00:16:42] Mm hmm. So is that enough? Is health savings accounts and allowing people to choose lesser plans through the Affordable Care Act exchange enough to ensure that people will get coverage if they want it affordable coverage?
Weld [00:16:57] Well it would be an improvement over the current system.
Biello [00:16:59] Mm hmm. Are you saying you're not in favor of a Medicare for All type system?
Weld [00:17:03] .Oh my goodness. Medicare for All would take all the private money out of the system and what it is would be one gigantic single payer system with nothing else. It would, it would require the world's most humongous tax increase in history to to fund that and also taking the private sector out of the health care area is is the last thing we need. In general, I'm in favor of getting more functions into the private sector rather than less. When I was in office I was the national chair of the privatization council. I won't say I pioneered but I certainly made great use of contracting out of state services. I used to say that my my best social service agency was the Catholic Church. We essentially hired the Catholic Church to deliver a lot of social services and they're very dedicated and they did a terrific job and it wasn't as expensive as having that service delivered by the government. You find that everywhere you look if you can enlist the energy of say the network of nonprofits which is only too happy to take care of people, they'll do it cheaper and they'll do it in a more sensitive way than than the government itself and preserve more dignity for the recipients of those services such as the disadvantaged developmentally disabled. We closed a lot of big red brick buildings with bars on the windows that looked like prisons. They were the public facilities and we contracted that out and they were picked up by 501c3 nonprofits who had people essentially in assisted living homes no more than eleven to a home staff ratio much better for people for every 11 people in a home and the parents and loved ones of those who were being treated prefer the new new system by 95 percent because their loved ones had more dignity and they were happier.
Biello [00:18:58] Let's go to the phones and talk to Paul from Meredith. Paul thanks very much for calling. You're on the air.
Caller: Paul [00:19:03] Hey hey thanks a lot for taking my question Mr. Weld, I'm an independent voter and I identify with a lot of things you're saying, sometimes I identify with Republicans more than Democrats but there are ethical deterrents for me was the Republican Party that just make it impossible for me to vote Republican, which are basically that party's position on abortion and gay marriage and other issues that are moral. Can you speak to those like those two issues in particular?
Weld [00:19:39] Yeah. No, I've never agreed with the Republicans formal position on either abortion or gay marriage. You may know but I was an early champion of LGBTQ rights from the time when I entered office and governor and I appointed the woman who wrote the opinion Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts holding that gay marriage was constitutionally required under both the Due Process Clause and the equal protection clause. I had you know various cabinet members who were gay in my cabinet. In fact I presided over the wedding of two of them my revenue commissioner and my my chief of staff. And that's been...and I was out there frankly by myself for more than 15 years on that issue no other national or state politician would touch that issue. So I think I can say I was ahead of the game on that one. On abortion, I've always been I've always been pro-choice and didn't care who knew it. But I didn't rub anybody's nose in it. You know I just said this is my position and it's not because I love abortion, I don't it's because who makes the decision to me it was a power question. And again I want the decision to be made by individuals by people and not by some big fat Congressman five hundred miles away who had no knowledge of the circumstances that the woman and her family might encounter. I will say that I'm not a fan of the issue that's come up recently about late third trimester abortions and you know the word back years ago was "oh that almost never happens and when it does it's always because the woman's about to die unless she has this abortion." I've received some conflicting contrary information on that that maybe it's not quite so rare and maybe, maybe sometimes it is the loophole for the quote health of the mother. So I'm let's just say I'm for Roe v. Wade and and protecting it.
Biello [00:23:20] Let's turn back to Governor Bill Weld running for president as a Republican challenging President Trump. I want to talk a little bit about the Mueller Report. You have called President Trump "a one man crime wave" and even characterized his conduct as impeachable. Now that we've seen the redacted version of the Mueller Report, would you say that Congress should move forward with impeachment?
Weld [00:23:39] Well you know that's partly a legal analysis I think there's plenty of grounds there. The the part of the Mueller report about obstruction makes pretty plain that the president went well beyond anything President Nixon ever did in the way of trying to influence or slow down or even stop kill an investigation so they could if they wanted to.
Biello [00:24:01] But should they? Should they go ahead and do it?
Weld [00:24:02] Well, no I'm not with Elizabeth Warren on that. She says they have a moral duty to do so but it's worth keeping in mind that impeachment is not a criminal remedy it's a political remedy, 100 percent political. And so you know the House could could vote impeachment very soon they'd be within their rights in doing so but the Senate is controlled by the Republicans and you need in order to convict i.e. remove the person from office which is the only sanction you need a vote of two thirds of the members present and that just doesn't seem at all likely to happen with the country being so bitterly divided. So what you might have is 12 months of very bad news, very bad publicity for the president and then two or three months before the know action there would be a vote of no conviction. And I remember when that happened with President Clinton, I think it was 50/50 or something like that and you need closer to 67. The feeling was yeah he'd beaten it and what was all that about anyway. And my view of the president is that you know he's a man not without talent. But I think he doesn't have the moral authority to govern. And the question is who can govern? So I'm in favor of things playing out in a way that would not give us six more years of the president in the White House. I think he's been endlessly divisive and he sets out to make people feel terrible about everything. And you know the right approach is Ronald Reagan's approach which is to try to make people feel good about being Americans and the whole approach of Mr. Trump and his adviser Steve Bannon was to stir up the pot, set people's teeth on edge and get group against group and they would put out images on their social media during the campaign in 2016 of George Lincoln Rockwell. Well very few people know who George Lincoln Rockwell was but he was the founder of the American Nazi Party. And you can bet those white supremacists out there did know who George Lincoln Rockwell was. And that was the purpose of Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump just trying to stir up the pot and get those white segregationists nationalists white hot.
Biello [00:26:34] So to summarize your thoughts and please do correct me if I'm mischaracterizing them even though he is as you say a 'one man crime wave' , it would be politically impractical to attempt to impeach him at this point?
Weld [00:26:45] Yeah that's what I'm saying.
Biello [00:26:46] OK. So the Mueller report also found that that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping in systemic fashion. How should how should a president handle Russia? How would you as president handle Russia?
Weld [00:26:59] Well you can't rely on your cybersecurity specialists. And I've looked into a little bit I've been briefed by former ranking members of the CIA and senior military people in Washington. They want to make sure that I know to the extent legally possible what Mr. Trump knows as well. My takeaway is that the cybersecurity specialists have to make it painful for the other side to acquire, by its own cyber activity, the information we don't want them to acquire to the point where that pain is more important than the benefit they get from exercising and that hacking and that corrupted cybersecurity attacks on us. But it's pretty plain that big countries and even some little countries like North Korea all around the world they're just attacking each other with the cyber security fences all the time. I mean I used to know that countries spied on each other because I used to be head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department under President Reagan. But cyber security is a new frontier for negative activity by one country against the other.
Biello [00:28:03] We got a comment from Guy in Derry who says "the unease that Governor Weld says he senses across the country is not a symptom of the Trump presidency." Guy says "he has it backwards. The Trump presidency is a result of the abject failure of the political system. He himself is a part of." That's a comment from Guy from Derry, would you like to respond?
Weld [00:28:23] Well I used to be in government. I was I was governor for two terms. I've worked in both the House and the Senate but then I've been out you know. So I missed the poisonous swamp years. I've been in the private sector doing a lot of international business things. And you know I do think it's always important to ask is Washington solving the people's problems and doing the people's business? And I think the answer right now is no. That's why I'm running. I mean I was something of an iconoclast, something of a maverick in office. And as a result got a lot of things done. I made a deal with the teachers union to put a lot more money in K through 12 education but in return I insisted on some managed what are called management givebacks high stakes tests and fourth eighth and tenth grade. And if you didn't pass the test you didn't go on in the next grade and no more social promotions no more you get to 12th grade, Johnny and you're here so here's your diploma. Doesn't matter whether you can read or write. So Johnny would go to community college flunk remedial math and English and no one is helped by that every. And I did that with the Democrats in the legislature as my equal partners. And every year since then 25 years in a row Massachusetts has been number one in both reading and math but that was highly highly unusual. No no other state had done that. I would have thought that many more states would would imitate Massachusetts there after the success it's enjoyed. But no I was I was a maverick. I was not one of these stick in the mud. Let's keep quiet and don't rock the boat and let's just demonize our opposition to frighten our base so they'll give us more money so that we can all get re-elected. You know another thing I was national head of when I was in office was United States. Term limits so you can imagine if I get to D.C. in the top spot I'm going to stand out like a sore thumb in a town full of people who are obsessed with getting re-elected. And I was the national head of U.S. Term Limits three terms in the House two in the Senate and you're out.
Biello [00:30:29] I want to get to some other policy positions. Governor Weld let's talk about tax policy. The president and Republicans in Congress passed massive tax cuts. What do you think of those?
Weld [00:30:39] I liked the tax bill. I should say I've never met a tax cut. I didn't like because I think government should be smaller. I've never seen any level of government big or little that wasn't at least 10 percent bigger than it needed to be. So I always like taking money off the table so the government can't spend it. So it remains in taxpayers pockets. My motto when I was governor is there's no such thing as government money, there's only taxpayers money. You know specifically in the tax bill that did pass they had a provision in there for accelerated depreciation which I think is very wise policy because that incentivizes business to either build the plant next door or to buy an expensive piece of equipment. And those have a turbo charging effect on jobs. They result in a lot more employment. I'm a supply sider to begin with. Meaning that I think tax cuts should be scored not on a static basis but on a dynamic basis because they do have an impact on the economy. So I got in I cut taxes 21 times. I also cut spending but I cut taxes 21 times and I never raised them and what happened as a result when I came in Massachusetts had the highest unemployment rate of any industrialized state in the country after two and a half years, it had the lowest. So we got 71% of the vote when we ran for re-election me and me and my alter ego Paul Cellucci, rest his soul. But so that's my view on tax policy and you know if you don't believe me ask Grover Norquist and Arthur Laffer who are two avatars of the low tax movement. And I've always willingly and cheerfully signed Grover-Norquist pledge no new taxes and abided by it so.
Biello [00:32:31] So let me ask you. Should the federal government have also made deeper cuts in spending? And if so where?
Weld [00:32:37] Of course that's my whole point.
Biello [00:32:38] So where? What should they have cut?
Weld [00:32:40] They should approach the budget entirely differently. What they do is they take every appropriation and they say "what was last year's appropriation. OK let's add 5 percent. That seems fair to me" And the Democrats want to add 5 percent to social spending and the Republicans want to add 5 percent to military. So they have this huge fight and stir up their bases so they can get more political contributions. And then at the end of the day they were repaired to a conference room and they say :"OK let's compromise, Let's show that we can compromise. We'll raise everything by 10 percent." That's what they do. What we did, Charlie Baker who's now the governor of Massachusetts was my finance secretary. We did what's called zero based budgeting. You take last year's budget as not as a guide but as a starting point. And you see how each account in it performed., If there was say a preventive health care program that stopped a lot of people from needing more expensive health care and also was very effective in remedies and outcomes, you might multiply that appropriation by five or ten because it saves so much money and worked so well and delivered real value to people, real people. But if there was a you know to take a Washington example a Bureau of Mines somewhere where no one had done anything for the last seven years and it's just that it was the guy in charge of it was the nephew of some long gone Senator. Boy that goes to zero because it's not doing anything. A way of describing it is you're measuring you're measuring outcomes from last year, not inputs. Input would be last year's budget. So that's without specifying a particular account but that methodology will yield a lot of savings.
Biello [00:34:23] So you're not proposing any particular cuts? I mean because you just mentioned earlier in the program right that you would be in favor of a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget?
Weld [00:34:29] Yeah, that's been my view for a long time.
Biello [00:34:33] Well if spending is cut it follows that or rather if taxes are cut as you as you support, what possibly could be cut to to bring the budget in line? Assuming that there was a constitutional amendment.
Weld [00:34:43] Well, you got to sit down with the budget and go through it line by line and start with a zero base and then you'll find plenty of money, believe me. There is so much bureaucracy in Washington D.C. You know I cut 8000 jobs out of Massachusetts workforce the day I took office and I went from 72000 I think to 64000. And I never got so much as a postcard and all my two terms: "Where's that valuable bureaucracy that you cut right at the beginning? We're not we're not receiving our services anymore".
Biello [00:35:18] So where's the biggest wasteful bureaucracy in the federal government that you think would be right for sort of targeting?
Weld [00:35:23] All bureaucracies are inefficient, You know?
Biello [00:35:28] Well if I can offer a counterpoint because the Department of Veterans Affairs for example one of the largest bureaucracies in the federal government and by a variety of outside studies it shows that you know veterans are by and large very happy with their care and the wait times beat the private sector. That's a huge bureaucracy that's actually doing pretty well.
Weld [00:35:45] That's not my understanding of the facts. I'm one of those who thinks that veterans should be able to get their care outside the V.A. system.
Biello [00:35:53] And they are, that's what contributes to the good wait times.
Weld [00:35:57] I don't think the wait times are great in the V.A. system. So that's saying OK well we're going to let people opt out of the system to get better better care. Yeah I agree with that. That doesn't prove the system is good proof the system is bad.
Biello [00:36:10] I'm just saying that there is an example of a bureaucracy that gets results.
Weld [00:36:12] Let me get out a philosophical point on on veterans and you know the end of World War Two, we had all these veterans coming back the GIs and they had two sets of needs. One was education. They had to get trained and the other was health care. And they were treated in diametrically opposed fashion. For education, Congress passed something called the G.I. Bill which is essentially a voucher program. And it said to every returning soldier you can go wherever you want to college. And here's a voucher. And the taxpayers will pick that up a grateful country will see that you're educated for free. Probably the most successful program in domestic political history. Everyone raves about it had great great reviews forever. The other one was health care. And Congress adopted the opposite approach and said one's kind of like the Affordable Care Act one size fits all. You have to be in our system. You can go only to the V.A. hospitals and no one doubts the the integrity and the dedication of the people that work in that system. But I don't think most people would say to you that the standard of care at V.A. hospitals is up to say the standard of the best private hospitals even in the city of Boston for example.
Biello [00:37:36] I want to move on to other issues because we've got a limited amount of time here. I wanted to ask you about education policy specifically student debt. Student loan debt in the country has been soaring for years. New Hampshire of course has very an expensive in-state college tuition so New Hampshire residents of course feeling this as well. If you were elected president what would you do to ease the burden of student?
Weld [00:37:55] Well the first thing I would do is repeal that damn provision in federal law that says student debt cannot be renegotiated. It's as though Congress wanted the pass a law saying 'we hate students.' It's totally discriminatory. So so that would that would go. But the cost of college education would be high on my agenda for issues to tackle. You know in terms of what really hits people in their lives I mean so many kids are leaving college with debts of you know one hundred and sixty thousand even two hundred thousand dollars and you know I've got three Millennials in the house so I kind of see this and their friends suffer this debt burden maybe even more than that my kids do. And it is just a monkey on their back. Throughout their early earning years and it means that they can't take risks. And you know maybe a more interesting startup company with a lower salary because they got to pay off the debt. So That would be very high on my agenda.
Biello [00:39:00] Mm hmm. And let's talk to Jeff in Nashua. Jeff thank you very much for calling.
Caller: Jeff [00:39:04] Yes. Thank you very much for having me on. Good morning Governor Weld. I have just quick questions to first my curiosity concerning the Libertarian Party. I've been getting reports of getting little hints from people here every once in a while that Libertarian Party, they're becoming the fastest growing political party in the country due to popular stuff. I need your take on that.
Weld [00:39:40] Oh it's absolutely the fastest growing political party in the country I think. I mean I know that from when I was running there. And by the way I had a wonderful time with the Libertarian Party. Don't don't regret it at all. And I had a good look at running again as a libertarian except for president instead of vice president and candidly decided that I wanted to take the direct shot because I thought I thought Mr. Trump needed someone to hold the mirror up so he could see how how he looked to other people as well. But no I got nothing but good things to say about the people that I intersected with in the Libertarian Party and I'm not all surprised that they're the fastest growing party. They're much smaller so it's easy to be the fastest growing by percentage. But. You know I've thought for a long time that we need more emphasis on individuals making decisions themselves and that's that's a hallmark of libertarian thinking.
Biello [00:41:52] I'm Peter Biello here with former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld who is running for president as a Republican challenging President Trump holding up a mirror to the president as he says. Governor Weld I want to ask you about immigration policy. How would you as president handle the many thousands of people who are coming to the U.S. southern border seeking either asylum or to eventually become citizens? How would you handle this situation?
Weld [00:42:27] Well I wouldn't throw everybody in jail just because they said they were interested in asylum for openers. But I'll tell you the immigration situation as a whole, the truth is we need more work visas, not fewer work visas. The truth also is that most of the people coming across the border they're not coming across the border because they think they're going to become American citizens. Either they want to work and I can tell you that particularly in the western part of the country the construction industry and the agriculture industry during peak seasons could not be adequately staffed without people coming across. Yes the Mexican border to help those those industries. So Canada for example has a what they call a guest worker program where people can come during the seasonal work for four months and then go back to wherever they came from and that's what they want. They want to make money for their families. They don't want to be American citizens. And that is something that Mr. Trump has held up as as a straw man as a boogeyman to scare people. He loves scaring people. He says just think these 11 million people who didn't wait in line they're going to get they're going to get in line ahead of you and have all the privileges that you have. It's just an effort on an unjust stopping effort to incite rage hatred and jealousy. So you know I would kind of relax and I'm not necessarily anti Wall. We've had walls now by the Mexican border for a long time. Hillary Clinton voted for a wall, that was one dirty little secret of the 2016 campaign. And the question is how big of a wall. My understanding is that the experts in border security say what we really need down there is more people more agents and more drones to survey the wall of the border in real time rather than a 200 mile long wall. The recent frenzy over the eight billion dollars where the president cast his first veto. I don't know how long that wall was going to be but not very long for 8 billion dollars. So then since then the president said "Oh no I want a 200 mile long wall." You know to me that's not a great symbol I kind of grew up with the Berlin Wall and that was bad symbolism for Soviet Russia and eventually eventually came down. But that's not the important thing. The important thing is that we've always been a melting pot. And I'm proud of that. And that's part of the nobility of the United States and it's why we've been a beacon to the world and to be screaming obscenities in the general direction of everybody outside our borders and saying "I'm a nationalist, I'm a nationalist." Well that just means that hatred of other people is more important to you than love of your own country in my book.
Biello [00:45:13] Would there be a Trump administration style family separation policy under a Weld administration?
Weld [00:45:17] No. Are you kidding me?
Biello [00:45:18] I have to ask. Yeah. I'm also curious about you know some people say that the rush of people to the southern border is happening because conditions in countries south of Mexico are not great. And what about U.S. aid in making the conditions better for people to want to flee?
Weld [00:45:34] Yeah, that's a correct observation. I mean I thought the president's recent unilateral decision to withdraw all aid from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador was not not well taken because most of the people coming from those countries are coming for security reasons. They're not safe or there's abject poverty in the part of their country where they live. And so a little bit of aid that can ameliorate conditions in those countries would actually help the immigration situation. And the idea of aid has never bothered me because you know conditions in other countries have an impact on the United States, witness immigration. And you know I take a holistic view towards international relations. I don't think the president does. He seems to want to insult our allies and cozy up to dictators. And I think it's because he prefers an autocratic not to say tyrannical form of organization for government. And he sees himself at the top of that chain.
Biello [00:46:45] Let's talk a little bit about the environment. As president what would be the first thing that you would do to address climate change?
Weld [00:46:52] Well I would rejoin the Paris Accords and adopt standards for 2050 in terms of CO2 emissions that would be consonant with what other industrialized countries have done. I think President Trump has it absolutely backwards. He says that coal and oil are the future of energy in this country. Baloney. You know fossil fuels are the past but they're they're not they're not the future.
Biello [00:47:19] What about nuclear power?
Weld [00:47:21] I'm all in favor of nuclear power. The biggest reduction in CO2 in history was when France adopted the vest pocket nukes, I think it was in the 1980s, I'm not positive about that. But nuclear power now some supplies 75 percent of the power of the electricity in France. And you know it's not like building a huge nuclear plant on a barrier reef as the Japanese did in Fukushima or these ginormous outfits like Three Mile Island, they're much smaller. I know from my travels that there are a lot of rural counties that would welcome nuclear plants because they are they're very employment friendly. They employ a lot of people. And so people keep saying gosh you know why couldn't they invent something that could produce an almost unlimited amount of power with no carbon emissions. Well they have it's called the atom. So I'm all for the you know the renewables and wind and solar and hydro increasingly we're fortunate to be right next to Canada but I think nuclear is got to be part of that base as well.
Biello [00:48:31] And given your philosophical libertarianism, what role do you think government should play in setting environmental regulations?
Weld [00:48:40] Oh, I think we do need environmental regulation to preserve clean air and clean water. We were chatting earlier off air but I'm a lifelong environmentalist an outdoorsman and I've enjoyed the many pleasures of New Hampshire all the way from hunting boar up in Croydon and Grantham to fishing for trout and pickerel in Keene and Center Sandwich. So you know I've said earlier that if nothing is done to reverse the melting of the polar ice cap, you're going to have them white mountains with no snow. It's bad enough we've already lost the Old Man on the Mountain up here in New Hampshire but that would be kind of odd. And you know the when the polar ice cap melts in its entirety if we allow it to you're going to have the coastlines rearranged all over. And I hate to say it but you might need to say goodbye to parts of Portsmouth and Rye and Hampton Beach as well. Now what. Nobody wants that but Mr. Trump isn't looking ahead in the environmental area of the climate area. He has a one word platform for all of that stuff and it's 'hoax.' He says the whole thing is a hoax and it's not atypical of him to have a one word platform like "wall. It means he doesn't have to do the hard work of analysis and fashioning you know across the aisle solutions and maybe compromises to get the people's business done. He spends 100 percent of his time so far as I can tell on sloganeering as opposed to the hard work of government.
Biello [00:50:15] Let's talk to listener, Let's talks to Sheila in Putney, Vermont. Sheila thanks for calling.
Caller: Sheila [00:50:27] I'm calling because my memory is that when Governor Weld was governor of Massachusetts he shut down a bunch of really what I consider very important volunteer programs in prison. And so I'd like him to comment on that and speak to prison reform and criminal justice reform in general.
Biello [00:50:48] So two things. Your record in Massachusetts volunteer programs in prisons and then in general federal prison policy.
Weld [00:50:55] Don't remember that. I do associate myself with the recent push for for criminal justice reform and including the First Step legislation that recently did pass in Congress. I think we may need to go even further than that in the way of reentry programs which weren't addressed by that legislation. But I think people have come to realize that the the rage for mandatory minimum sentences which was part of the Justice Department when I was there under President Reagan resulted in excessive prison population. We've got a bigger, percentage wise, I believe the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world which means it's higher than China and Russia which is really saying something. I got involved in recent years looking at the consequences of mandatory minimums for marijuana possession and their impact on social justice, very interesting facts. If you're black, you're four times as likely to get arrested for marijuana possession as you are if you're white. And you're four times as likely to get a jail sentence. And when you get a jail sentence it's likely to be four times as long as the sentence that a white person would get in your same neighborhood. So that's a ratio of 64 to one. And that that calls for some social justice in my book.
Biello [00:52:21] Are you in favor of legalizing marijuana on the federal level for recreational use?
Weld [00:52:24] Not as federal policy because if say Alabama didn't want to do it I think they should be allowed to not do it. So I'm in favor of the so-called states act, co-sponsored by by Senator Cory Gardner who's a Republican of Colorado and by Elizabeth Warren which would essentially leave that up to the states. But it would get the federal government out of the middle of it. Right now we've got cannabis scheduled as a class one narcotic in Washington by the federal government which is ludicrous. That's supposed to be only things that have no medicinal value and are very, very dangerous. And research in other countries where they don't have this provision of law particularly in Israel has shown that cannabis can be very useful in treating a range of afflictions among others pain which is why in the states that have legalized cannabis the topicalsm the creams you know, the elderly who suffer from pain have have flocked to make use of that. And I haven't read about any adverse experiences as a result of that.
Biello [00:53:38] I wanna ask you a question about foreign policy from Michael who wrote us to ask ",with countries like Turkey Hungary and Saudi Arabia, how does the U.S. best toe the line between allies and their anti-democratic policies?
Weld [00:53:50] Well I think the president seems to favor only countries with anti-democratic policies.
Biello [00:53:57] Well how would that work under a Weld administration?
Weld [00:53:59] Well I'll tell you I wouldn't be trying to push Viktor Orban in Hungary out of the Western orbit into the arms of the Soviets which Mr. Trump is doing. Mr. Orban is kind of an alt-right type like Steve Bannon and I hate to say it but Mr. Trump himself. And you know at the same time Mr. Trump has openly questioned whether we really need NATO. I mean Vladimir Putin in his wildest dreams could not imagine hearing that from a senior American official let alone the president of the United States. When Mr. Trump had Ambassador Kislyak into his office for a chat, he expelled all the American press but he'd let Tass in, which is the state organ of Russia. So Mr. Trump's foreign policy could not be more in my view anti American values and pro tyrannical dictator type type regimes. It's just my policy would be backwards from that..
Biello [00:55:03] One more quick question on foreign policy from Bart. "How do you plan to restore the trust and faith of our allies which have been shattered by the current president?"
Weld [00:55:11] Well by treating them like our allies. Again the current incumbent in the Oval Office doesn't understand that allies are force multipliers. And right now we're way on top of the world but that may not always be the case economically and at some point China's economy may catch up with ours and at that point you're going to need force multipliers in order to keep the sea lanes and the air lanes open which is one of the main points of his defense for having a strong military. And you know it's nations like Japan and South Korea are very useful to us in Asia. Sure we help them as allies but they help us too. And you know the Western European countries really are a bulwark to the left of Soviet Russia. As you look at the map. And to leave them all by themselves as Mr. Trump seems to prefer doing is just not the way to go. Not in not in America's national security interest. I think he actually jeopardizes America's national security, knowingly or not.
Biello [00:56:18] Last question for you Governor Weld if you do not emerge as the winner in this Republican primary, will you support the Democratic nominee?
Weld [00:56:26] I'm not prepared to say that. I would never support Mr. Trump as you can tell from my remarks. I think he's way out of the mainstream in terms of performance in office and I think he lacks the moral authority to govern in the first place. But I'm not sure what I do. I might sit it out the way my my successor Charlie Baker said election last time.
Biello [00:56:52] Well Governor Weld We really appreciate you spending the hour with the exchange here today. Thank you very much.
Weld: Thank you Peter.