The neverending nightmare that is the presidential race for 2016 just got loonier.
Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and well-known TV pundit, has been desperately casting about for someone — anyone — to run as a third-party candidate to keep Donald Trump from the White House. He banked on Romney, who promptly crapped out. He evidently put out feelers to another prominent anti-Trumper, Senator Ben Sasse, who politely declined. Is Kristol surprised no GOP politician wants to commit political suicide by electing Hillary Clinton?
Principled as he believes this effort to be (Kristol seeing Trump as a cross between the devil and a Gorgon), his worry has become a case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. And it’s getting harder to justify under any circumstances.
Bloomberg News is reporting that the man that Kristol believes would make a better president than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is National Review writer and prominent GOP lawyer David French.
Don’t get me wrong. French is a great writer and has a fine legal mind. He’s a go-to guy when an important SCOTUS case comes down and you want all that legalese boiled down to the essentials.
But for all his gifts, French has no more the skill set to be president than a less than one-term Illinois senator who was elected in 2008. The fact that he’s evidently a nice guy, polite, listens to people, and is a practical conservative hardly matters when you’re across the table from Vladimir Putin.
Ed Morrissey tweeted: “Huge respect for both David French and Bill Kristol, but this is like picking George Will to pitch for your fantasy baseball team.”
French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children.
Reached in Israel late Tuesday afternoon, Kristol declined to comment on his efforts to induce French to run. The two Republicans confirmed that French is open to launching a bid, but that he has not made a final decision. One of the Republicans added that French has not lined up a vice-presidential running mate or significant financial support. However, according to this person, some conservative donors look favorably on the prospect of French entering the fray.
In Kristol’s piece in the Standard’s June 6 issue, he argued that “the fact of Trump’s and Clinton’s unfitness for the Oval Office has become so self-evident that it’s no longer clear one needs a famous figure to provide an alternative.” After mentioning Mitt Romney and other possibilities such as Judd Gregg and Mel Martinez, Kristol invoked French’s name and résumé, writing, “To say that he would be a better and a more responsible president than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is to state a truth that would become self-evident as more Americans got to know him.”
Ever since Kristol tweeted on Sunday that an “impressive” independent candidate “with a strong team and a real chance” is now prepared to enter the presidential fray, the political world has been engaged in a fevered guessing game over whom that person might be.
Shortly after Kristol fired off that provocative missive on Sunday, he left for Israel and has been avoiding the press, speaking only through a series of tweets taunting Trump for responding to Kristol’s Sunday tweet. Speculation had centered on 2012 Republican nominee Romney, freshman Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, and other current and former state and federal office-holders.
According to one person deeply involved in the efforts to recruit an independent challenger, the search has focused on individuals who have one or more of the following three traits seen as vital for credibly launching such a bid: fame, vast wealth, and elective experience. Reached by phone Tuesday evening, French declined to answer questions about any possible run.
There is no way that French will be a “credible” candidate. He doesn’t even meet the criteria set up by the Kristol effort — “fame, vast wealth, and elective experience.” For one thing, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson will almost certainly have more money — and that’s not saying much. For another, unless the Kristol group starts now, right this instant, they will be unable to get French on all 50 state ballots.
Kristol sees it as a point of honor that despite handing the election to Hillary Clinton, at least he and others who subscribe to his point of view will have a clear conscience in trying to save the soul of the GOP. I’m afraid this is a fool’s errand. When Hillary is elected, most Republicans will blame him for the disaster. Whether that’s fair or not, that’s the reality.
Perhaps Kristol should look to save his own soul before he tries to save anyone else.