Bill Weld wants you to know that he really, really, really doesn't like Donald Trump. The Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee, who started off his ticket's media campaign by expressing an open preference for his "old friend" Hillary Clinton over the Republican nominee, and then spent the intervening months trying to walk back that sentiment and batting down persistent rumors that he was going to drop out or "exclusively" criticize Trump, took the unusual step yesterday of releasing a prepared statement "regarding the final weeks of this election."
"I would not have stepped out of the swirl of the campaign to make this statement," Weld said, "if I did not fear for our country, as I do."
The former Massachusetts governor addressed himself specifically "to all those in the electorate who remain torn between two so-called major party candidates whom they cannot enthusiastically support," particularly "those Republicans who feel that our President should exhibit commonly accepted standards of decency and discipline." What does he say to those Republicans who can't bring themselves to vote third party? Defeat Donald Trump. Excerpt:
After careful observation and reflection, I have come to believe that Donald Trump, if elected President of the United States, would not be able to stand up to this pressure and this criticism without becoming unhinged and unable to perform competently the duties of his office. […]
This is the worst of American politics. I fear for our cohesion as a nation, and for our place in the world, if this man who is unwilling to say he will abide by the result of our national election becomes our President.
This great nation has weathered policy differences throughout our history, and we will do so again. Not in my lifetime, though, has there been a candidate for President who actually makes me fear for the ultimate well-being of the country, a candidate who might in fact put at risk the solid foundation of America that allows us to endure even ill-advised policies and the normal ebb and flow of politics.
In the final days of this very close race, every citizen must be aware of the power and responsibility of each individual vote. This is not the time to cast a jocular or feel-good vote for a man whom you may have briefly found entertaining. Donald Trump should not, cannot, and must not be elected President of the United States.
In follow-up conversation with reporters, Weld "refused to say whether he was asking undecided voters and Republicans to back Clinton," reported The Boston Globe. "Nor did he make a strong pitch for them to get behind him and his Libertarian presidential running mate, Gary Johnson." According to MassLive, Weld offered these words about Clinton: "I've said what I've said about her in the past….I think she's qualified, and you know, I'm not saying the same things as I'm saying about Donald Trump, put it that way."
It's hard to imagine this maneuver doing much to allay Libertarians' long-standing suspicions of Weld's motives and libertarian bonafides. Many people (myself included) are at least slightly more horrified at the prospect of a President Trump than a President Clinton, but we are also not on the ballot representing a third party desperate to clear the 5 percent voting threshold. I can't see this convincing many Republicans to vote Libertarian (after all, he addressed it specifically "to all those in the electorate who remain torn between two so-called major party candidates"), but it's pretty easy to see it at least semi-working as a virtue-signaling exercise aimed at Weld's Trump-hating milieu.
Weld is continuing to actively campaign, including tomorrow in traditionally Libertarian-friendly Alaska. From our November issue, read an edited transcript of five interviews we conducted with the Libertarian Party ticket.
UPDATE: The Johnson campaign has released a follow-up statement, under the headline "The Democratic Media Machine Is at it Again…False Stories," authored by Communications Director Joe Hunter. Excerpt:
Led by Occupy Democrats, a well-known mouthpiece for the left, the sensationalists and wishful thinkers are re-writing Gov. Weld's forceful condemnation of Donald Trump into a suggestion that voters should support Hillary Clinton. That is absurd.
Governor Weld and Governor Johnson are campaigning nonstop, with rallies and appearances scheduled over the next few days across the country from Alaska to Cincinnati, and are fully committed to giving voters the third choice they deserve in this election.
Any suggestion to the contrary is the product of active imaginations and partisans in both the Republican and Democrat camps [….]
Governor Weld has made clear from day one his fear of a potential Trump presidency, just as he has made clear his policy differences with Hillary Clinton. The only candidate he is urging voters to support for President is Gov. Gary Johnson. Period.
The wishful thinkers need to take a break and start wishing for something else, because the Johnson-Weld ticket is not giving an inch to Donald Trump OR Hillary Clinton.
UPDATE 2: In a follow-up interview with Slate's Isaac Chotiner published tonight, Weld kind of blinked at the question of what to tell Trump-fearing voters in swing states:
WELD: I think there is a decent chance Donald Trump could win the thing. I think there is a hidden Trump vote of 3–4–5 percent of people who just don't want to admit to a pollster that they are going to vote for Donald Trump. I don't know if you saw the statement I put out yesterday but I addressed it squarely toward Republicans who are standing by while the Trump train chugs on. That's why my remarks were about Donald Trump and not anybody else. I wanted to focus people's attention on this before we do ourselves some lasting harm, and I think the election of Donald Trump would constitute lasting harm.
CHOTINER: I don't know if I agree with you about the hidden Trump vote but—
WELD: I hope I am wrong.
CHOTINER: I hope you are wrong too. I just don't know how you tell people in swing states to vote for you and Gary Johnson instead of Hillary Clinton if that's the case.
WELD: [Nine second pause.] Is that a question?
CHOTINER: Take it for—
WELD: I see your point of view. You know, I stand by what I said about Libertarians getting a seat at the table of the national political dialogue going forward would be very good for the country. I think the two-party duopoly has become sick.
CHOTINER: Well, if Trump is elected we won't have a two-party duopoly but instead a one-party state.
WELD: I completely agree.