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'Social Justice'–Touting Bill Weld Has Kind Words for Fellow Ex-Prosecutors Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar

The possible presidential contender has come a long way since his tough-on-crime speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, but he's still emphasizing his U.S. attorney past.

||| Keiko Hiromi/AFLO/NewscomKeiko Hiromi/AFLO/NewscomYesterday at Franklin Pierce University's Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication in Rindge, New Hampshire, Bill Weld—who is trying to make Donald Trump the only incumbent president not named Franklin Pierce to seek yet still lose the nomination of his own political party—told the assembled pizza-gobbling students that "you'll be hearing a lot more from me about social justice."

So far, so normal for the 2016 Libertarian Party vice-presidential nominee, whose stump speech the past four years has included laments about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. "The social justice impact of the war on drugs on various communities, minority communities versus white communities, is staggering," he told me last month at LibertyCon. "If you're in a minority community, you're four times as likely to get arrested for marijuana offense, four times as likely to get jail time after you're arrested, your sentence is likely going to be four times as long. That's a 64X multiple, not an 8X multiple. I think we need perhaps have some statutory recognition of this."

Yet Woke Bill Weld still has a soft spot for his fellow ex-prosecutors running for president across the aisle: Sens. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.):

Harris in particular has long been a bête noire for civil libertarian criminal justice reformers, and Klobuchar was a "tough on crime" prosecutor whose legislative record also includes misguided (if popular-among-pols-of-both-parties) crackdowns on "human trafficking" and drugs. So why the Weldian shout-outs?

Occam's razor suggests that the perpetually amused political genre-bender simply enjoys surprising audiences with seemingly unexpected observations. This is the man, after all, who drew applause at the Republican National Convention in 1992 for defending "a woman's right to choose" and declaring that "I want the government out of your pocketbook and your bedroom." (The latter quip in particular is one that Weld enjoys recounting on the pre-campaign trail.)

But it's also true that one of the candidate's main selling propositions this season, as WMUR reports, is respect for the rule of law: "Weld is contrasting his background as a federal prosecutor with Trump's legal troubles as he explores a presidential run." The Keene Sentinel's write-up of the Franklin Pierce speech points out that, "On at least three occasions, Weld emphasized his time as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts in the Department of Justice with Robert Mueller."

And let's not forget the section of his 1992 RNC speech that Weld doesn't highlight nowadays, which was basically its main theme: "We are tough on crime, because unless our families are free to walk the streets in safety, no other freedoms really matter." Watch the whole thing:

To his credit, Weld has since backed off such tuff-guy talk excoriating "soft-minded, coddling approaches to crime." At Freedom Fest in July 2016, for example, he told me, "Although I was a champion of mandatory minimum sentences back 20 years ago, when...people would be sentenced to 20 years and they'd be doing six months, including [for] violent crimes...now, partly [because of] the narcotics offenses, I think maybe that pendulum needs to come back a little bit so that more discretion is entrusted to the judges once again."

Weld last April joined former House speaker John Boehner on the advisory board of the cannabis company Acreage Holdings, and he expounded on his prosecutorial change of heart at the Libertarian National Convention in New Orleans three months later: "The way to level the playing field in terms of power between prosecutors and defendants is to cut down on the use of mandatory minimums, which is what the judges have been saying for some time. When I was in the Justice Department under Reagan, I was charged with having the other side of that, but you get older, you get wiser."

And in his New Hampshire speech last Friday announcing his possible candidacy, Weld stayed on the reformist side:

[Veterans] should be permitted to use cannabis for the relief of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, without losing their veterans' benefits entirely, which is the case under current V.A. law. The elderly must be permitted to have full access to non-addictive drugs, which are useful for the relief of pain, including cannabis and CBD. Addiction, of all types, should be treated as a national public health emergency, which it is, rather than as a crime of status and of top priority of the U.S. criminal justice system.

We should also move on in criminal justice to bail reform, funding for re-entry programs, and other criminal justice reforms not reached by the recent First Step legislation in Washington.

Reason on Weld here.

Photo Credit: Keiko Hiromi/AFLO/Newscom

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  • Joe M||

    While covering Weld, can you feel your life force ebbing, Matt?

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Nice euphemism, disturbing visual.

  • KevinP||

    Wasn't Bill Weld also a gun grabber?

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Yep. The guy is a disaster on so many things. Best he is not sticking with the LP.

  • Eddy||

    Already vouching for possible Dem nominees? How is that in any way "unpredictable"?

    "Addiction, of all types, should be treated as a national public health emergency, which it is, rather than as a crime of status and of top priority of the U.S. criminal justice system."

    Serious communicable diseases should be treated as public health emergencies. Health-destroying personal behavior is bad, but not in a cholera epidemic kind of way.

  • Zeb||

    Word.

    Stop calling things "epidemics" that aren't. No matter how many people around me are junkies, I'm not going to catch junkie.

  • NashTiger||

    I thought he was referring to Weld's addiction to sucking Democrat balls

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Kind words for the Dems? Of course he does!

    As bad as Trump is on a lot of things, he is good on some things, and the Dem contenders have shown themselves to be bad on most things and worse on the rest. They aren't even civil libertarians anymore.

    Since Weld's entire premise is to make enough trouble in the primary to derail Trump in the general, it's pretty clear he is just another Democrat.

  • Brandybuck||

    A libertarian with kind word for a Republican would be patted on the back. But a kind word for a Democrat is beyond the pale. It's like people just can't get off of the one dimensional political spectrum. It's like people would rather have naked partisanship than ideas. It's okay to be enslaved so long as the right people do the enslaving.

  • Just Say'n||

    It depends on what candidate they are complimenting. If Weld were complimenting Tulsi then I would actually gain some respect for him. But, instead he was complimenting Harris who is objectively a terrible person. Likewise, if he had been complimenting someone like Lindsey Graham in 2016, I'd say that makes him garbage.

    As it stands, Weld is far closer ideologically to Harris and Graham then he is Rand Paul or Tulsi. If you don't think that's a problem then maybe you should reconsider what exactly you believe in.

  • damikesc||

    I lack the energy to check, has Bill Kristol or Ana Navarro rubbed one out to the thought of him winning a nomination?

  • Just Say'n||

    No idea. But, considering that Niskanen Center has gone all in on neoconservatism (holding conferences with Kristol and Boot) I'm sure they'll be pimping Weld. "Bleeding heart libertarians" going full-on "neocon" is probably the most predictable political evolution in all of human history.

  • Just Say'n||

    Case in point: www.twitter.com/sfliberty/stat.....9032992769

    SFL (Students for Lindsey Graham)

  • TLBD||

    Democrats are almost exclusively authoritarians. Republicans mostly lean classical liberal.

    So yeah, Republicans kind of suck but Democrats certainly do.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    "Since Weld's entire premise is to make enough trouble in the primary to derail Trump in the general, it's pretty clear he is just another Democrat."
    Well derailing Trump was apparently his goal in the general last time around as he endorsed the Democrat while running as a Libertarian. He obviously doesn't believe he can beat Trump in the primary. Unless he's completely delusional.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Weld is of the Right wing of the Globalist Uniparty.

    It's the globalists versus the nationalists.
    Globalists to the Left
    Nationalists to the Right

  • Joe M||

    I'm fine with him praising Democrats if it's for the right things. But praising a civil-right-stomping authoritarian like Kamala Harris is concerning, to put it mildly.

  • ThomasD||

    I would call it unsurprising long before concerning.

    Not sure why anyone ever thought his flirtation with libertarianism was anything other than utter horseshit.

  • tlapp||

    Yes at one time civil liberties were a democrat strong suit. Even Alan Dershowitz a life long democrat has made that criticism of the modern democrats and the ACLU as well.

  • lap83||

    "The possible presidential contender has come a long way since his tough-on-crime speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention"

    He used to like Coca cola, but now he sees the merits of Pepsi

  • Fats of Fury||

    What's his position on oysters vs. snails?

  • Ray McKigney||

    He chooses the third way -- pizza-gobbler.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    Are in store for 2 more years of Weld posts?

  • Ken Shultz||

    It doesn't matter what Bill Weld touts.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    At least you have something in common.

  • Just Say'n||

    Defending Bill Weld to own Ken Shultz?

  • Zeb||

    Ken, maybe it would be easier if you just told us what does matter and what is worth writing about.

  • Joe M||

    Indeed. I get the impression it's a very short list. In fact, it could be nothing. Perhaps Ken has subtly been preaching journalistic nihilism all this time.

  • damikesc||

    Way to pimp for him for a long time, Welch.
    Great idea.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Bill Weld is my kind of libertarian — emphasize the importance of social justice, and praise Democrats (except Tulsi Gabbard).

    I'm still grateful he effectively endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

  • Just Say'n||

    You don't have to worry about Weld vouching for Tulsi. She's not a warmonger like him, so he doesn't like her.

  • Juice||

  • Eddy||

    If I wanted to hear about a prostitute doing the Weld thing, I'd listen to Tone Loc.

  • Zeb||

    But who is the Funky Cold Medina candidate?

  • TLBD||

    Michelle Obama.

  • Just Say'n||

    The people who once use to defend Weld when he was Johnson's running mate and then tried to spin him as a legitimate LP pick should be embarrassed, but they won't be

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Did anyone actually defend him? What was the actual quote?

  • Just Say'n||

    He had a lot of defenders in the LP leadership.

  • Just Say'n||

  • ThomasD||

    Kind words for John Kasich is 'libertarian' as Hell.

  • Brandybuck||

    I know a guy who rages about Weld all the time. "Fake libertarian!" "Poseur!" "Not serious!" This same guy also thought Roger Stone was the great white libertarian hope. Sigh.

  • Just Say'n||

    Sounds silly. Although, Stone has probably advocated for the death of less people than Weld, but I know all his defenders want to ignore is unequivocal support for every single American overseas adventure since the 90's.

    Case in point- the tweets above

  • Eddy||

    "What was the actual quote?"

    "At least when he screwed whales he didn't record it."

  • Eddy||

    "His Leslie Nielsen impression is better than the other candidates'."

  • Just Say'n||

    Yeah, McAfee is so dumb. He brags about doing drugs. That's not presidential. What's presidential is using the CIA to smuggle in drugs to poor communities in order to fund an illegal war overseas. Stupid McAfee

  • Eddy||

    And every now and then I owe a favor here and there
    Like letting a big drug shipment through
    And send it to the poor communities
    So we can bust you-know-who.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I don't see any further reason to cover a guy like Bill Weld here at Reason. He is such a shameless opportunist. No conviction, no nothing. Just seeking power and attention.

  • Brandybuck||

    "Just seeking power"

    Which explains why we ran as VP in the LP. Because that's where all the power is.

  • MattXIV||

    Nobody said he was good at it.

  • Zeb||

    Just attention, I think.

  • ClassicLiberal||

    More like run under the LP ticket so he can stump for the Democrats.

  • ||

    This guy. Remember Hilary is a 'good public servant'?

    Whatever it was.

  • Zeb||

    Maybe "good public servant" just means "terrible human being".

  • Longtobefree||

    Social justice means the federal (and all other) government getting the hell out of my social life.

  • ClassicLiberal||

    Bill Weld is not a Libertarian. He is a Democrat troll that will ruin any chance the Libertarian Party has of ever becoming a major party.

  • ThomasD||

    He's not so much a troll as he is a worthless statist grifter trying to keep the grift going.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Weld is really getting a head start on his tradition of endorsing female Democratic candidates.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Weld's binders full of women?

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  • buybuydandavis||

    "If you're in a minority community, you're four times as likely to get arrested for marijuana offense, four times as likely to get jail time after you're arrested, your sentence is likely going to be four times as long. That's a 64X multiple, not an 8X multiple. I think we need perhaps have some statutory recognition of this."

    I had no idea things were so bad in Chinatown.

  • n00bdragon||

    "Well I'm here vouching for Mrs. Harris and I think it's high time somebody did, and I'm doing it based on my personal experience with her and I think she deserves to have people vouch for her other than members of the Democratic National Committee, so I'm here to do that."

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