Ex-Mass. Gov. Weld Knows It won't Be Easy Challenging Trump In Primaries
NOEL KING, HOST:
So far, two Republicans have announced their intention to run for their party's nomination against President Trump. One of those contenders, former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, declared his candidacy last weekend. At least two others are reportedly considering doing the same - former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Now, to be clear, they are all long shots, but before any of those potential primary challengers came into the picture, there was Bill Weld, who announced way back in April. Weld is a former libertarian vice presidential candidate and the former governor of Massachusetts. He talked to us from a studio in Boston.
BILL WELD: I've actually wanted to be president for a long time, and I've worked in both the House and the Senate and the executive branch and been a two-term governor. And, you know, I have an idea for what works and what doesn't. And I think I could start Monday in the job. No. 1, I would balance the budget. I was rated the most fiscally conservative governor in the United States in office. And No. 2, I would reverse the president's policies in many international areas, starting with the Paris climate accords but going on to all the treaties that he's ripped up.
KING: You may not like the president's policies, but according to RealClearPolitics, according to their polling numbers, President Trump has the support of 81.3% of registered Republican voters. Can you really get him on policy?
WELD: Yeah. I think it's entirely possible. The Trump organization in every one of the 50 states is the state Republican Party now. So if you poll that type of voter, you're going - you should get 100% support. The New Hampshire primary is the first in the nation primary, and it has outsized weight and punch. And many times, presidents have been running for reelection and they've faced a primary opponent in New Hampshire. None of whom has yet won that primary, but they got, you know, 30%, 40%, and that knocked the president right out. It's happened five times. And every time a president has had an opponent within his own party - and they're all his - that president has gone on to lose the general election.
KING: Do you want to win the presidency or do you just want to deal the president a blow in New Hampshire?
WELD: Oh, no, I want to win, and now it's very obvious what has to be done. We have to totally reverse direction from the president's disastrous approach internationally of insulting our allies and cozying up to dictators. He's hollowed out the Departments of State and Defense and Homeland Security. And all those - not all, but many of those people are in an acting capacity. One thing I can tell you about Washington, D.C., is that if you have the word acting in front of your name, you have no authority to get anything done. And I think the president likes that because it means there's a power vacuum. And so that power redounds back to the Oval Office.
KING: Let me ask you for your stance on a very big and important social issue. Do you support abortion rights?
WELD: I've been pro-choice since day one. And if I may say so, I think that recently in backing the statutes passed in Alabama, Georgia and some other states, saying that there are no exceptions for rape or incest, that abortion is totally outlawed, I think the president and those who support those statutes are taking the side of rapists over the side of women.
KING: This position will not endear you to many conservatives who view abortion as a really core issue. How do you plan on dealing with that?
WELD: My job in New Hampshire and elsewhere, obviously, is to expand the circle of those who vote in the Republican primary beyond the Republican Party bosses and to include as many millennials as possible, as many women as possible. And I mean all women. I'm not just saying suburban moderate women voters. These recent statutes and the plan that the president and his allies have in mind for abortion, it's a throwback to the Stone Age. It's not even a throwback to 100 years ago.
KING: The Washington Post recently wrote that you are not a, quote, "take-the-ramparts kind of orator" and yet you want to take on President Trump. And I wonder, do you think that his charisma, his ability to draw people in, presents a challenge to you?
WELD: If Mr. Trump continues to act in the way he has been, you may see me become a take-the-ramparts orator.
KING: Given what we now know about President Trump's actions, should he be subject to impeachment proceedings?
WELD: Absolutely. The Mueller report section on obstruction of justice made it clear that Mr. Trump has ordered people to falsify documents in order to obstruct an investigation. And this is not nobody. This is the director of national intelligence and senior national security officials and his own lawyer.
KING: Former Governor Bill Weld challenging President Trump for the Republican primary. Thank you so much for joining us.
WELD: Thank you so much, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.