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Bill Weld, the face of Trump resistance

The Republican establishment is standing by President Trump, leaving Bill Weld standing pretty much alone.

Bill WeldNic Antaya for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

Did it hurt to write “a check for 25 grand” — in Bill Weld’s words — to get his name on Florida’s 2020 primary ballot?

“It didn’t hurt, because I wrote it on my bank account, instead of on my campaign account,” said Weld.

It has come to this. The most serious face of establishment Republican resistance to President Trump belongs to Weld, the former Massachusetts governor who is known for taking nothing very seriously — including his affluence. Weld, who launched what is politely called a long-shot presidential bid, is polling at 1 percent nationally with registered Republican voters. Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman from Illinois and conservative radio host, who is also running a very long-shot effort against Trump, comes at the race from the hard right. With Washington Republicans more afraid of losing their seats than their integrity, it’s up to Weld to press the establishment case against Trump.

As he wrote in a recent opinion piece, “I’ve seen enough. If I were in the Senate today, I would vote to remove Donald J. Trump from office.”


Asked his opinion of the last two weeks of public impeachment testimony, Weld said that US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland “buried everyone. . . . He said what happened. He said, ‘We all did this and we did it because the president directed us to do it.’”

Of course, Weld’s a throwback to a long-ago, moderate Republican era. And, as a supporter of abortion rights and gay rights, even then, he was out of step with much of the party on social issues. In 2016, he ran as the libertarian candidate for vice president. A few days before the election, he vouched not for his running mate, but for Hillary Clinton. Now, he’s back running for president as a Republican. As the headline over a recent column by my colleague, Jeff Jacoby, put it, “Bill Weld’s true north is that he has no true north.”


And that’s the most frustrating part about him. He has the intellect, experience, and gravitas to make a difference in politics. But, over 73 years of life, Weld mostly shrugged off everything with the self-amused ease that must come from being rich and privileged. Even when he talks about Trump’s outrageous acts, he does it with minimum outrage.

Yet as a lawyer for the Watergate impeachment committee, Weld knows impeachable crimes when he sees them. With Trump, he says the president’s actions check two boxes: inviting foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs and corrupting his public office by seeking personal gain for himself.

Weld said the reason others don’t see Trump’s corruption as a deal-breaker goes like this: “My wife and I went on a world tour this year. We spent money like it’s water. We came back, and there was more money in my investment portfolio than when we left. How could we not be for Mr. Trump?”

So why shouldn’t voters be motivated by economic self-interest? “I would find it quite easy to not subscribe to that by simply paying attention to what Mr. Trump does,” replied Weld. It’s going to take more than that to convince the wealthy to abandon an administration that celebrates wealth.

Weld said his Washington sources tell him “the most terrifying thing they’ve ever done in Washington is to brief Donald J. Trump on national security issues. After two minutes . . . he starts fiddling with whatever magazine is near his elbow and he says, ‘Keep talking, I’m listening. Hey, that’s a pretty good photo of Melania.’ . . . Given what they’re talking about, that terrifies them and terrifies me, too.”


According to Weld, there are at least “four or five” Republican senators ready to vote to convict. Is Mitt Romney, another former Massachusetts governor and now a senator from Utah, one of them?

“I’m not going to name them,” said Weld. “I have my friends in the Senate. I’m not going to throw them under the bus.”

Given that Romney just had a lunch with Trump that Romney described as “delightful,” that leaves the resistance to Weld. It really is his last chance to make a difference and do something other than amuse himself.

Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.