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William F. Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts who is considering a challenge to Donald Trump in their party’s 2020 primary election, was deeply critical of the president Tuesday in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Oh, the foreign policy is just awful. He goes out of his way to court despots and autocrats,” Weld said of Trump. “His favorite guy is Vladimir Putin — tell me that guy’s not an autocrat. Then Kim, in North Korea, the guy he’s threatened to blow away with nuclear weapons. He also says, ‘What a great, strong kid! He iced his uncle! He even iced his own brother!’ ”


Trump has praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “tough guy” and downplayed the dictator’s human rights abuses, which include starving his nation’s people and ordering the killings of family members.

Weld, who in 2016 was a Libertarian vice presidential candidate, said Trump would prefer not to have to face a party primary or even a general election.

Weld announced last week that he was launching a presidential exploratory committee, a move that could position him as the first Republican to challenge Trump in the primary.

On “Morning Joe,” Weld touted his credentials as a fiscal conservative who cut spending in Massachusetts, and he accused Trump of not paying attention to important issues such as federal spending and climate change. He said the president is not “getting the job done.”

As an example, Weld pointed to Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to push forward with his plan to build a wall along the nation’s southern border, saying a greater and more immediate issue is the coming loss of a quarter of the nation’s jobs to artificial intelligence systems, self-driving vehicles, and other emerging technologies.


“But there will be replacement jobs created, and they’re mostly on the technical side,” Weld told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. “And we’ve got to — as a country — make sure that those displaced workers can get those technical skills. That’ll take some federal leadership.”

Weld said one of his key issues is climate change, another area in which he lashed out at Trump, who has in the past suggested that the Earth’s warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government. Trump has since said he was joking.

“To just say breezily, ‘This is a hoax, and I’m not going to do anything about it, and I’m going to make sure that the United States contributes nothing by withdrawing from the Paris climate accords’ — that is irresponsible,” Weld said. “The science is not iffy on this stuff.”

Scientists who study climate almost universally agree that the planet is warming because of human activities, and that rising temperatures are speeding the melting of polar ice and the rise of sea levels, changes that could have catastrophic results.

For many years, Trump has demonstrated an apparent misunderstanding of climate change, suggesting as recently as a month ago that snowstorms in the Northeastern United States demonstrated that the planet is not warming.

Asked by Scarborough about his chances of actually defeating Trump and winning the election, Weld pointed to the sitting president’s own unlikely electoral victories.

“Look back to 2016 — the unthinkable became the inevitable twice,” he said. “First in the Republican primary and then in the general election.”


Weld said former Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were similarly longshot candidates at this stage of the campaign process.

“Two years out, those guys, no one had ever heard of them,” Weld said.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.