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Bill Weld and the Libertarian platform

Former Governor of Massachusetts William F. Weld in his New York office.
Former Governor of Massachusetts William F. Weld in his New York office. Tina Fineberg for the Boston Globe

Poor John Kerry. Back in 1996 the US senator was fighting for his political life and his Republican opponent, the popular Massachusetts governor William F. Weld, was kicking the daylights out of him for being soft on drug crimes.

Now, if the US secretary of state has the time to notice, he would see the stake he thought he drove into Weld’s political career has been removed and the former Massachusetts governor is back in the game, hoping to win the Libertarian Party’s nomination for vice president on a party a platform that calls for legalizing drugs.

That is jarring for those who remember Weld, who made crime fighting a major pillar of his political image as a tough, no-nonsense federal anti-drug prosecutor.

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“John Kerry just doesn’t get it,’’ Weld said in one typical critique of his opponent during that nationally watched race 20 years ago. “Drugs, school violence, they are threatening our schools and John Kerry just doesn’t get it.”

Asked if he has changed his thinking about drugs, Weld said in an emailed response, he has had “... definitely some movement” toward treating drug addiction not as a crime but as a public health emergency. He stopped short of endorsing legalization — ditto for legalizing prostitution, which Libertarians advocate.

Drug policy is just one area that will test Weld’s well-touted ability for graceful political moves.

Once an advocate for strong gun control laws, Weld last week quickly made public his new position as an anti-gun-control candidate — in line with his fellow Libertarians.

He still has to explain to the Libertarians his tub-thumping advocacy for reinstating the Massachusetts death penalty, a position he still holds, particularly, he says, for “cases of first-degree murder committed with extreme cruelty or atrocity.” The party takes a dim view of capital punishment.

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What about the Libertarians’ position advocating the abolishment of Social Security? That one hits home. “I don’t propose to abolish Social Security, I just started receiving it!’’ the nearly 71-year-old Weld said.


Frank Phillips can be reached at phillips@globe.com.