To stop Trump, Weld should urge a vote for Clinton

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Fomer Massachusetts governor and current Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Bill Weld at a town hall meeting at Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 22.
Fomer Massachusetts governor and current Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Bill Weld at a town hall meeting at Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 22.Copyright 2016 Bob Self

Whatever happens on Election Day, Bill Weld Inc. will flourish.

After the former Massachusetts governor-turned-lobbyist signed onto the Libertarian Party ticket as Gary Johnson's running mate, he boosted his national profile and, with it, his brand.

But if Weld cares about legacy over limelight, not to mention the country's future, he should do even more than tell Rachel Maddow, "I'm here vouching for Mrs. Clinton." He should take the next step and tell the American people he's voting for Hillary Clinton, and if they want to stop Donald Trump, they should too.

Going that far would be hard to do, given that Weld pledged "I'm a Libertarian for life" in order to gain a spot on the ticket. But it would be the right thing to do.


On Tuesday night, on MSNBC, the former Massachusetts governor told Maddow, "I fear for the country" if Trump wins. He also said he does not agree with a press release put out by the Libertarian party under both his and Johnson's name, which stated that the letter from FBI director James Comey to Congress shows why "America should be scared of both Clinton and Trump."

Weld has been edging away from Johnson for weeks. Making a complete break would require that, for once, he put his political capital behind a principle bigger than self. And his inability to do just that has been Weld's great weakness.

He had his moments, such as standing up to his party on issues like abortion and gay rights. In 1988, he resigned as head of the US Justice Department's criminal division, over concerns about ethics issues involving Attorney General Edward Meese. As reported in a National Review profile after he joined the Johnson ticket, Weld later testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he believed, "If Mr. Meese were an ordinary public official, he would be open to prosecution."


But over time, Weld largely chose breezy bemusement over intellectual seriousness. His Mayflower roots and great wealth gave him cover to act as if he didn't care when his political ambitions were thwarted. After he couldn't get confirmed as US ambassador to Mexico and lost a Senate race to John Kerry, he went off to work for a New York law firm. Then he came back to Massachusetts to represent corporate clients like Steve Wynn. Now comes the 2016 presidential race and Trump's takeover of the GOP. At one point, Weld was reportedly mulling a trip to Cleveland to take a stand against Trump at the Republican National Convention. Instead, he took the second spot on the Libertarian ticket.

If Weld believes a Trump presidency would be a disaster for the country, he should tell Americans not to waste a vote on a ticket that can't win, but that can drain crucial support from Clinton in battleground states. He knows Clinton from their days together on the House inquiry into Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, and, on Maddow's show, he said he knows her to be "a person of high moral character . . . a reliable person . . . an honest person." Meanwhile, Weld warns against Trump's "content-free" campaign, which he said stirs up envy and resentment and represents a threat to foreign policy.

Ever since Johnson's "What is Aleppo?" gaffe, Weld has had good reason for buyer's remorse. Add to that the knowledge that the Libertarian ticket can do more damage to Clinton than to Trump. If Trump somehow ends up winning, more than one person will think of Weld as a spoiler. If that's not enough to give him pause about the wisdom of a Libertarian vote, his concerns about Comey's actions, and the future of the republic, should.


Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.