Our Opinion: Long-shot Weld would elevate presidential campaign

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Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld is definitely a long shot to take the Republican presidential nomination away from President Donald Trump in 2020. Republican primary voters tend to be far more conservative than the moderate Mr. Weld, and the incumbent will have financial resources that Mr. Weld will not come close to matching. But Mr. Weld's presence on the campaign trail will benefit both the Republican Party and the nation.

The total capitulation of the Republican Party and its nominal leaders in Congress over the past two years has enabled the president to carry on his destructive and divisive presidency with little or no restraint — at least until the Democratic Party took back the House of Representatives last November.

"Never Trump" politicians like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had Mr. Trump pegged early on as a vulgar narcissist, now provide knee-jerk support for indefensible actions like his declaration of a faux national emergency to build his needless wall on the Mexican border.

A party that once stood for responsible spending, a foreign policy that supports allies and challenges enemies, and principles outlined in the Constitution have thrown all of that aside in the name of political expediency, and/or fear of being bullied by Mr. Trump, attacked by the president's mouthpieces in the media, or alienating the Trump "base."

While Mr. Weld is officially "exploring" a presidential race, he has in recent days been making speeches in New Hampshire, the site of the first presidential primary. If and when he makes his run official, the former governor can be counted upon to defend traditional Republican principles abandoned by party leadership. He will also speak truth to power in a way the party hierarchy can't bring itself to do.

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"In terms of undermining the rule of law, he has gone well past what Nixon did," declared Mr. Weld last week in a refreshingly honest statement from a Republican. Mr. Weld knows of what he speaks. As a young lawyer, he worked for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigation of the disgraced former president. That began a distinguished career in public service.

In the 1980s, Mr. Weld served as the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts and then as head of the Department of Justice's criminal division. A social moderate and fiscal conservative, Mr. Weld was narrowly elected governor of Massachusetts in 1990 and was easily re-elected in 1994. It was possible to disagree with Mr. Weld's positions, as many Democrats did, but there was no doubting his integrity or sincerity in doing what was best for the state.

Republicans seeking a candidate who will adhere to the party's traditional principles and will not embarrass them on a regular basis may find that person in Mr. Weld. Witty and possessed of a sharp sense of humor, Mr. Weld won't be frightened into tongue-tied silence, as were Mr. Trump's Republican opponents in 2016.

Mr. Weld's quixotic nature, while appealing, may cause him difficulty with Republican voters, however. He appeared to grow bored with being governor and embarked midway through his second term upon an unsuccessful quest to unseat popular Democratic Senator John Kerry. He then resigned as governor to become President Bill Clinton's ambassador to Mexico, only to have that bid shot down by arch-conservative Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. Two years ago, Mr. Weld stepped away from his private law practice to run for vice president on the Libertarian ticket, even though his political stances are not exactly Libertarian. That foray may not sit well with some Republican voters.

It is to Mr. Weld's advantage that the first primary is in neighboring New Hampshire, where he is known and where his traditional conservatism may play well with voters. A good showing there may give him momentum in primary states where unenrolled voters can take a Republican ballot. If enough of those voters, unhappy with the president and the Democratic choices, gravitate to Mr. Weld, he could be in the race for the long haul.

Regardless of how well or poorly he does in the primaries and caucuses ahead, Mr. Weld's candidacy will force Mr. Trump to defend his policies, statements and personal conduct as president. He may also remind prominent Republicans of what they used to believe and stand for before November 2016.


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