Opinion | Campaign

A Weld challenge to Trump would provide Republicans a clear choice

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

In announcing that he has formed a presidential exploratory committee to challenge Donald Trump in the Republican primaries, Bill Weld has provided Republicans a clear choice between two men who have nothing in common.

On reining in government spending - a quintessential Republican principle - Donald Trump campaigned that he would get rid of the national debt "over a period of eight years," yet as president he has engaged in a reckless spending binge that has increased it by more than $2 trillion dollars.

Conversely, as governor of Massachusetts, Weld closed a $1.8 billion deficit and balanced every state budget without borrowing from Wall Street or raising taxes. Behind his anti-deficit crusade is his longstanding belief that "there is no such thing as government money, only taxpayer money."

On economic trade, Trump similarly has acted irresponsibly by levying tariffs on U.S. trading partners. His protectionist policies may be good politics with his base but end up hurting American consumers and businesses through higher prices and lower economic growth.

As a dyed in the wool free trader, Weld worked with Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich in 1994 to help draft the North American Free Trade Agreement. His economic idols are Adam Smith and David Ricardo, not Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley whose tariffs helped croak the economy in the 1930s.

On international alliances, Trump has bullied, humiliated and marginalized our allies. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War in large measure through his ironclad relationship with Margaret Thatcher and other leaders of the western alliance, but today "America in retreat" has become the catchphrase to describe a president who treats despots and dictators better than he does our friends.

As a self-described "inveterate internationalist," Weld believes America is a hegemonic power but is strongest in acting in concert with our economic and strategic partners. International coalitions, and not go-it-alone policies, are vital to safeguard America and our democratic ideals.

On immigration, Trump has made building a wall along the Mexican border his signature priority. Weld said in 2000, "Opposing the free flow of goods or people is a bad idea." Comprehensive immigration reform - including more H-1B visas to remain globally competitive - is a far more effective long-term strategy.

On the environment, Trump recklessly withdrew from the Paris Agreement to combat greenhouse gasses, believing that climate change is not caused by human behavior. As governor, Weld made conservation a top priority, believing that "natural resources are so vast that no single individual or business is going to protect them; they don't have an incentive to."

On working with Congress, Trump's combative relationship with Democrats has come at the expense of taxpayers who are fed up with gridlock, name calling and government shutdowns. If Weld is remembered for anything it is his ability to work across party lines. He got 21 tax cuts and one of the toughest welfare reform laws passed in a state legislature where Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 3 to 1.

But by far the greatest difference between Trump and Weld is their temperament. The president's divisive tweets, bullying and flagrant lies have pushed away moderate voting blocs who will play an important role in swing states in the 2020 election.

Weld's integrity and respect for the rule of law have always been unquestionable. He worked as a lawyer on the Watergate Committee to investigate abuse of power by Richard Nixon, served as US attorney for Massachusetts and was appointed by President Reagan as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. If anyone can speak truth to power, it is Weld who resigned from the DOJ in 1988 over allegations of improper conduct by Attorney General Ed Meese.

In the past, the fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party has been between moderates and social conservatives.  Today, it is a larger calling to challenge a Republican president who is emotionally, morally and intellectually unfit to carry out the duties of the most important job on earth.

John Stimpson served as an aide to former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld. He has since worked in senior business development roles in the hedge funds industry. He lives in New York City.

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