Wow. I just…I don’t even know what to say about this.
Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French — whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.
French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children.
Reached in Israel late Tuesday afternoon, Kristol declined to comment on his efforts to induce French to run. The two Republicans confirmed that French is open to launching a bid, but that he has not made a final decision. One of the Republicans added that French has not lined up a vice-presidential running mate or significant financial support.
Ever since Kristol tweeted on Sunday that an “impressive” independent candidate “with a strong team and a real chance” is now prepared to enter the presidential fray, the political world has been engaged in a fevered guessing game over whom that person might be.
Um. Not the entire “political world,” no. The handful of delusional #NeverTrump diehards left by now, maybe. But if you polled the “political world,” I’d bet the overwhelming majority don’t even know who French is, and care very little if at all about Kristol’s supposedly earth-shattering Tweets, whatever delusions they may promote. It’s a lead-pipe cinch none but the most marginal fraction of the larger electorate does. Fevered? I’d say the “fevered” is all on the side of the #NeverTrumpers, actually. Hell, most of the populace probably doesn’t even know who Kristol is, much less French. Which says one hell of a lot about the egos on these #NeverTrumpTards.
According to one person deeply involved in the efforts to recruit an independent challenger, the search has focused on individuals who have one or more of the following three traits seen as vital for credibly launching such a bid: fame, vast wealth, and elective experience. Reached by phone Tuesday evening, French declined to answer questions about any possible run.
Yeah, I bet so. Don’t get me wrong, I like French a lot; hell, I’ve excerpted the hell out of him here ever since he started writing for NRO. But…I mean, really? Seriously?
God, how embarrassing—for everyone involved in this desperate ploy. Kristol can’t possibly believe this is going to lead anyplace at all. Can he? It makes me wonder just what in the hell he’s really playing at here. Which, frankly, is the most interesting facet of the whole maneuver. AP thinks it through, and it ain’t no way no how pretty:
Says Ed Morrissey, “Huge respect for both David French and Bill Kristol, but this is like picking George Will to pitch for your fantasy baseball team.” Yeah, it’s an especially rough spot for an unknown to be in too given how many other, much bigger names have been floated before him, from Romney to Ben Sasse to Adam Kinzinger. There’s a sense that, having exhausted everyone on the team’s depth chart, you’re now pulling fans out of the stands to play QB. I’m not sure either what the value is in picking a conservative challenger to Trump who’s even less well known than Gary Johnson is. With an independent as well-known as Romney, you wouldn’t have to worry about conservative anti-Trumpers splitting their votes among third-party candidates. They’d all go for Mitt while hardcore libertarians would stick with Johnson. Romney would probably grab enough Republicans to reach the 15 percent threshold needed to qualify for the fall debates (one recent poll had him at 22 percent early). With the unknown French, the dynamic is likely to reverse. Johnson, the better-known third-party candidate, will hold onto lots of anti-Trump Republicans on the theory that he’s the only independent who can make a dent in the fall. French will get votes here and there once conservative media starts touting him as the “true conservative” choice, but that’s not an altogether good thing: If he siphons off enough mainstream Republican votes from Johnson to push the libertarian below the 15 percent mark, they’ll both miss the debates in October. If there’s any goal that righties who oppose Trump and Clinton should be able to agree on for the fall, it’s getting at least one other candidate onstage. If 150 million people tune in to the first debate and it’s just Trump and Hillary there, the third-party figure will be marginalized on Election Day.
The third party figure will be marginalized anyway, no matter who it is. That’s the way it works in this country’s National Election Shows; I’ve often lamented that myself, and wished for a viable third party many times here, it’s true. But that’s all it amounts to: a wish. Our election process is as set in stone as our massive, bloated federal Leviathan is by now, and nothing short of a total catastrophe and the accompanying upheaval and chaos is going to change either of them.
Bad as things now are, we’re still a long way from any of that, and it may never come to pass at all. How long now have people been predicting the imminent—IMMINENT!—collapse of, for example, Greece? Ten years? More? Anybody remember all the talk a few years back about the dire straits the PIGS were in? Anybody remember what PIGS even stands for? Been a good while since I saw ’em mentioned at all, much less in the context of their immediate and inevitable descent into some sort of Mad Max horror show. Somehow they all still keep right on toodling along on the edge of disaster: their stagnant economies mired to the axles; their pygmy politicians squabbling over how much socialism is Just Right; absorbing the occasional random Muslim terrorist attack with candlelight vigils, tears, vapid pleas for “peace,” and the occasional impromptu piano performance of John Lennon’s Imagine. Sickening and pathetic as it all is, they all go staggering back to business as usual in a week or so, and nothing really changes at all. Their—our—trajectory is set, and it’s a circle, so you never really see the end of the road from wherever you are at any given time.
As has often been said, there’s a lot of ruin in a nation, and it ain’t something that happens overnight anyway. This country has been powerful and prosperous enough for so long now that I don’t really expect any such upheaval to happen in my lifetime, if at all. Although of course I could be wrong about that, and something like, say, an even halfway successful terrorist attack on the power grid could radically alter things overnight.
Barring that or some other such Black Swan nightmare, though—and accepting, if grudgingly, how things really are whether we like it or not—I can’t decide whether this is desperation, or silliness, or rampant ego, or just complete insanity. Maybe Kristol figures that since the whole campaign to date has been so unpredictable, unexpected, and out of the blue, has turned so much of the conventional wisdom on its head, that the time is now ripe for a bold and totally outlandish move to seize the initiative for “true conservatism” at last.
I dunno, more power to ’em, I guess. But it still kind of makes me a little bit sad to see otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people completely unmoored from any recognizable reality like this.
Via Ace, who says:
Eh. I’ll keep my eyes open.
The minute I think he could actually win, I’m on the #FrenchRiviera.
But I need to see that this isn’t just some protest candidacy by a miffed intellectual class with a pressing career interest in maintaining their #RespectabilityWithintheUpperMiddleClass.
But if it’s more than that — and if he has a dollop of charisma (I’ve never actually heard or seen him) — then yeah, hell yeah. I’m interested.
But really, this would have to be more than personal career protection for some discarded beltway intellectuals.
I’d also like to see him say something about immigration other than the Intellectual Establishment Class Approved Rubio Line (give full amnesty now, get some additional border security later… maybe. God willing.)
Yeah, well, you’re never gonna get it from people who have been shrieking hysterically—lying, in plain speech—about Trump’s call to re-establish our national borders and enforce our immigration laws, denouncing such basic common sense as “bigotry” and “racism” and “xenophobia.” Which has been pretty much everyone at NRO the last few months…including, sadly enough, one David French. As for the charisma bit—”I’ve never actually heard or seen him”— well, see that’s the problem: neither has anybody else, up to and including the handful of us who actually read and enjoy him.
Like I said: desperation, silliness, ego, lunacy, or something else. Nothing beyond that that I can see. None of those add up to either qualifications or electability—which makes the whole initiative kind of puzzling, seeing as how it’s being mounted by people who have been loudly objecting all along to Trump’s supposed lack of precisely those things. Throw in the amnesty/immigration nonsense, and you just might have the one thing that could possibly breathe some life into the Hillary! campaign at last.
Um. No. Thank you, but…no.