Our Opinion: Weld has key role in GOP presidential race

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Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld acknowledges that it is difficult to see a path to victory in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The primary and caucus process is largely in the lands of Donald Trump loyalists and both are traditionally dominated by right-wing voters. But that is not to say that he doesn't have a critical role to play in the months ahead.

By his presence, Mr. Weld could remind Republicans of what they stood for before Donald Trump came along and swept them off their feet: Political moderation, financial restraint, a pro-democracy foreign policy, respect for science and intellect, adherence to the Constitution. How far the GOP has strayed in just four years.

As the popular, twice-elected governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Weld was an old-school fiscally conservative, socially progressive Republican. It was possible to disagree with many of his economic policies without doubting his intelligence and integrity. He worked with majority Democrats in the Legislature to find a middle ground, softening stances that strayed too far in one political direction or another. Mr. Weld's quixotic nature could be frustrating. After running against and being defeated by Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry part way through his second term, he resigned as governor to become President Clinton's ambassador to Mexico, only to have his appointment blocked by extremist Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina. The corporate lawyer was miscast as a Libertarian when he ran as that party's vice presidential candidate in 2016. But next year he appears to have a role as the Republican Party's nagging conscience.

While Republicans make preposterous excuses for President Trump's phone call to his Ukrainian counterpart seeking an investigation into the Bidens in exchange for promised foreign aid, Mr. Weld described the act on MSNBC as "treason, pure and simple."

The former governor speaks with authority on the impeachment process as his job as a young lawyer on the congressional committee investigating President Nixon was to study in detail every impeachment that had previously occurred in the United States and Great Britain.

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"All of this is totally unprecedented," Mr. Weld told Andy Metzger of Commonwealth Magazine in regard to the president's actions. "We've never had a president who came anywhere near this."

On the campaign trail, Mr. Weld can provide a contrast to the empty rhetoric about "witch hunts" and "coups" and "fake news" that congressional Republicans use to obscure impeachment. He can also bring up the expanding federal deficit built on more tax giveaways to the rich, our decaying infrastructure that the president promised to address, the White House's barbaric refugee policy, and other actions and non-actions that will go otherwise go unchallenged.

Mr. Weld hopes to do well enough in the first primary in New Hampshire, where he has name recognition as the former governor of a border state, to attract campaign donations and recognition from a skeptical campaign press corps. After that, his fate is uncertain because he has few if any allies in the Republican National State Committee and within the various state committees. Four states — South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas — plan to cancel their 2020 primaries to create a clear field for President Trump and to assure that he will not have to be exposed to criticism from Mr. Weld or any other challengers who may emerge. In 2016, the Democratic National Committee received withering and well-deserved criticism when emails revealed the party hierarchy tried to stack the deck in favor of Hillary Clinton in her battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders. But they did have primaries where the senator could make his case to voters. Canceling primaries to protect Dear Leader is the latest Republican assault on the democratic process to which they regularly pay lip service.

Massachusetts' Republican Party had indicated that it might try to keep the former Massachusetts governor off the March 3 presidential primary ballot, which Mr. Weld describes as "looney tunes," but that would actually be consistent with the Bay State's out-of-touch Republican Party hierarchy comprised of Trumpists. The state Republican Party is always at odds with the state's popular Republican governor, Charlie Baker, who is cut from the same cloth as Mr. Weld. (Gov. Baker served as Mr. Weld's secretary of administration and finance.) Happily, Secretary of State William Galvin said recently that he added Mr. Weld to the GOP ballot after state Republicans declined to do so.

Mr. Weld deserves the chance to be heard every bit as much as have the dozens of Democrats pursuing their party's nomination. That he may not be fully heard would embarrass Republican Party leaders if they were capable of embarrassment.


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