Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor and 2016 Libertarian vice presidential nominee, announced that he is establishing an exploratory committee for a potential 2020 Republican primary campaign against President Donald Trump during an appearance Friday in New Hampshire.
Read the full transcript of Weld’s speech, as prepared for delivery, below:
Thank you, Jim Brett, my longtime friend and colleague. May I say what a pleasure it always is to be back in New Hampshire. Since I was a boy, I’ve had a happy relationship with the waters and woods of New Hampshire, enjoying visits to Henniker, Center Sandwich and Gilsum. I have my share of vivid political memories in New Hampshire as well. I was present in Nashua for the famous Reagan-Bush debate in 1980, I campaigned with Bush 41 in 1992, manning the microphone on primary night, and I enjoyed traveling the state with Governor Judd Gregg when he campaigned successfully for the Senate. But it is not my fond memories of New Hampshire that bring me here today.
I’m here because I think our country is in grave peril, and I cannot sit quietly on the sidelines any longer. We have a President who openly praises and encourages despotic and authoritarian leaders abroad, while going out of his way to insult and even humiliate our democratic allies. Why? We have a President who has set out to unravel, rather than promote, arms control agreements with other nuclear powers. Why? He has lightly tossed around threats of the United States itself using nuclear weapons. Why? He has railed against the very idea of the rule of law, the cornerstone of our individual freedoms. Why? He has virtually spat upon the idea that we should have freedom of the press. Why? He has failed to call out and denounce appalling instances of racism. Why? He ridicules and dismisses the looming threats from climate change. Why? He has demonstrated a repeated pattern of vindictiveness. (He calls it “counterpunching,” but it’s actually vindictiveness.) He acts like a schoolyard bully, except of course when he is around other bullies, like Mr. Putin, and then he turns ingratiating, all smiles, kicks the American press out of the Oval Office, and has his summit meeting with no news media present except Tass – the Russian state organ! For what possible reason?
The answer to all these questions, and I say this with a heavy heart, is that we have a President whose priorities are skewed toward promotion of himself rather than toward the good of the country. He may have great energy and considerable raw talent, but he does not use them in ways that promote democracy, truth, justice and equal opportunity for all. To compound matters, our President is simply too unstable to carry out the duties of the highest executive office – which include the specific duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed – in a competent and professional manner. He is simply in the wrong place.
They say the President has captured the Republican party in Washington. Sad. But even sadder is that many Republicans exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with their captor.
The truth is that we have wasted an enormous amount of time by humoring this President, indulging him in his narcissism and his compulsive, irrational behaviors. Recently there have been occasions when our national government seemed almost a charade: the lights are on in the White House, but no one’s home. Many people around the President are consumed in passively admiring the emperor’s new clothes – as he insists.
The situation is not yet hopeless, but we do need a mid-course correction. We don’t need six more years of the antics we have seen. We need to make a change, and install leaders who know that character counts.
Many aspects of our current morass in Washington cry out for bold action – before it is too late. First of all, the amount of extra debt being run up in Washington is completely crazy. The Administration is spending a trillion dollars a year more than it takes in. And they call themselves conservatives! That’s a trillion dollars of debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off. That’s not fair, to put it mildly, to members of the X-generation or to millennials.
None of the States do this. Most States require by their Constitution that the Governor’s budget be balanced. Unfortunately, especially in the left wing of the Democratic party, socialism seems to have replaced any notion of spending restraint.
We need the opposite of socialism. In the federal budget, the two most important tasks are to cut spending and to cut taxes – and spending comes first. We need to “zero base” the federal budget, basing each appropriation on outcomes actually achieved, not on last year’s appropriation plus 5 per cent, which is what too many folks in Washington use as a starting point.
It is actually possible to cut spending year over year. I did that when I got into office, and I was rated the most fiscally conservative Governor in the country by The Wall Street Journal and the Cato Institute. This President should be able to do the same. Don’t worry, Mr. President, it doesn’t hurt the economy: our unemployment rate in Massachusetts went from the highest rate to the lowest rate among all the industrialized states, in my first three years in office.
There’s also a huge opportunity to cut federal spending by contracting out the provision of social services to the private sector, particularly the vast network of non-profit organizations. Based on our experience in Massachusetts, this will save a great deal of taxpayers’ money and improve the quality of the services and the degree of compassion and dignity afforded to the people receiving the services. The reason is that monopoly services are always less efficient than competitively priced services. So the key distinction is not public versus private: it’s monopoly versus competition.
The best way to deal with government spending is to deal with it as Smokey the Bear recommends dealing with fire: keep it small, keep it in a confined area, and keep it under observation.
Right after cutting spending comes cutting taxes. Federal taxes need serious adjustment downward. I favor repealing the federal death tax, for example, and cutting the capital gains tax rate to 10%. These taxes are not major revenue raisers, and they both have the perverse effect of penalizing people for a lifetime of hard work. Eliminating them will increase our aggregate national wealth, which should always be a key priority of the United States government.
But we also need to restructure our entire tax system. We don’t need to choose between Robin Hood-style confiscatory taxation and deficit-creating tax cuts for the super-rich. We should instead take a good long look at some other models, such as a 19% flat tax on income, and the famous “post card” tax return. I have read extensively on the subject, and I believe the savings from the dramatic simplification of the Internal Revenue Code and the whole process of taxation would be enormous.
As to health care, instead of arguing endlessly and fruitlessly about whether the Affordable Care Act should be repealed – because let’s face it, we do not have a consensus in Congress – there are various commonsense health care issues that could be addressed immediately, across party lines. Consumers should be permitted to establish personal health care savings accounts, and to choose their health care provider. They should be free to purchase pharmaceutical drugs across state lines and also in other countries. Their choice, not the government’s.
Veterans should be permitted to receive health care from hospitals and health care providers outside the exclusive network of V.A. hospitals. They should be permitted to use cannabis for the relief of post-traumatic stress disorder without losing their veteran’s benefits, as is the case under current V.A. law.
The elderly must be permitted to have full access to non-addictive drugs which are useful for the relief of pain, including cannabis and CBD.
Addiction of all types should be treated as the national public health emergency that it is, rather than as a crime of status and a top priority for the US criminal justice system. We should also move on to bail reform, funding for reentry programs, and other criminal justice reforms not reached by the recent First Step legislation.
In fairness to millennials, who may never receive the benefits of social security, the government should permit the establishment of individual retirement accounts. In fairness to young adults in the military, they should not be asked to risk their lives in order to engineer regime changes in foreign countries at the whim of the US government, in the absence of any substantial threat to the United States.
With respect to the environment and climate change, the approach of the current Administration is antithetical to every principle of conservation and conservatism, and every tenet of Theodore Roosevelt’s Grand Old Party.
Whether as protection of a fragile ecosystem or as stewardship of God’s creation, there is a pressing need to act on climate change. The United States must rejoin the Paris climate accords, and adopt targets consonant with those of other industrialized nations.
We must protect our economy, yes, but we must also recognize that increased natural disasters and unfamiliar weather patterns threaten to strip the snow from our White Mountains, and to melt all the mountain glaciers worldwide upon which hundreds of millions of people depend for their only source of water. Europe has its cathedrals and monuments; we have our mountains, canyons, valleys, rivers and streams – and we had damn well better take care of them. Our borders are safe in New Hampshire, but it is not a stretch to say that if climate change is not addressed, our coastlines and those of all other countries will over time be obliterated by storm surge and the melting of the polar ice cap. Yet climate skeptics claim that they are conservative!
On the international front, the United States should return to a regime of free trade rather than having constant recourse to tariffs. Mr. Smoot and Mr. Hawley tried tariffs in June, 1930, and fanned the flames of the Great Depression.
When it comes to immigration, we should adopt a robust guest worker program, to assist our agricultural and construction industries, particularly in the western states. We don’t need a path to citizenship for eleven million people, but we do need more and longer work visas. Under the current regime, we’re simply educating our competition in our graduate schools, and then sending them home to China and other economic competitors of the U.S. We may not need a long impenetrable wall, but we do need short-term bridges.
Domestically, our most immediate priority must be jobs and wages. What are we going to do about the fact that 25% of all the jobs in the United States today won’t exist in 15 years? This is not caused by the unseen hands of globalization or the internet, but rather by the soon to be all-too-visible hands of robotics, drones, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and autonomous vehicles. The old jobs will be replaced by new and different jobs, but the problem is that today’s workers don’t yet possess the skill sets that the replacement jobs will require. This truly is a national emergency, and it’s going to require a nationwide response.
The skills required by the new jobs correspond roughly to the skills now taught in the first two years of post-secondary education, or the community college level. But a displaced worker can’t take two years off and pay two years’ tuition to acquire those skills. Accordingly, we should adjust our budget priorities to cover the cost of in-state tuition for those displaced workers, as we did for our returning veterans under the G.I. Bill following World War II. In addition, to cut down on room and board expense, we should encourage and embrace on-line education. It has now been proved that distance learning is as effective as learning in a bricks and mortar classroom, so we should take advantage of that.
What I am suggesting will be a tiny budget adjustment – the equivalent of a small round hole in the snow, particularly if shared with the federal government – but it will solve an enormous problem. It will make all the difference in the world to those workers. If we do this educational component right, we should be able to ensure that the new jobs – the replacement jobs – have higher wages than the old jobs. That would truly be a happy ending. But if we don’t do this, the door to the middle class may be closed to the working poor. That would be an end game that we as a society cannot afford.
A system for delivering new skill sets is not the only area of education that cries out for action in the future. Parents need more options regarding the education of their children. We need to support school choice. We need to support home schooling. We need to support charter schools. And we need to consider abolishing the U. S. Department of Education, transferring decision-making authority to the States and the parents of school-age and college-age children.
Oh, and the current federal provision which prevents the renegotiation of student debt? We need to repeal it immediately.
Finally, it should go without saying, but as was deeply impressed on me during my seven years in the U.S. Justice Department, our country must always stand tall for integrity and the rule of law, without fear or favor; we must insist on the rule of law!
As you can tell from my remarks, I care a great deal about the kind of government we have in Washington, and I hope to see the Republican Party assume once again the mantle of being the party of Lincoln. It upsets me that our energies as a society are being sapped by the President’s culture of divisiveness in Washington. The United States was founded in the spirit of national unity. America is stronger, and can afford to be more generous, when it is united rather than divided. There is a place and time for opposition and dissent, there is always room for healthy debate. But there should be no hatred, no intimidation, no name- 8 calling between the various arms of the federal government, or between groups of citizens. Like President Reagan, like President Eisenhower, our leaders in government should seek to unite us and make us all proud to be Americans—and never, ever seek to divide us.
Because of the many concerns I have talked of today, I am establishing an Exploratory Committee to pursue the possibility of my running for the Presidency of the United States as a Republican in the 2020 election. I encourage those of you who are watching the current administration nervously but saying nothing to stand up and speak out when lines are crossed in dangerous ways. We cannot sit passively as our precious democracy slips quietly into darkness. Congress must do its duty, and as citizens we must do ours.
As we move toward the 2020 election year, each of us must also strive to remember and uphold the difference between the open heart, open mind and open handedness of patriotism versus the hard heart, closed mind and clenched fist of nativism and nationalism.
In every country there comes a time when patriotic men and women must stand up and speak out to protect their own individual rights and the overall health of the nation. In our country, this is such a time. It is time for all people of good will—and our country is filled with people of good will—to take a stand and plant a flag.
Abraham Lincoln might have called it the flag of the Union. Today we call it the flag of the United – yes, United! – States of America.
Thank you all very much.