October 26, 2016

Earth to Bill Weld: Trump’s foreign policy is more libertarian than Clinton’s

william_weld_by_gage_skidmoreLibertarian Vice-Presidential Nominee Bill Weld has a legitimate beef with the media. On Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported Weld “plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks.” Weld denied that claim in an interview with Reason, adding, “No, somebody’s making that up,” in reference to a further claim by the Globe that Weld would henceforth be focusing exclusively on red states.

But libertarian talk show host Kennedy wasn’t entirely satisfied with Weld’s explanations, and with good reason. For while the Boston Globe and other media may have exaggerated or even distorted Weld’s statements, they didn’t just make all of this up out of thin air. Weld himself admits he has been less antagonistic towards the campaign of Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, since accepting the nomination.

Weld says he does not want to see Trump gain the White House because his “proposals in the foreign policy area are so wrongheaded that they’re in a class by themselves.” Bill Kristol and other neoconservatives may agree with him, but virtually no libertarians would. On the contrary, many libertarians ignore Trump’s many odious positions and support him precisely because his foreign policy is so much less hawkish than Clinton’s.

Even Weld’s running mate recognizes this. He’s said on numerous occasions, including during an interview with this writer, that he considers Clinton “a major architect of the conflict going on around the world.” He also said during that interview he agrees with Trump that the next U.S. president should sit down and negotiate with Russia, and went as far as to say he is willing to go “all the way down that road” regarding withdrawing troops from Europe, Japan, and Korea.

Weld has on occasion muddied the water on what “foreign policy proposals” consist of, lumping trade policy in with military intervention, possibly to justify his preference for Clinton. But that dog won’t hunt, either, as Clinton is as protectionist as Trump at the end of the day, with only superficial differences in emphasis and rhetoric. The real difference in foreign policy between Clinton and Trump is on military intervention and Trump’s stance most closely aligns with Johnson/Weld’s. If foreign policy is the chief measuring stick, Clinton is the worse of two bad choices for libertarians, not Trump.

To say Libertarians were skeptical of Weld at the party’s convention in May would be an understatement. Presidential runner-up Austin Petersen endorsed Gary Johnson during his concession speech, but refused to endorse Weld, who failed to gain the nomination on the first ballot. Kennedy’s openly hostile interview of Weld crystalized the accumulated frustration with Weld’s many disappointing statements (from a libertarian perspective) since then. Her charge that Weld was merely using the Libertarian Party for personal advancement may have been unfair. To his credit, Weld handled it well.

What is more concerning for libertarians is that Weld may truly believe his positions are libertarian, rather than merely “centrist” or “moderate Republican.” Contrary to Johnson/Weld rhetoric, libertarianism is not merely “fiscally conservative and socially accepting.” It certainly is not a combination of the “best from both sides” of the Democrat/Republican divide. It is a self-contained political philosophy with its own first principles, most of which depart completely from conservatism and progressive liberalism.

Neither Johnson nor Weld have demonstrated a firm grasp of those principles during the course of their campaign, leading them to positions most libertarians outright oppose. And while there is still a strong case for libertarians to support the ticket, Weld needs to come up with a more believable argument on why he’s #NeverTrump, rather than #NeverHillary. His foreign policy argument for Clinton makes no sense at all.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

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