By Ken Stone
Lifelong Republican Ken Blalack on Thursday said he felt the “shoes are going to drop” against Donald Trump, especially if John Bolton testifies in the Senate impeachment trial.
Then who would take the president’s place as the GOP nominee?
Maybe the man a few feet away.
Former Massachusetts Gov. William “Bill” Weld, on the final stop of a West Coast swing, spoke to about 20 people of varied political stripes in Liberty Station.
Weld is hoping for a perfect bank shot — including help from the U.S. Senate — to become the Republican pick for president.
Under heat lamps at the outdoor patio of the Moniker General coffeehouse/bar, Weld repeated his path to victory. He’s counting on Feb. 11, when he hopes fellow New Englanders in New Hampshire lift him not to victory but at least a result “better than expectations.”
“And the press is going to focus on that with laserlike intensity, and then everyone will know that I’m the Republican alternative to Trump,” Weld, 74, told the tiny but rapt audience in a 90-minute appearance following an earlier visit with local black pastors.
He also predicted that if Senate Republicans vote to acquit Trump with stances like “there is no evidence, there is no problem,” they’ll be “slaughtered” in the November election.
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“And they deserve to [be],” Weld said. “And the Republican Party is going to split like the Whig Party did in the 1850s.”
He noted similarities between the pro-slavery Know Nothing Party and the Trump wing of the GOP.
“They hated immigrants. They had violent rallies,” Weld said. “They had conspiracy theories — they were the Trump organization of the 1850s. And the other half of the party went on in the next cycle (to elect) Abraham Lincoln. I call them the Jeb Bush half.”
Weld, who earlier visited San Francisco and Los Angeles, said that schism would be “very good” for the country, “because then you have two reasonable parties.”
He suggested that, when they can, Democrats vote “twice” against Trump — once for Weld in the primary and once for their party pick in the November election.
The 2016 Libertarian nominee for vice president also dismissed the other GOP challenger — former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois.
“He’s a good guy, but he’s only going to be on the ballot in like 10 states,” Weld said. “And I’m going to be on the ballot in every state except the ones where it’s illegal” — seven states.
With a couple dozen patrons inside, oblivious to his presence, he said no one else can join the race.
“It’s too late for Ted Cruz. It’s too late for Marco Rubio, even if they wanted to, because the ballot access deadlines have all slipped by — boomp, boomp, boomp, even as we speak,” he said.
“So at that point it will be me and Trump — unless something has happened to Trump in the Senate, in which case I’m the Republican nominee because I’m the only one who has the delegates,” he said.
“Well played,” a bystander said.
“That’ll be kind of slimy, but I’ll take it,” Weld said.
With his “chief thought officer” wife, Leslie Marshall, correcting his misstatements (like Jeb Bush being a former California governor and Walsh being from Ohio), Weld shared other critiques of Trump.
“I’m comfortable in my own skin. … I’m well-known for it,” he said. “I’m relaxed and confident, the opposite of Mr. Trump.”
Calling the president a bully, Weld said: “I think he’s driven by fear and demons and anger … So this is of particular relevance in the international area,” where Trump might command obedience out of fear for a while, “but at the end of the day, they’re going to want to cut your throat.”
He summarized Trump’s best-selling “The Art of the Deal” as “knock ’em over and then gradually let them get you back to a reasonable position. Always take an unreasonable position going in.”
In his own business negotiations, Weld says he likes to leave “some meat on the table” so the other side wants to do business again. “Trump likes to humiliate his counterpart.”
He said Trump crushed his casino vendors “to prove his strength,” but: “You’re not proving strength. He’s proving he’s a jerk.”
In a brief interview with Times of San Diego (he soon left at 8:10 p.m. to catch a “red-eye” to Boston), Weld was asked about House impeachment manager Jerrold Nadler’s remark that GOP senators who opposed seeking witnesses would be “complicit” in a presidential cover-up.
“Well, he probably shouldn’t have said that, but I can say that,” Weld said. “I think there’s some risk of a cover-up here if everyone dumbs up and says nothing happened.”
A Reagan appointee in the Justice Department, Weld also was asked if Attorney General William Barr is worse than Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese — caught up in several corruption cases leading to his resignation.
“Yes, because he’s advised the president that the president is all powerful and can’t be investigated by Article I, which is contrary to the Constitution,” he said of Barr, adding: “Boy, he’s taken some strange dog food.”
Weld — who in 1988 resigned in protest as assistant attorney general over a White House failure to fire Meese in his ethics scandal — said Barr’s opinions include a president can’t commit obstruction of justice unless they’ve committed the underlying offense.
“That would mean Dick Nixon could not have obstructed justice unless he was in the basement of the Watergate Hotel with G. Gordon Liddy.”
Is the Republican Party a cult as some allege?
“I don’t think it’s gotten to that point yet,” Weld said. “But I’m afraid if he gets re-elected it might become one.”
Never Trumpers turned out for Weld, however.
Jonathan Chapin of Point Loma, a 42-year-old Libertarian fan of presidential candidate Gary Johnson in 2016, said he liked Weld as a “standup guy” and “not corrupt” with good fiscal policies.
He suggested Weld start an “Ask me anything” section on Reddit.
“I have a ton of questions,” Chapin said.
Michael Dunn, 44, of Crown Point brought his Democratic wife to see Weld.
“I go way back with the governor,” he said, having grown up in Massachusetts admiring what he called a moderate Republican voice.
Dunn, who heard of the event through an email chain of former donors, said Weld inspired him to minor in political science at North Adams State College, now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Weld is a refreshing voice, he said.
“It’s kind of like: Can we get the adults back in charge? I’m tired of reality stars,” Dunn said. “I want someone who knows foreign policy that has been around the block, and he’s a commonsense guy.”
Monica Dunn, 38, said: “He just seems down-to-earth and very much like someone that I would want to stand behind. We’re in such a different time now, and to hear him feel like a real person makes such a big difference.”
Ken Blalack, the 76-year-old impeachment-trial watcher, noted how Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham congratulated House impeachment manager Adam Schiff on his soaring oration, giving the La Mesan hope that Trump might be removed from office.
Calling himself “anti-Trump,” the former computer systems consultant likened current GOP divisions to those of just before the Civil War.
“I look at today as 1859,” Blalack said.
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