Bill Kristol Reportedly Floating National Review Writer As Independent Candidate For President

Bill Kristol's plan to stop Donald Trump involves a long shot independent bid for the White House by someone most Americans have never heard of before.

Bill Kristol

Over the extended holiday weekend, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol hinted that the efforts to find an independent conservative to enter the Presidential race on behalf of “Never Trump” conservatives who don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton or a Libertarian Party candidate but who nonetheless still want to express their disdain for the candidate that has won the Republican Party’s nomination:

Kristol, of course, has been among the Republican insiders trying to recruit someone, anyone, to run as an independent candidate ever since it became clear that Trump would be the Republican nominee, and was said to have been pushing Mitt Romney or Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse to take on the task of being the “Stop Trump” candidate. As recently as as week before Memorial Day, Erick Erickson was publicly imploring Romney to enter the race even though the case for a Romney candidacy was, to put it mildly, laughable at best. In the wake of Kristol’s weekend tweet, speculation immediately turned back to Romney, and there were even reports that the final touches were being put on an independent ticket consisting of Romney and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Instead, it appears that the candidacy that Kristol is pushing is that of a writer for National Review that few people have ever heard of:

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.

However, according to this person, some conservative donors look favorably on the prospect of French entering the fray.

In Kristol’s piece in the WeeklyStandard‘s June 6 issue, he argued that “the fact of Trump’s and Clinton’s unfitness for the Oval Office has become so self-evident that it’s no longer clear one needs a famous figure to provide an alternative.” After mentioning Mitt Romney and other possibilities such as Judd Gregg and Mel Martinez, Kristol invoked French’s name and résumé, writing, “To say that he would be a better and a more responsible president than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is to state a truth that would become self-evident as more Americans got to know him.”

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa has more details:

Tennessee attorney David French, who in recent years has become a prominent right-wing writer, is being urged by some conservative leaders to make a late entry into the 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate, according to two people close to him.

William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard magazine and a former Republican White House official, is at the fore of the draft effort. A group of well-known evangelical leaders and GOP operatives is also involved in the discussions, the people said, requesting anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The push to get French into the race was first reported Tuesday by Bloomberg Politics.

If launched, a French campaign would almost surely be a quixotic endeavor that could draw pockets of Republican voters away from Donald Trump. And it would face steep logistical and financial hurdles, with many states’ ballot deadlines rapidly approaching.

Trump on Tuesday dismissed Kristol’s attempts to thwart him. “Bill Kristol is a loser,” Trump said at a news conference in New York. “His magazine is failing, as you know. It’s going to be down — I don’t think it even survives. He’s getting some free publicity.”

But Kristol and others remain convinced that many conservatives nationally are unwilling to vote for Trump or likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and he has been searching for weeks to see if someone would step up and serve as their standard-bearer.

When reached by text message, Kristol compared French’s possible bid to “Jim Buckley 1970,” a reference to the surprising victory in New York’s 1970 Senate race by Conservative Party candidate James Buckley, the brother of William F. Buckley, who founded National Review magazine.

Decades later, James Buckley’s insurgency remains fondly remembered by activists on the right as one of the rare instances where a hard-line conservative candidate, operating outside of the Republican Party, won a federal contest. Buckley would go on to lose his reelection campaign in 1976.

If nothing else, the fact that Kristol’s seemingly quixotic effort has settled on someone that most people, including many people who are actively involved in politics, have never heard of an who has never before run for political office is a fairly strong indication that their effort to recruit a viable candidate has ended in failure. The Bloomberg report about French’s potential candidacy, for example, states that the initial search for a potential independent candidate had at least one of several traits that the parties involved deem as essential to a bid at this point, including fame, vast wealth, and elective experience. It’s easy to see why the effort was focused on those criteria given the circumstances of such a bid at this point. A candidate who was already well-known would mean that a campaign would not have to spend much time or money introducing the candidate to a public that likely won’t be paying much attention to politics over the summer, especially since such a campaign would be competing for air time against the Republican and Democratic conventions and the Summer Olympics. A candidate with vast wealth can potentially help to fund a campaign that is going to need access to a lot of money very quickly just to get on the ballot (one estimate, for example, is that an independent candidate would need to collect nearly two million valid signatures nationwide between now and August in order to get on the ballot in most states.) Finally, there are obvious advantages in having previously run for and held office, not the least of them being the fact that they give a candidate at least some measure of credibility.

Unfortunately for Kristol, and for French’s potential candidacy, is that David French meets none of these criteria. To be fair, who he is a graduate of Harvard Law School who had a career in private practice before switching careers to become a political writer some years ago. He also served several years in the U.S. military, including at least one tour of duty in Iraq. He is, however, not famous even among conservative pundits, he apparently is not vastly wealthy, and he has never run for nor held elective office. He’s a fine writer who makes provocative arguments, but that doesn’t make for a credible candidate,  and the fact that a draft effort that started out trying to persuade Mitt Romney, John Kasich, or a sitting U.S. Senator to run has apparently settled for a media pundit shows just how ineffective that effort has turned out to be.

To a large degree, Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey summed up what seemed to be the general reaction among conservatives to the news of a potential David French candidacy:

The difference is that that Will has likely thrown a baseball before. French is a neophyte, and the fact that this is the candidate that Kristol initially lauded as “impressive” is a good indication of just how badly his recruitment efforts have failed.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Pch101 says:

    They’ve actually managed to find someone who is worse than Trump.

  2. Mu says:

    Nothing to help with the huge women and young people deficit of the Republican side than a guy whose main claim to fame seems to be to have forbidden his wife to go on facebook while he’s deployed. Is Lancaster county a major swing electorate needed to grab PA?

  3. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Kristol has officially lost it. He’s pushing a guy who has served as senior counsel not only for American Center for Law and Justice (Sekulow’s nutty fundamentalist Christian org), but also Alliance Defending Freedom (heavily anti-gay, anti-abortion, etc.)?

    And you thought Romney had a tendency to open his mouth before he’d engaged his brain? Good luck with this guy. The left would gleefully have a field day …

  4. CSK says:

    A large part of French’s appeal to Kristol probably is that French has written a series of deeply scathing articles about Trump.

  5. CSK says:


    Back in 2007-2008, Kristol was Sarah Palin’s first big booster in the lower 48.

  6. al-Alameda says:

    this is from the National Review website:

    David French is a staff writer at National Review, an attorney (concentrating his practice in constitutional law and the law of armed conflict), and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is the author or co-author of several books including, most recently, the No. 1 New York Times bestselling Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the past president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and a former lecturer at Cornell Law School. He has served as a senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom. David is a major in the United States Army Reserve (IRR). In 2007, he deployed to Iraq, serving in Diyala Province as Squadron Judge Advocate for the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He lives and works in Columbia, Tennessee, with his wife, Nancy (who is also a New York Times bestselling author), and three children.

    Look, I can’t speak for most other Americans but, this makes me want to visit France.

  7. Moosebreath says:


    “Is Lancaster county a major swing electorate needed to grab PA?”

    Generally no, but the Trump campaign seems to think so. On the other hand, Trump is likely off-putting to many Amish:

    “The project faces an uphill battle. Though a few Amish voters do show up at the polls each election, most do not vote for theological reasons. Of course, the Amish have been spared Trump’s Twitter feed thanks to their rejection of computer technology — but it is difficult to fathom that a religious group that considers buttons too ostentatious will be persuaded to back the king of ostentation.”

  8. Kylopod says:

    The NeverTrump movement was probably bound to fail anyway, but it surely isn’t helped by a total lack of ideological unity among its members. The first question I had about Kristol was, why isn’t he backing Gary Johnson? Well, for one thing, Kristol is a neocon who was one of the Iraq War’s staunchest (and famously wrongest) supporters, while Johnson is a strong anti-interventionist who opposed the Iraq War.

    Similarly, Erick Erickson’s biggest stated reason for opposing Trump was that he thinks Trump is pro-abortion. Johnson is outright pro-choice.

    If the NeverTrumpers had any strategic sense, they’d be willing to put these differences aside and get behind Johnson. They’d be essentially conceding the race to Clinton, but there’d be at least the potential of driving up turnout by anti-Trump Republicans in order to protect House and Senate seats.

    The problem is that when you get down to it, the whole thing is one big temper tantrum. To those who really want to stop Trump from becoming president, the solution is obvious: support the only candidate who has any chance of beating him. Deep down the NeverTrumpers must realize that, but their conservative identity has come to be so defined by Clinton hatred that they can’t bring themselves to admit it, and so they fall back on these third-party fantasies so they won’t have to think of themselves as traitors–or accept any responsibility for the rise of Trump, which is convenient for one of the earliest backers of Sarah Palin.

  9. James Pearce says:

    I was actually surprised to see so much about this Kristol/French gambit on Twitter yesterday. If we’re still talking about it tomorrow, I’ll be very surprised.

  10. Pch101 says:


    Look, I can’t speak for most other Americans but, this makes me want to visit France.

    Perhaps he’ll change his last name to “Freedom.”

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m reminded of the words of Mike Royko, when Nixon picked Gerald Ford as his Vice President: American responded with a thunderous, “Who’s he?”

  12. steve s says:

    HarvardLaw92 says:
    Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 10:08
    Kristol has officially lost it.

    read this brief overview of Kristol’s past work and then let us know exactly when Bill Kristol ‘had it’.

    Bill Kristol’s bad predictions

  13. Todd says:

    This is just further proof that if there’s any group feeling “left out” in this election, it’s hawkish conservatives. Disaffected moderate Republicans should have a very viable “protest vehicle” in the Johnson/Weld ticket. Ironically Trump probably draws away some of the hard core “guns rights” and “closed borders” types who might otherwise call themselves Libertarians from Johnson and Weld. But as far as Kristol’s crowd goes, when this Independent gambit inevitably fails, he might just have to bite the bullet and admit that he’s voting for Hillary Clinton … which would makes sense since she is definitely the closest thing there is a to neocon candidate in this race.

  14. Neil Hudelson says:

    This is just about the most Kristoly thing Kristol has ever Kristolled. Looking at his history of being completely wrong on everything he’s stated or worked for for the last decade, I’m predicting somehow French gets negative votes.

    On the flip side, the 2,000 or so GOP Inside-Beltwayers who actually give a sh*t about Kristol could be swayed. And that alone could make or break Virginia.

    So please, keep on keeping on, Bill.

  15. Gustopher says:

    NeverTrump consists mostly of Republicans horrified to discover that the majority of their party really is as terrible as those horrible liberals were saying since the Tea Party reared its head.

    I love it.

    Unrelated, Bob Dole says the Republicans should rally around Trump, and that Trump should choose Newt Gingrich as his running mate… Is there bad blood between Dole and Gingrich? Is Dole just trolling Trump? A dumb person’s idea of a smart person and a whatever-Trump-is seems like an awesome combination designed to make each of them suffer.

  16. CSK says:

    Little-remembered factoid: David French’s wife Nancy ghostwrote Bristol Palin’s memoir and ghostwrites Bristol’s blog.

  17. Hal_10000 says:


    when this Independent gambit inevitably fails, he might just have to bite the bullet and admit that he’s voting for Hillary Clinton

    Exactly. Clinton is more conservative than Trump in many ways and certainly more in line with Kristol’s thinking. If you want a protest candidate, Johnson is already on the ballot in 50 states. This would be little more than a vanity project for Kristol.

  18. Franklin says:

    @Pch101: That’s what I came here for.

    /leaving satisfied

  19. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher: Dole has to be trolling. Did everyone forget his blistering attack on Gingrich four years ago?

    Dole always had a very dry sense of humor, and I don’t think it’s gone away even at his age.

  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Kylopod: Haven’t you been listening to Todd? Hillary is doomed because her followers hate the Berniebros and she’s such a bad campaigner.

  21. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Hal_10000: This from the LP website:

    “The Libertarian Party currently has ballot access for the 2016 Presidential candidate in 32 states. We’re working to get on the ballot in all 50 states plus DC.”

  22. Hal_10000 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    My mistake. I thought they’d already done that. They are usually very good about being on all 50 ballots.

  23. Moosebreath says:


    “a whatever-Trump-is”

    The best description I’ve seen is a poor person’s idea of a billionaire.

  24. Grumpy Realist says:

    If I weren’t worrying that there are enough people willing to vote for Trump that he might actually get elected, I’d be laughing my head off continuously at the mess the Republican Party has made of itself. It’s like looking at a box of lab mice dropped on the floor.

  25. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I said in another thread that the Libertarian Party couldn’t effectively organize a two car funeral.

    I rest my case 🙂

  26. David M says:

    How badly has the GOP gone off the rails in a world where Bill Kristol is (almost) right about something? David French probably is more qualified to be president than Donald Trump. Admittedly that’s a low bar, but WTF GOP voters?

  27. Guarneri says:

    Too bad French wasn’t a no count state senator who hung out with suspect characters. He’d be a shoe in.

  28. Neil Hudelson says:

    What does it say about your party wherein a long serving Senator and former POW, and a millionaire governor, both couldn’t beat the “no count state senator?”

  29. Neil Hudelson says:

    @steve s:

    From the article:

    He later held the same position [Chief of Staff] under Vice President Dan Quayle, wherein he became known as “Quayle’s brain.”

    That explains so, so, so much.

  30. Mu says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Damming by faint praise doesn’t even come close to cover this situation.

  31. James Pearce says:


    Too bad French wasn’t a no count state senator who hung out with suspect characters. He’d be a shoe in.

    Spilled milk. It’s 2016 not 2008.

  32. Kylopod says:

    I admit that when I wrote my first comment to this thread, I knew next to nothing about David French’s views, and I was aware my theory (that Kristol’s failure to even look at Johnson was a neocon thing) would be blown apart if it turned out French was an Iraq War skeptic.

    Well, I looked it up, and my intuition was correct. Here is French defending the invasion of Iraq as a fundamentally good decision as late as 2014:

    It really comes down to this issue, I believe, and it may well be the main reason Kristol refuses to support Trump as well.

  33. Mikey says:

    @Grumpy Realist:

    If I weren’t worrying that there are enough people willing to vote for Trump that he might actually get elected, I’d be laughing my head off continuously at the mess the Republican Party has made of itself. It’s like looking at a box of lab mice dropped on the floor.

    It smells worse, though.

  34. Guarneri says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    What does it say about your party that they would elect him?

  35. Tony W says:

    Man, it’s just a privilege to watch these people’s minds work.

  36. stonetools says:

    I wish nothing but success for Billy K and his new venture. The Hillary-Clinton-wins-by-landslide scenario needs all the help it can get.

  37. grumpy realist says:

    I am in continuous awe of Billy Kristol’s ability to totally screw up, well, everything. As I’ve said before, if I were him I’d be looking for a bottle of scotch and a gun to shoot myself with.

  38. wr says:

    Back in the 80s we used to play the Steve Guttenberg game. Basically, whenever he showed up in a movie we’d try to figure out who turned the part down before they finally settled for him.

    It makes me wonder how many people turned Kristol down. I’d guess he’d have to work his way through every Republican, a handful of conservative Democrats, most animal species and a couple of inanimate objects before he came to someone so completely hopeless.

    But at least I’ve had some fun reading about how French forbade his wife from going on Facebook or talking about faith while he was overseas, because either one would guarantee she’d screw around on him…

  39. An Interested Party says:

    What does it say about your party that they would elect him?

    Oh sweetie…you mean what does it say about the country as a whole that we would elect him…twice…

    I am in continuous awe of Billy Kristol’s ability to screw up, well, everything.

    Another fine example, along with Jonah Goldberg, among others, of how nepotism sucks…

  40. steve s says:

    @Guarneri: Remember in 2013 when Bobby Jindal said “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party.”?

    Your comments show us how miserably that hope was dashed.

  41. elizajane says:

    @Moosebreath: The whole “Trump courting the Amish Vote” thing makes me furious. The Amish are good people whose values have nothing at all to do with Trump’s values. He’s just proposing to lie to them, to sell them a bill of goods. It’s like all the old people he conned into spending money they didn’t have on Trump U., except it’s a whole class of people he wants to con now.

    My mother was Pennsylvania Dutch so this annoys me even more than most Trumperies.

  42. dmichael says:

    I am anxiously awaiting the time when Bloody Bill Kristol starts giving investment advice. I will gladly pay to subscribe and then do exactly the opposite. I am already spending the money I would make.

  43. Grumpy Realist says:

    @wr: Facebook?! What happens on Facebook aside from people posting pictures of their kids and funny cat videos?!

    I guess we can assume that anyone Kristol would pick would be a freakin’ paranoid….

  44. Moosebreath says:


    “The whole “Trump courting the Amish Vote” thing makes me furious. The Amish are good people whose values have nothing at all to do with Trump’s values.”

    It makes me less furious, as the Amish don’t vote much, and are likely to see through Trump. So if Trump wants to spend his campaign funds in Lancaster County trying to appeal to the Amish, I say let him. It does far less harm than most places he could spend campaign funds.

  45. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Guarneri: I think it says that there are more of one party than the other. Is that what you were driving at?

  46. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @David M: Low bar doesn’t even begin to cover this. Flick, Guarnari is more qualified than Trump to be President; shirt, Jenos is as qualified to be President as Trump. WTF GOP indeed!

  47. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Jenos is as qualified to be President as Trump.

    Holy sh*t dude. I tried to think of a way to refute this for a good 10 minutes. While it’s horrifying, you are correct. Jenos–the guy who thinks “Tragedy of the Commons” is an argument against regulation, who thinks transgender people are an invention, and who believed “Fast and Furious” would prove to be a bigger scandal than Watergate, and that it was intentionally created to steal our guns, would probably be a better President than Trump.


  48. Pch101 says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Trump may be faking it for the sake of his fan base. (Admittedly, that may be wishful thinking on my part, but I do give him credit for being media savvy.)

    Sadly, Jenos appears to be the genuine article. Combining earnest with stupid never works out well.

  49. gVOR08 says:

    Bill Kristol is a loser…He’s getting some free publicity

    Lord it sucks to have to agree with Trump.

  50. DrDaveT says:


    Trump may be faking it for the sake of his fan base. (Admittedly, that may be wishful thinking on my part, but I do give him credit for being media savvy.)

    As my physicist friends sometimes say, leadership is a scalar, not a vector. It only says how willing people are to follow you; not what direction you’re taking them.

    Combining earnest with stupid never works out well.

    Put “leadership” on the x-axis and “good sense” on the y-axis. The first quadrant is where progress comes from; the third is harmless. Quadrant 2 is frustrating but neutral. Quadrant 4 is Trump.