David French Passes On Quixotic Independent Bid For The Presidency

The relatively unknown candidate that Bill Kristol floated as the "Never Trump" alternative has announced he's not running for President.

anyone-but-trump-2016

David French, the conservative attorney and writer who was touted by The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol as the centerpiece of what would have been an exceedingly quixotic bid to for the Presidency, has announced that he is not running:

National Review columnist David French announced Sunday evening that he would not make an independent bid for president.

Speculation about the possibility of French running began when the editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, Bill Kristol, tapped the conservative writer as someone who could take on Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic standard-bearer.

French was seen as a surprising pick due to his lack of public recognition.

French, who is also an Iraq war veteran, shared his decision not to run in an op-ed published on the National Review.

And from the National Review Op-Ed where French announces his decision:

[I]t would be tempting to say that when it comes to confronting this national moment, “somebody” stepping up is better than nobody. But somebody is not always better than nobody. I’m on record saying that Mitt Romney could win. I believe others could run and win, and would make excellent presidents. Indeed, the path is there. I spent the last several days with some of the best minds in politics. I learned that the ballot-access challenge can be met with modest effort (by an existing network ready to activate), that the polling for a true outsider independent was better than most people know, and that there are many, many Americans — including outstanding political talents — who are willing to quit their jobs — today — to help provide the American people with an alternative.

But given the timing, the best chance for success goes to a person who either is extraordinarily wealthy (or has immediate access to extraordinary wealth) or is a transformational political talent. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve my country, and I thank God for the successes I’ve had as a lawyer and a writer, but it is plain to me that I’m not the right person for this effort. I believe with all my heart that there is an American movement ready to both resist the corruption, decadence, and dishonesty of the American elite and restore the promise of the American Dream. But that movement may not emerge for some time, and it might emerge only after further heartache and pain.

(…)

Last week, Reince Priebus said that those involved in the independent effort were “embarrassing themselves.” But what is more embarrassing? Is it doing your best to defend the nation you love from two people who are unworthy of its highest office? Or is it using your God-given gifts and talents to advance the interests of a man who cares only for himself and who rejects the very values you’ve long claimed to uphold? As I’ve written many times before, nations are built on virtue — and courage is indispensable. But there is also prudence, and it was simply not prudent for me to take on this task. I remain against Trump and against Hillary, but I will do all I can where I am.

Given the largely negative reaction that came from the conservative “Never Trump” crowd when Kristol’s idea was first floated, French’s decision is hardly surprising. While most of these comments were careful not to criticize French directly, perhaps out of recognition that it wasn’t necessarily his fault that he had become the poster child for Kristol’s latest ridiculous stunt, they did point out many of the same difficulties that French points to in his Op-Ed. An independent bid was largely too late at this point, they noted, due to the fact that ballot access deadlines were fast approaching in many states and had passed in others, most notably Texas, to such an extent that it would have taken an incredibly well-funded, well-organized campaign to get any candidate on the ballot in enough to states to make a difference in November. As even Kristol himself admitted, this meant that the ideal candidate would have been someone who was both well-known and independently wealthy and willing to use both his or her wealth and fame to fund a campaign that, at best, would have forced the Presidential race into the House of Representatives for the first time since 1824. The only ostensibly conservative potential candidate who fit that bill, of course, would have been Mitt Romney, but while Romney has apparently been quite involved in anti-Trump efforts ever since he made his speech in March, even he was unwilling to commit to a third bid for the Presidency.

With French bowing out, it would appear that the efforts of the Never Trump crowd to find an independent candidate are essentially dead. With more prominent candidates such as Mitt Romney and John Kasich having resisted efforts to draft them into the effort, French essentially represented their last, best hope to find someone among their own ranks that could put up a candidacy they could support. This leaves them with several choices. They could, of course, simply decide to swallow their pride and support Trump as the Republican nominee notwithstanding what they’ve said about him. Notwithstanding the current vehemence of the rhetoric of many of these people, I suspect that at least some portion of the “Never Trump” crowd will be drawn in this direction due largely to their disdain for Hillary Clinton. They could vote for a candidate other than Trump or Hillary Clinton, such as Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld, and there already signs that at least some portion of this crowd is saying they will do just that. They could choose to vote for Hillary Clinton, which would obviously be a difficult choice for many Republicans but the fact that even some conservative activists are endorsing Clinton over Trump is a good indication of just how deep the scars are in the GOP right now. Finally, of course, they could choose to not vote for President at all. For someone who opposes Trump, any one of these final three choices is acceptable, of course, but the idea that there can be an independent conservative candidate for President at this point is one that needs to be abandoned once and for all.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, 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 for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. Kylopod says:

    In other news, a bear shat in the woods.

  2. Rafer Janders says:

    French, who is also an Iraq war veteran,

    Off-topic, but one of my annoyances: he’s a war veteran? As opposed to a peace veteran? Or is he, rather, an Iraq War veteran?

  3. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Rafer Janders: Like gantlet vs. gauntlet. Not worth the effort to point out anymore.

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    Except every other war in American history takes a capital “W” when written about: we don’t write “the Revolutionary war,””the war of 1812,” “the Civil war,” “World war II”, “the Vietnam war,” etc. Why then is the Iraq War, when I see it mentioned in print, written as “the Iraq war” eight times out of ten? What caused that?

  5. Moosebreath says:

    Showing that French has a better understanding of political reality than Kristol. Not a high bar, but….

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Is Sarah Palin still available?

  7. DrDaveT says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Why then is the Iraq War, when I see it mentioned in print, written as “the Iraq war” eight times out of ten?

    Because the writer feels that “the Iraq war” is a definite description (in the Bertrand Russell sense), not the name of the war. It’s not a proper noun, so it doesn’t get capitalized, just like we don’t capitalize ‘war’ in “the war in Kosovo”.

    I think that’s psychologically fascinating, actually. We’ve been embroiled for more than a decade in two wars that don’t even have names for most of the general public.

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    @DrDaveT:

    That’s also what I think is going on — “We’ve been embroiled for more than a decade in two wars that don’t even have names for most of the general public.” The Iraq War (and its cousin the Second Afghanistan War) aren’t really seen as real “wars” by the American public, despite having gone on longer together than any previous war in American history.

  9. James Pearce says:

    For someone who opposes Trump, any one of these final three choices is acceptable, of course, but the idea that there can be an independent conservative candidate for President at this point is one that needs to be abandoned once and for all.

    It continues to amuse me that Anti-Trump Republicans are so stuck in their thinking that they only see these three options.

    There’s a 4th option available to them. It’s rather obvious, if counter-intuitive. They don’t have to like it, but surely they can see that out of all the Anti-Trump gambits so far concocted, this one has the best chance of success:

    Vote for Hillary Clinton.

    Now I understand the reluctance, but c’mon…

    It’s like going to the oncologist, saying “Cure me, but no needles. I really don’t like needles.”

  10. Slugger says:

    I would like to see some minor party candidates. The main parties have not served the national interest well. I do not owe the Democratic Party anything; I do not owe the Republican Party anything. The parties owe me; owe the American people a serious effort to provide competent stewardship of our state. Instead they have provided narrow efforts at grabbing and holding power through the most tawdry of marketing strategies. This has culminated in two truly odious candidates for President. We cannot continue to reward this malfeasance with our votes. Let a hundred flowers bloom, and then we can pick some successors for the two organizations that have clearly outlived their utility.
    I sure that there are some who look at one of the big party candidates and like what they see. However, for most there will be a lot of nose holding when voting. At best, we are in the position of angrily voting against someone. We need something better and will not get it by buying the stinking fish the main parties are selling. I will be reading the positions of the minor party candidates carefully this autumn.

  11. James Pearce says:

    @James Pearce: Considering that voting for Hillary was one of the 3 options, I retract my comment.

  12. Mister Bluster says:

    @Slugger:..I will be reading the positions of the minor party candidates carefully this autumn.

    You better load up on some speed and start reading now.
    This page from Politics 1 website lists 19 United States Political Parties (many with mugshots) and 500+ (thats five hundred plus) independent and write-in Candidates for President USA.
    http://www.politics1.com/p2016.htm

    Somehow I am drawn to Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan.
    Humankind’s Savior? When we’re all glowing, immortal orbs, we’ll probably have Zoltan Istvan to thank. Playboy

  13. C. Clavin says:

    Once again Kristol has been proven to be one of the biggest idiots in the Republican Party (in close running with Dick Morris). But let’s at least give him kudos for caring about his country more than his political party, and not just giving in to Trump, the single most un-qualified person to have ever captured a major party nomination, like McConnell and Ryan and the rest have.

  14. Jenos Idanian says:

    French comes across as an intelligent, thoughtful, principled fellow, and I will have to pay more attention to him in the future. And he scored major points with me for recognizing that his candidacy would, at best, achieve nothing, and at worst help Hillary win.

    Had he gotten involved earlier, he might have been a viable alternative to Trump, but that window closed a long, long time ago.

    If nothing else, he now has a really, really good basis from which to re-negotiate his employment with Kristol. He’s got him over a barrel now…

  15. Michael says:

    @Rafer Janders: I think because neither the Iraq war nor the war in Afghanistan were declared wars. They were Presidential prerogatives sanctioned by an vote of approval in Congress.

  16. Surreal American says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    If nothing else, he now has a really, really good basis from which to re-negotiate his employment with Kristol. He’s got him over a barrel now…

    Not really. Kristol will just move on to the next hair-brained scheme or laughable prediction. By November, he, like the rest of us, will have forgotten that he unilaterally drafted French into running for POTUS.

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @Michael:

    I think because neither the Iraq war nor the war in Afghanistan were declared wars. They were Presidential prerogatives sanctioned by an vote of approval in Congress.

    No war since World War II has been a “declared” war, and yet we still write “the Korean War,” “the Vietnam War,” “the Gulf War” etc. with a capital rather than a lower-case “W.” It’s only the Iraq War that seems to take the lower case in the majority of times I see it written down.

    There is some sort of socio-psychological explanation for this, I’m sure of it, yet I haven’t been able to put my finger on what exactly the underlying cause of this is.

  18. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian: “French comes across as an intelligent, thoughtful, principled fellow, and I will have to pay more attention to him in the future”

    Let’s see… French hates Muslims, is terrified of women’s sexuality, believes that everything wrong with society is caused by icky people having sex before marriage, believes that the decision legalizing contraception was the worst thing the Supreme Court ever did…

    Yup, I can see why you consider him thoughtful and principled. He’s as hate-filled and terrified as you are, only he expresses it in (slightly) better prose.

  19. stonetools says:

    I wonder if we will see a Republicans for Hillary PAC this cycle…

  20. edmondo says:

    @stonetools:

    we already have one. It’s called the DNC.

  21. C. Clavin says:
  22. DrDaveT says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Meanwhile Trump is melting down…it’s kind of hourly at this point…

    Dammit, Donald, you’re peaking too soon. You need to get well past the convention, THEN go Max Headcase…

  23. Jenos Idanian says:

    @wr: Your attempts to get me into some kind of pissing match are growing more and more pathetic. I have better things to do than smack you around.

    Hell, even “nothing” is a better thing to do than to deal with you.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Yeah, you smack him around in much the same way that my wife’s obnoxious Chihuahua smacks a German Shepherd around.

    For the record, you’ve never smacked anyone around. You are the smackee. I realize you’re too stupid to understand just what a clown you are around here, but yeah, dude, no one, but no one, has been smacked by you. You are smackless.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    we already have one. It’s called the DNC.

    Oh please…if you think there’s no difference between the DNC and the RNC than you are as delusional as anyone who thinks Sanders can still win the Democratic nomination…

  26. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian: ” I have better things to do than smack you around.”

    Dude, you’re a troll. Annoying people who haven’t seen through you is really not a “better” thing to do.

  27. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “Smackless.” I like that.

  28. JohnMcC says:

    Well darn! I was hoping to learn what a JAG officer does to merit a Bronze Star. Now I guess I’ll never bother to learn enough about Mr French to discover that little factoid.