Bill Kristol worked hard to find an alternative NeverTrump presidential candidate, but why didn’t the prominent conservative commentator run himself?
The Weekly Standard editor opened up about why on the latest episode of “The Jamie Weinstein Show” podcast, where he also discussed the state of the Republican Party, the consequences of being NeverTrump, neoconservatism and much more.
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- When Bill Kristol met Hillary Clinton and talked to Donald Trump (4:35)
- What does Trump nomination tell us about Republican Party? (8:47)
- Did Trump win because of personality or issues? (11:58)
- Why didn’t Bill Kristol run as 3rd party NeverTrump candidate? (13:22)
- What happens to the GOP after the election — what should happen? (24:55)
- Kristol on foreign policy and what neoconservatism means (37:05)
- Could Hillary Clinton be a better president than conservatives expect? (43:13)
- Kristol advises young people how to succeed in Washington (44:31)
- Kristol on his influences (54:11)
The search for a NeverTrump alternative candidate ultimately settled on Evan McMullin, a little-known former CIA operative and congressional staffer. Given the low profile of McMullin, wouldn’t it have been better if someone more prominent took the leap, like Kristol himself?
“I don’t know, maybe I should have,” Kristol said with a laugh. “I’m not the best candidate. I’ve never really thought of myself as a candidate for elective office.”
“I think I just probably have too many other fights I’ve had and issues I’ve had that would complicate it in a way,” he went on. “I’ve got too many points of view on too many things and too many years of arguing with everyone about so many things, whereas in a way you want a cleaner message of … a respectable Republican and conservative, middle American hopefully. Ideally, for me, would have been, might have served in the military or in Evan’s case, as an intelligence officer abroad. A really patriotic guy who can really be a pointed contrast to Trump, and to Clinton, I would say.”
Kristol said while he thinks McMullin can win Utah, he was working to recruit a figure “to actually win the presidency at one point.”
“It was disappointing that people didn’t run,” he said. “I don’t blame anyone. I think there was a certain lack of imagination, though. I really was struck in the fighting against Trump for the last year, there was too much of a, ‘well, it hasn’t worked before, so I guess I can’t do it.’ Too much conventional wisdom about how this is hopeless to get on the ballot.”
“Trump, to his credit, saw that it was a new moment and ran a totally unconventional campaign, won the nomination,” Kristol added. “In a weird way, he benefited from the fact that his opponents were much more conventional and weren’t willing to sort of roll the dice.”
Kristol confirmed that the NeverTrump effort did consider celebrity candidates, like television personality Mike Rowe.
“I know people who talked to Mike Rowe,” he said. “I don’t know so much about The Rock,” he said of the claim that some in the NeverTrump movement sought out Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a possible third party contender.
When asked, Kristol admits there have been some consequences to his and his magazine’s decision to go NeverTrump.
“We’ve lost 1,200-1,500 subscribers, 2 percent,” he said. “It’s not a huge deal. Web traffic is down.”
“The Trump people ginned this up,” he went on. “They said, ‘Make the Standard pay a price, cancel your subscription,’ which is fine. They’re entitled to do that.”
“I won’t pretend we’re some great martyrs, we haven’t personally paid any great price and I think the Standard’s doing fine,” he added.
Asked whether he can imagine a Hillary Clinton presidency being less terrible than many conservatives imagine, Kristol said if she decided “that Assad must go and she uses military force against his military assets in Syria and ends up stopping a horrible moral, humanitarian catastrophe and actually reasserts American power in the Middle East.”
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