Supporters Encourage David French To Run In A Third-Party Campaign
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Republicans unhappy with Donald Trump have talked about running a conservative third-party candidate. Mitt Romney's name was floated, also Nebraska's senator, Ben Sasse. But over Memorial Day weekend, the conservative writer William Kristol tweeted that he'd found the candidate. It is reportedly David French. He's an Iraq War veteran, author, constitutional lawyer. He is not known to most Americans, but he is to Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at the conservative magazine National Review, where David French is a staff writer. So I asked Jonah Goldberg, is he the guy? Is he your man?
JONAH GOLDBERG: (Laughter) Well, I mean, let's back up and say that he's certainly my man in the sense that if he were on the ballot, I would vote for him with an absolutely clear conscience.
GOLDBERG: David is a really impressive, serious guy. That said, this took me by surprise. It took most of the people at National Review, where we're colleagues, by surprise. It took pretty much everybody by surprise. And in a sense, it took David by surprise.
GREENE: (Laughter) OK.
GOLDBERG: I mean, a week ago, David was writing - a little over a week ago, David was writing a passionate appeal for Mitt Romney to please get into the race. So the idea that this is some sort of long-plotted scheme on the part of David or anybody just isn't right. This...
GREENE: He was not thinking about running for president himself at any point that you're aware of?
GOLDBERG: No. When I talked to - I talked to David yesterday and, you know, when he was giving me the chronology about how all this developed, you know, he assured me he was not having a psychotic break.
GREENE: Joking aside here, I mean, you think this could actually be serious. David French could get on the ballot, at least in some states?
GOLDBERG: Well, look at it this way - I think, you know, this is a guy who basically just simply, by pull of conscience, joined the Army at a late age simply because he didn't want other people fighting in his name in the Iraq War. He is a man of serious Christian principle. And he says, I wanted some serious Republican politician to do this. No one stepped up. And so his instinct was to fix bayonet and charge ahead. I remain unconvinced that this is a great plan for my friend David, who I have nothing but admiration for, or that it's a great plan for, you know, conservatives who are opposed to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
GREENE: Why is it not a great plan?
GOLDBERG: It's just a very difficult thing to do to get - to cross all the hurdles of ballot access, to get into the polls, to get your name ID up, to raise the necessary money. It's tough. And at least for now, David seems to understand that and still thinks it's worth testing the waters. You know, whether this is a crazy idea or just crazy enough to work, we'll see.
GREENE: When you say crazy enough to work, I mean, what do you define as it working? I mean, would you want him to be president of the United States? Or is there something that would make you feel like you accomplished something by voting for this third-party candidate but stopping short of him actually being president?
GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, look, I'm still - as a longtime playful critic of France, I'm still struggling with the concept of the French administration.
GREENE: What do you mean by that?
GOLDBERG: (Laughter) Like, for David - David tells me that he is doing this with a goal of actually winning. Now, I know all politicians kind of say that. But I think he is sincerely is looking at this. And he feels that at the very least, he can say, if he fails, that he tried. I think one goal would be that nobody gets 270 in the Electoral College and it goes to the House of Representatives. And then that becomes the new contested convention that we were all talking about, you know, not too long ago.
GREENE: We should say the House of Representatives does determine the presidency if no one reaches the 270.
GREENE: And you're convinced that the House controlled by Republicans might decide to vote for someone like David French and not a Donald Trump?
GOLDBERG: I will stipulate here and now - I am convinced of nothing. I think that the way things have worked out so far should offer nothing but humility to anybody who tries to make predictions. And I think that's one of David's points - is that at a time when the conventional playbook is about as relevant as the instruction manual for a Commodore 64...
GREENE: I remember that old computer.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, so the idea that somehow all of a sudden you say, you know, the conventional wisdom says he can't do this - well, yeah, but look at all the other things the conventional wisdom has said can't be done that have happened this year.
GREENE: Jonah Goldberg, thanks as always. We appreciate it.
GOLDBERG: Sure. My pleasure. Thank you.
GREENE: Jonah Goldberg is senior editor at National Review. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.