Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld on Sunday defended his decision to pursue a 2020 Republican primary challenge against President Trump, saying in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week” that he is acting in the best interests of the country.
“I think the Republicans in Washington want to have no election, basically. I don’t think that would be very good for the country,” Weld told host Martha Raddatz.
Weld announced his decision in New Hampshire on Friday, becoming the first high-profile challenge to Trump’s reelection bid.
In the ABC interview, Weld also criticized Trump’s leadership style, pointing to the president’s declaration of a national emergency in pursuit of a wall along the border with Mexico.
“He thinks he has to humiliate whoever he’s dealing with, or else he’s half a man,” Weld said. “The emergency declaration is just one example of that. Congress thought they had a deal. He says, ‘Oh, you think you have a deal? I’m going to show you a deal. I’m going to show you who’s boss.’ It’s just no way to run a railroad.”
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last month showed that 78 percent of Republicans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, a figure that suggests Weld faces an uphill climb in challenging Trump for the GOP nomination.
Weld said Sunday that he plans to woo voters in part by arguing that Trump is “reckless in spending.”
“They’re spending a trillion dollars a year. They don’t have that. It’s going to crush Generation X-ers and millennials in this country,” he said.
Weld also contended that Trump’s “hyperemphasis” on a border wall is “pure politics on his part.”
“It’s part of a plan, I think, on his part to make himself seem indispensable. He’s not indispensable at all,” Weld said. “People, you know, getting through between the fences that are already on the border with Mexico are not a national emergency, and they’re not a major national security threat to the United States.”
Weld served as governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, developing a reputation as a moderate Republican. He ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 1996 and, about a decade later, for governor of New York.
In 2016, Weld was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee. Days before the election, he made headlines for defending Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Some Republicans have greeted Weld’s candidacy by drawing attention to his variety of partisan affiliations.
Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons issued a scathing statement on Friday, saying that “even Benedict Arnold switched allegiances less often!”
“Weld is the same ex-Republican who deserted Massachusetts for New York; who endorsed President Barack Obama over Senator John McCain for President; who renounced the GOP for the Libertarian Party; who ran against the Trump-Pence Republican ticket in 2016, while cozying up to Democrat Hillary Clinton,” Lyons said.
Weld dismissed that criticism on Sunday, arguing that state GOP chairs are “all under pressure and orders from Washington: ‘Make sure this guy gets no purchase; make sure we don’t really have a primary.’ ”