Those of us hanging on to the idea of a principled conservative emerging as an independent candidate in the presidential election must go back to the drawing board. If there is to be a conservative independent candidate, it will not be David French.
French wrote at National Review on Sunday night, “I’m not the right person to challenge Trump and Hillary, but the path remains open for others.”
Here is a sentence I never thought I’d type: After days of prayer, reflection, and serious study of the possibilities, I am not going to run as an independent candidate for president of the United States.
I gave it serious thought — as a pretty darn obscure lawyer, writer, and veteran — only because we live in historic times. Never before have both parties failed so spectacularly, producing two dishonest, deceitful candidates who should be disqualified from running for town council, much less leader of the free world.
Hillary Clinton lies habitually and changes position on virtually every public issue except for her pro-abortion extremism, and she has a suspicious record of making public decisions that favor donors to the Clinton Foundation. Her signal foreign-policy “achievement” was helping launch a war in Libya that not only cost American lives in Benghazi but also helped transform the nation into ISIS’s latest playpen.
To add to all that, she’s in the middle of an active FBI investigation. If I had handled classified information the way we know she handled classified information, my career would already be over, and the single goal of my life would be persuading the prosecutor to reach a lenient plea bargain.
Donald Trump also lies habitually (sometimes minute by minute), and changes position based on his moods. In one breath he claims to support working men and women, and then with the next breath he threatens to destroy our economy through trade wars or by playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States. He believes an American judge — a man born in Indiana who spent months hiding from drug cartels after they’d put a “hit” on him – can’t rule on a case involving Trump University because the judge’s parents emigrated from Mexico.
His supporters believe it demonstrates “strength” when he mocks the disabled and bullies women. He has attracted an online racist following that viciously attacks his opponents and their families — including my wife and youngest daughter.
Given this reality, it 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.
Let me also say that each person involved in the effort to recruit an independent candidate is a patriot. They are standing strong on principle when the GOP leadership — in lockstep — now marches to Trump’s beat. I admired them before this process began, and I admire them more even now.
And the fight is not over. Men such as my friend and colleague, Boston filmmaker and philanthropist John Kingston, stand ready to continue the effort — with substantial resources behind them. But we live in a time when patriots are mocked and demagogues celebrated. Even good men have reduced themselves to excusing the inexcusable and defending the indefensible.
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.
To those who prayed for me and my family, I’m grateful beyond words. To those who defended my wife and kids from vicious attacks — engaging in a fight you didn’t seek — I’m forever in your debt. To those I’ve disappointed, I’m sorry. It is your devotion and integrity that help keep America great, and I believe you will ultimately prevail.