NEW YORK — Never Trump’s trial balloon went the way of Waterloo.
Just days ago, Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol reportedly had found just the man to offer a third, conservative option beyond presumptive GOP nominee Donald J. Trump and the execrable expected Democrat standard bearer, Hillary Clinton.
Would it be a popular Republican governor, say South Carolina’s Nikki Haley? Or perhaps an appealing former congressional leader, such as Oklahoma’s J.C. Watts? Why not a successful, libertarian entrepreneur, namely Cypress Semiconductor founder T.J. Rodgers?
Nope, the rabbit that Kristol pulled out of a hat was none other than David French.
“David who?” many wondered.
French’s credentials are impressive: A Bronze Star, honorable service as a U.S. Army Reserve Major and Iraq War veteran, and a subsequent career as an attorney, legal scholar, and thoughtful essayist with National Review Online. Still, French was a puzzling prospect.
Like an alligator chomping kittens, Trump has chewed through 16 rivals, including four sitting senators, three sitting governors, and six former governors, one of whom is the brother of one president of the United States and the son of another POTUS.
And now, Kristol and his Never Trump army propose to stop Trump with a constitutional lawyer unencumbered by name ID, political experience, an organization, money, or even a multi-billion-dollar business about which he could boast?
The scratched heads from coast to coast ultimately led French himself to cancel the countdown on his campaign rocket, well before ignition.
Now that the French mistake has gone nowhere, it’s time for Team Never Trump to abandon the launch pad and halt the search for another quixotic projectile that will demolish conservatism in a misguided effort to rescue it.
The fact remains: The last successful third-party presidential bid was led by Abraham Lincoln in 1860.
Efforts to short-circuit the Electoral College and throw the 2016 election into the House of Representatives presuppose that enough state delegations in the House — consisting almost entirely of career Democrat and Republican politicians — will abandon their respective nominees and, instead, select as president of the United States a tertiary interloper who waltzed into the race literally after the last primary ballot had been cast. Such fantasies are, charitably, psychedelic.
Whoever General Kristol and his Never Trump troops may recruit to their cause simply will yank votes from Trump’s Right flank, but not enough actually to win the White House. Instead, the Right will be rent in twain. And a three-way split could be possible, with former GOP governors Gary Johnson of New Mexico and William Weld of Massachusetts leading the Libertarian ticket. The result of a divided Right is obvious: President Hillary Rodham Clinton.
And, if the Duchess of Chappaqua gets promoted to her life-long dream job, who’s to say that the Democrats would not re-take the Senate and perhaps regain the House next November?
What will Bill Kristol and the Never Trump crowd say if a President Hillary Rodham Clinton names Obama or Senator Elizabeth Warren (D – Massachusetts) to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat — for life?
What will they say if a President Hillary Rodham Clinton, a 5-4 Left-Right Supreme Court, and perhaps a Democratic Congress control the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the federal government — angrier and more liberal than ever?
How, precisely, will this advance conservatism?
Some Never Trumpniks say this: We’re not sure if a President Trump actually would name to the Supreme Court anyone on his recently released list of potential justices.
Yes, it’s true. A President Trump might not nominate judges Thomas Lee, William Pryor, or Diane Sykes. But, having stated very publicly that he might do so, there is at least some chance that Trump will keep his word on one or more of these potential nominees, to fill Scalia’s post, and any others that might become vacant.
Conversely, there is exactly ZERO chance in Hell that a President Hillary Rodham Clinton would name any of these well-regarded constitutionalist jurists to the American Battle Monuments Commission, much less the highest court in the land. Satan will be elected to the College of Cardinals before that happens.
Likewise, Trump’s proposed 25 percent top income-tax rate, 15 percent corporate tax rate, and his belief that so-called “global warming” is a job-killing, freedom-crushing hoax.
Does Trump believe these things? There’s a decent chance he does, and he might sign legislation congruent with these ideas and statements.
Conversely, global cooling will turn Earth into a giant ice bucket before a President Hillary Rodham Clinton endorses a 15 percent corporate tax or deserts her front-row pew in the Chapel of Climate Change.
So, here is what Bill Kristol and the Never Trump brigade should do:
Get over it.
They blew it. We all did — at least those of us who backed other candidates in the Republican primaries. We didn’t sell them the right way. GOP voters ignored us in the Commentariat who spoke up for Trump’s opponents.
Ultimately, Trump’s rivals didn’t sell themselves the right way. So, they lost. Trump beat them like railroad spikes with a sledgehammer.
Also, nearly everyone laughed at Trump until it was too late.
I took Trump seriously from the start. Just days after his June 16 campaign announcement, I dined with friends on the terrace at Ristorante Il Cantinori in Manhattan’s East Village. My dinner companions dismissed Trump’s “P.R. stunt.” They could not stop snickering about the real estate mogul and long-time star of NBC’s The Apprentice.
Don’t take him lightly, I replied.
“Trump’s got money,” I said. “He understands TV. And he’s running for president of the United States because he wants to be president of the United States. If he wants publicity, all he has to do is call a press conference, not campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
I then failed early on to hit Trump’s shortcomings. Instead, I harnessed my op-eds and TV appearances to tout Scott Walker and Marco Rubio (and, ultimately Ted Cruz) and torpedo Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Simultaneously, I watched Trump in astonishment, wondering if anyone or anything would reverse his skyward trajectory. I wrote little about Trump until after the February 20 South Carolina primary. Many center-Right pundits held their anti-Trump fire until about the same time. So did most of the GOP candidates who, mysteriously, trashed each other while leaving Trump largely untouched.
So, here we are.
Bill Kristol and Never Trump need to imagine waking up every day for the next four to eight years and hearing these words on the news:
“President Hillary Rodham Clinton announced today…”
Kristol & Co. need to stop pouting and concocting far-fetched, increasingly embarrassing schemes. Instead, they need to bite down really hard on some wooden spoons and accept this fact:
The next president of the United States will be either Donald J. Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The Kristol Korps needs to recognize that Donald J. Trump is the last helicopter that will whisk conservatives off the Embassy roof before the Viet Clong rolls into town. Those of us who backed other candidates can complain that the chopper is not quite right, it’s too loud, it’s not a Gulfstream jet, some passengers are less polished than the ostentatious gold fixtures, the Trump steaks are less delicious than the New York Strips at Capital Grille, the helicopter may land in Djakarta rather than Manila....
Either we all pile into the chopper and fly the hell out of here (and offer suggestions to improve the ride), or we remain atop the embassy roof and then endure Hill Chi Minh and her re-education camps come January. Given the politically correct Left’s new-found, un-American passion for prosecuting those who refuse to panic over so-called “global warming,” such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, this is barely an exaggeration.
Trump has been hit or miss on issues important to conservatives. But with outreach and encouragement, he could be much more hit than miss.
Conversely, Hill Chi Minh will be 100 percent miss, or close to it, and A-W-F-U-L on virtually every issue dear to conservatives and free-marketeers.
Oh, yes, and Hillary Rodham Clinton will remain breathtakingly corrupt and criminal as she crushes individual freedoms like doves beneath her tank treads.
Like it or not, those are the two futures that face America and the Right.
If Bill Kristol and Never Trump ignore these realities and seek another spoiler, they might as well skip the middle man and direct their online campaign contributions to HillaryClinton.com.