Bloomberg nearly broke the internet Tuesday night when two of its reporters announced they had sources “intimately familiar” with Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol who say the underground conservative movement’s mystery candidate will be National Review staff writer David French.
Kristol, along with other top conservatives, has been clamoring for a “real” conservative to run as a third party alternative to Donald Trump ever since it became clear Trump’s chances of winning were better than many first expected.
Like most people, your first question about Kristol’s choice is: Who is David French, anyway? In addition to being an exceptionally talented writer for National Review, French is a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former lecturer at Cornell, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star while serving in Iraq in 2007, and the author of Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore.
By all accounts, French is a pro-school-choice, pro-military, low-taxes, free-trade conservative. And it seems from his past writings he has a rather low opinion of Mr. Trump (not surprisingly).
In a recent article written for National Review, French described why it’s so important to oppose Trump: “It is certain that [Trump] is dishonest, ignorant of foreign and domestic affairs (and often even of basic civics), and deals in the most vicious personal attacks. Add these things together, and he’s not just a ticking time bomb—he’s a walking impeachment risk.”
If you’re in the “Never Trump” camp, French appears to be the perfect candidate. He has a proven track record of espousing conservative ideals; he’s smart; he’s a good communicator (at least in writing); he’s a war hero; and he’s an outsider—to say the least.
Of course, French does have one glaring, possibly impossible-to-overcome weakness: no one has ever heard of him, except, of course, for his loyal readers at National Review.
In an election dominated by cartoonish personalities, how can a man who is nearly completely off of everyone’s radar be a legitimate challenger or alternative? Has Bill Kristol and company totally lost their minds? Perhaps, but I think a case can be made that French is actually a brilliant pick—assuming he is actually going to run—and I’m going to try to make that case right now.
What is the defining theme of the 2016 presidential race thus far? Rejection of the dreaded “establishment”—whoever that may be. We’re now living in a world where conservative Republicans would reject Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), perhaps the most anti-establishment Republican to make a legitimate run for president in over 30 years, because he’s a political insider. Even 1,000-year-old Bernie Sanders, an admitted socialist, has managed to win over the hearts of millions of people, including, quite paradoxically, many young people.
Let’s face it, if you transported an American from 2014 directly to today, that person would think he or she has accidentally stumbled into some sort of a sick, twisted, confusing political Bizarro World—one where people like Kanye West can half-seriously say they are going to run for president without totally getting laughed out of the room.
In this Alice-in-Wonderland world, why can’t a completely unknown, principled veteran actually win over the hearts and minds of Americans? Assuming he actually makes it to a debate, he’d be the only person on the stage who could say he or she is not a multi-millionaire. He’d be the only person on the stage who could actually claim to be honest without 40 million people simultaneously rolling their eyes. He’d be the only person who could say, “I know what it’s like to be a regular, totally disenfranchised American who has been ignored for the past decade.”
And can you imagine his debate with Hillary Clinton over Benghazi? Talk about a thrill going up conservatives’ collective leg!
I’m not saying French would win, that he could win, or even that he should win. But, if ever there was a time when Mr. Smith might actually find his way to Washington, this is it, and I’m not sure constitutionalists who have pledged never to sacrifice their values again could ask for a better man to play Mr. Smith than Mr. French.