French came ‘really close’ to running for president

Excerpts from an interview of David French, Columbia-based attorney and National Review writer, by his hometown newspaper editor on considering an independent run for president — and rejecting the idea:

“I was really close to doing it,” said French, who worked for the Romney campaign in 2008 and 2012. “Basically, it’s because I talked to Mitt, and I knew he wasn’t going to do it. I talked to [Nebraska Republican senator] Ben Sasse, and I knew he wasn’t going to do it. We looked at poll numbers, which showed if an average senator or congressman ran for president, they would not do as well as someone who’s out of politics entirely. That’s how fed up people are with Washington.”

Kristol and French, who unsuccessfully tried to convince Romney to run as an independent, concluded French had the credentials as a conservative thinker, family man and military officer to resonate with voters.

“Our theory was if you had someone who was completely outside of Washington, who had post 9/11 military service, had expertise on the issues, had the ability to communicate the issues and had character and integrity, you could present the best possible contrast to Trump and Clinton,” French said.

French, a Harvard-educated lawyer who served in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, has been a leading critic of Trump. Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban, who has a love-hate relationship with Trump, thanked French on Twitter for considering a run.

“Trump is aggressively ignorant. He is a complete buffoon. He knows nothing about foreign policy, domestic policy, trade or economics,” French said. “He’s a reality TV star and real-estate developer. To put his success in context, had he taken all the money his daddy had given him and put it just in an index fund tabbed to the stock market, he’d be far wealthier than he turned out to be. He has no clue what ISIS is, what ISIS believes, how to fight them and stop them.

“Then, you have against him a person who’s political beliefs are conventional Democrat. But she’s fundamentally corrupt. If I had treated classified information like she treated classified information [as Secretary of State] — and I had a security clearance when I was a JAG officer in the army — the most important goal in my life would be negotiating a good plea bargain. She trades influence for money, donations to the Clinton foundation.”

With that backdrop of flawed candidates, French and his supporters saw opportunity. The last independent candidate to win a state was George Wallace in 1968, nearly 50 years ago, but this seemed like a chance to rewrite the political landscape.

“These two people are dishonest,” French continued in an interview with The Daily Herald on Friday. “They are heavily disliked by the American people. Neither one has any real integrity. I thought the American people needed a choice. If the choice were a senator of congressman, it actually looked like they would have less of a chance of beating Hillary or Trump.

…”People were hoping for a bigger name to challenge Trump. The bottom line is, I realized I did not have a big enough constituency. I didn’t have enough of a following or enough money.”

French said if he ran, it might have blocked another independent from jumping into the race. He said he hopes Republican delegates will rise up against Trump and pick another nominee. Trump has faced even more criticism in wake of insensitive comments after the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla.

“I looked at running hard,” French said. “I think America faces a terrible choice, two people who are not fit to be president. That’s what the American people are facing unless Republican delegates do something about it.”

Nancy French, a best-selling writer who co-authored books with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her daughter, Bristol Palin, said she would have supported her husband’s decision either way. Nancy is close to the Palins and Romneys and saw the effects a national campaign had on their families.

“I didn’t really want him to do it,” Nancy said. “But I would totally support him doing it. That’s how we all were [in the family]. That is how we looked at his deployment to Iraq. We knew it was service to our country, but we knew it was not going to be fun.”

…French said in January he would vote for Trump, if nominated, but changed his mind. He said he would consider Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, or a write-in candidate.

“Who would you write in?” Nancy asked.

“Mitt Romney,” French said.

“Me, too,” she responded.