The stranger-than-fiction 2016 presidential race took another wild turn on Tuesday.
After a feverish few days of speculation over who conservative “Never Trump” activist Bill Kristol was hinting about in a tweet over the weekend boasting of a third-party challenger to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the cat is out of the bag: Kristol is courting constitutional lawyer and Weekly Standard [sic] writer David French to run for president.
Several sources confirmed to NBC News that French is interested in a bid, but has not yet committed to running or not.
David French is a relative unknown to both voters and to reporters — note that NBC News incorrectly referred to French as a Weekly Standard columnist when he actually writes for National Review.
French being suggested as a third party candidate is certainly a surprise. So who is he? Well, let me quote his brand new Wikipedia page — which didn’t exist prior to yesterday:
French is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He served as the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and as a lecturer at Cornell Law School. French has also served as a senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
French retired as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in 2005, citing plans to serve in the United States Army Reserve as an officer. He was deployed to Iraq in 2007 during the Iraq War, serving in the Diyala Province as Squadron Judge Advocate.
In addition to his past legal work and military service, French has been an influential voice within the conservative movement. His columns are frequently cited by conservative talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
He’s also a bit of a firestarter. I would call him one of the best “hot take” artists in the business. Some of his most recent column titles include:
- Jesus Was Transgender? I Thought He Was Gay
- Blame Parents for Millennial’s Laughable Fragility
- 15 Reasons Trump is a Liberal — and a Lunatic Conspiracy Theorist
So will he be a difference maker? And will he actually run?
I love David French. He is easily my favorite conservative columnist, and his work is required reading for any social conservative concerned about life, marriage, and religious freedom. He has an impressive resume, and even sans political experience, he would probably be a great president.
But I really hope he doesn’t run. An independent bid is a futile effort that will ultimately become embarrassing. He won’t get on the debate stage. He won’t get much media coverage. He won’t make a difference. One could argue he currently has more influence in National Review than he would as a “presidential candidate.”
If French feels called to elected office, he should definitely run — in Tennessee. Maybe for Congress. Maybe for the Senate. Heck, maybe for president as a Republican in four years. But the only impact a French candidacy would have on the 2016 race is to elect Hillary Clinton by nibbling away at Trump’s margins. French simply doesn’t have the time or the money to build the team he needs to compete and win the popular vote in a single state, let alone all 50 of them.
The 2016 field is already set. It’s Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and — oh no, I think I’m going to be sick — Gary Johnson. David French is an honorable man and a fantastic asset to the conservative movement, and he deserves much better than being the fall guy in a quixotic quest that has no chance to succeed.
UPDATE: Also, just a few short months ago, French apparently said he’d vote for Donald Trump:
— Alison Arkin (@Cronikeys) June 1, 2016
Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe.