He didn’t say it directly, but the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, for all intents and purposes endorsed Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Weld, a former Republican, said he was “vouching” for Clinton and praised her effusively while arguing that the choice between the two major candidates is clear — all while not really vouching for the top of his own ticket, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.
Weld has been hinting in this direction for weeks, saying nice things about Clinton, warning about Trump and suggesting people choosing between the two should pick Clinton. But at this juncture in the race, the Libertarian Party is struggling to get the 5 percent of the vote that would qualify it for federal matching funds and easier ballot access.
The whole thing is worth a gander. Below is the full transcript, with the most interesting parts highlighted and annotated.
MADDOW: I’m very pleased today that joining us live tonight in studio for the interview is Bill Weld, the Libertarian candidate for vice president this year. Governor Weld thank you so much for being here.
WELD: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: I posited just a moment ago before the commercial break that what you and Gary Johnson are really aiming at this year is that 5 percent threshold, to try to get some federal matching funds, to try to get some ballot access, and all those other things. Basically so the Libertarians might be viable in the future. Is that fair?
WELD: I think you can — I think in the real world that’s probably correct. That would give federal matching funds. It would mean no more ballot access woes. You know we thought for the longest time we might have a chance to run the table because we’re such nice guys and centrist party, etcetera, but not getting into the debates really sort of foreclosed that option. So now it’s really the 5 percent, you’re right.
MADDOW: And when you—in the real world when you think about pursing that 5 percent option, for people who are in states where it’s really close, for people who are in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, these states where the presidential race really might be decided among the two candidates who actually have a shot at it. Do you think that people in those states should vote for you?
WELD: Well, we are making our case that we’re fiscally responsible and socially inclusive and welcoming. And we think we’ve got on the merits the best ticket of the three parties, if you will, and so, you know, we’d like to get there. Having said that, as I think you’re aware, I see a big difference between the Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate. And I’ve been at some pains to say that I fear for the country if Mr. Trump should be elected. I think it’s a candidacy without any parallel that I can recall. It’s content-free and very much given to stirring up ambient resentment and even hatred. And I think it would be a threat to the conduct of our foreign policy and our position in the world at large.
MADDOW: When you say fear for the country do you mean — is that hyperbole or do you mean it literally? Do you think it would actually be a threat to us as a country if elected?
WELD: Well I think it would be a threat to our polity as Tom Brokaw has been saying over the past couple of days. You know we’re getting to the point where we’re impinging on democratic institutions in this country and I think, you know, it takes a certain– not a suspension of disbelief — but willingness to go along with other people to get the ship of state going forward. I’m not sure that happens in a Trump presidency, frankly.
MADDOW: You’ve described him as unstable. Did you mean that sort of psychologically or—what’s the basis of that?
WELD: Oh yeah. No I mean that psychologically. I think he showed in the debates when he encounters criticism or challenge he behaves the way a bully would. He just doesn’t take it well. He doesn’t deal well with criticism and blame and I don’t think he could competently manage the office of the presidency given the criticism and challenge that you face every single day as the President of the United States. He just would not be in his element and I think he would wobble off course and I think the country just can’t have that.
MADDOW: Given that, I’m gonna circle back to the question I asked before. Somebody listening to you right now in N.C. — knowing that N.C. may decide who the next president of the U.S. is — hearing you, in terms of what you think of Donald Trump and that you fear for the country if he is elected. Why wouldn’t it be — if those are the stakes, and that person is deciding well, I’m gonna vote against Donald Trump and you concede basically that you’re not gonna win — that you and Gary Johnson are not gonna win the presidency. Why would that person not weigh threat to the country, fear for the fate of the country against hope the libertarian party gets its five percent this year. Why would a person pick the Libertarian vote in that case if the stakes are that high between voting for Clinton and Trump?
WELD: Well, the person could very well decide not to do that, and for someone deciding not to do that, I have a lot to say about Mrs. Clinton that has not been said by others recently and that I think needs to be said. I mean I’ve known her for 40 years. I worked with her, I know her well professionally. I know her well personally. I know her to be a person of high moral character. A reliable person and an honest person, however Mr. Trump may rant and rave to the contrary. So I’m happy to say that. People can make their own choices.
MADDOW: I feel like you’re butting up against a gossamer ceiling here — a very, in that you’re not getting — you’re not quitting, you’re not stepping out of the race. I heard you say today on MSNBC that you’ll cast a vote for the Libertarian ticket, of which you are part.
WELD: That would be our ticket.
MADDOW: That would be your ticket. Your and Gary Johnson’s ticket. But do you honestly believe that Gary Johnson would be a better president than Hillary Clinton?
WELD: I think he’d be capable of being a good chief executive and yes a commander in chief — Aleppo to the contrary, notwithstanding. He was a strong governor and you know I believe in the platform of the Libertarian party, which is different from that of the other two parties and I believe that it would be good for the country if the Libertarians were — had a seat at the table to speak truth to power of the other two parties, which now have this monopoly in Washington. Having said that, I’m not taking back anything I said about the massive difference between the two establishment party candidates. One would be chaos for the country, I think. And the other would be a very business-like and capable and competent approach to our affairs.
MADDOW: What do you think – what’s your reaction – I ask this in part because you were deputy attorney general…assistant attorney general?
WELD: Assistant attorney general in the criminal division.
MADDOW: That’s part of your background and you’ve had a varied life in public service – What is your reaction to the emergence of the FBI as a sort of wild card in these last days, what’s your reaction to what James Comey’s…
WELD: It’s incomprehensible, and I can’t see it – Mr. Comey’s got a good background but there’s nothing there, so far as it appears. Nothing there. So he wrote the letter to the eight Republican committee members copied to the Democrats saying ‘you know some emails have turned up, we’ve looked at a lot of emails now it turns out there are even more emails – we don’t know what’s there, so there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that could be of interest to anyone until we conduct our multi-week, multi-month investigation but I thought you’d all just like to know. Now I don’t get that – that’s violating any number of Justice Dept. protocols and procedures. Y’know he should have gone to the Public Integrity section and said ‘What do you folks think.’ It’s a little bit of an odd situation because he’s a former deputy attorney general as well as head of the FBI so he may have trouble keeping on only the investigator hat forgetting that he’s a former deputy attorney general. So it’s not a good thing, it’s a distraction so I think we should just ignore it because there’s nothing there so get on with the business of last week of the election.
MADDOW: Well, when you say there’s nothing there, the campaign of which you are a part put out this statement re: Clinton Investigation and they put it out over your photo, you and Gary Johnson, and it says “The newest revelations about Hillary Clinton demonstrate why America should be scared of both Clinton and Trump. We have a system that is so corrupted that parents all over have to apologize to their children for the leadership we are giving them.” This was put out in response to what Jim Comey did and it sounds like you do not agree with this statement from your own campaign.
WELD: That’s correct. That’s correct.
MADDOW: But they still kept it up over your photo.
WELD: You know in fairness Gary and I have not agreed on a number of substantive issues in this campaign, tax policy, we’ve had some influence on each other, I think I’ve had some influence on him, on constructive engagement around the world, he’s had some influence on me in criminal justice reform issues. We’re talking them through, I talk with Gary every other day, we’re on different coasts usually but we keep in touch and — yeah, no I do not agree with that release.
MADDOW: And that seems hard like, let me just say as a Massachusetts resident who knows something of your tenure in public life there, I’m in a different place than you ideologically on the number line but I have a lot of respect both for your career and your thoughtfulness and I think that you are, you’re a deep thinker and a clear thinker on these things and I have a lot of respect for you, hope you don’t mind me saying…
WELD Let me button my coat, I sense something’s coming…
MADDOW: I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t tell a person in North Carolina or Ohio to vote for Hillary Clinton if the choice they were making was between giving the Libertarian Party 5 percent or potentially electing Donald Trump because you guys don’t have a chance against Donald Trump and she does and if they vote for you they would be helping to elect Donald Trump. The Libertarian Party hasn’t treated you great if they’re putting out statements that you disagree with over your name even now, one week before the election I can’t imagine that your loyalty to them is stronger than your fear of Trump as a president.
WELD: Well I’m here vouching for Mrs. Clinton and I think it’s high time somebody did, and I’m doing it based on my personal experience with her and I think she deserves to have people vouch for her other than members of the Democratic National Committee, so I’m here to do that.
MADDOW: You’ve had a fascinating career and I really appreciate your time coming in to talk with me about it. Good luck sir, thank you.