Who is Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld?

Nearly one year after his joint effort with Gov. Gary Johnson to offer an alternative and experienced ticket for president and vice president, Gov. Bill Weld is beginning to establish a more active political voice.

Weld, for example, recently joined the Honorary Board of the Our America Initiative, the nonprofit advocacy organization led by Johnson, the governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. Weld has also begun putting forth his views as a featured writer for The Jack News.

His first column last week was on the need for congressional term limits. Referring to the looming debt ceiling debacle facing Congress next month, Weld said, “Those are time crunches of their own making and dysfunction, and in the private sector, would be job-ending irresponsibility.”

Congress’ abysmal performance this year is all the more reason why “now is a good time to talk about term limits.”

A fiscal hawk unmatched by few

Weld, elected governor of Massachusetts in 1990 with 51 percent of the vote, increased that total to more than 71 percent four years later.

He bested his number, he says, by serving all the people – not just the voters from his then-political party, the Republicans.

Working with multiple parties was and is a necessity in Massachusetts.

Indeed, despite the state legislature being controlled by a Democratic majority, Weld managed to cut taxes 21 times and did not permit any tax increases. He did this by identifying areas of government inefficiency and spending that was not serving the public interest.

For example, Weld championed programs that helped welfare recipients get jobs to reduce their long-term reliance on government assistance, and in turn create a more productive society.

In 1992, he was rated the most fiscally conservative governor in the United States by the Wall Street Journal. At the same time, the state’s unemployment rate plummeted from the highest among the 11 most industrialized states to the lowest by the end of his first term.

Speaking out against extreme partisanship

Weld has also begin to publicly address the lessons of multi-partisanship that he first deployed in Massachusetts in the 1990s.

He spoke at a recent panel that he moderated at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual Legislative Summit in Boston. Before an audience of hundreds of legislators, Weld said face-to-face interactions among lawmakers were vital.

“It’s a lot harder to take a cheap shot at someone in the press if you know you’re going to be sitting across the table from them sometime in the next seven days,” Weld said, referring to weekly meetings he held at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square with the state House speaker.

Those meetings have continued in Massachusetts, passed down from one administration to the next.

Current Gov. Charlie Baker, who served under Weld as undersecretary of health and human services and secretary of administration and finance, said that he learned similar advice from his former boss.

“Governor Weld used to say all the time, you never know where the next coalition you’re going to work with is coming from,” Baker said at the NCSL event. “This is supposed to be a distributed decision making process, it’s supposed to be messy and complicated. I believe in that and think in the long run you get a better product the more voices you include.”

Finding a home outside the GOP

Weld continues to be widely regarded as an absolute fiscal hawk. But he has always coupled his free market advocacy with strong personal beliefs in favor of public integrity and social tolerance.

An early proponent of civil rights for gays and lesbians, for example, Weld appointed the judge who wrote the opinion establishing marriage equality as a matter of constitutional right. He was also an outspoken defender of a woman’s right to choose.

No less significant, in Weld’s view, is the perspective he has brought from his earlier career as a federal prosecutor. He was the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1981 to 1986, where he focused on high-profile public corruption cases, and was head of the Justice Department Criminal Division from 1986 to 1988. He won convictions in 110 of the 111 cases that he brought.

In a time of cultural atavism and tribal partisanship, Weld refuses to toe that line.

“I suggest to you that increasing the size of America’s economic pie – which can be achieved only if everybody has a seat at the table – is the most important challenge facing our country today,” Weld says.

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Latest comments

  • I’m in.

  • I voted for Gary and disliked multiple things about his campaign from his fumbling to picking Weld as his running mate. After how Weld stabbed Gary with his vouching comments a few days before the election, I am in no hurry to vote for Bill Weld on top of the ticket for President.

    Edit: I genuinely like Gary and agreed with most of his positions, even though he sucked at getting his message across and had Sin Cara style wrestling move botches in interviews. Bill Weld has a record of compromising and settling for questionable things such as the Obamacare fees or supporting George W. Bush in his support for the Iraq War.

    • He didn’t stab anyone. He said Clinton would be a better president than Trump. He stated the obvious.

    • “I’m vouching for Hillary”

    • Ivan Magallon

      He vouched for her legally.

      Something trump did the day after he won.

    • Floyd Maseda voted for Gary but very happy Hill-rod did not win.

    • Charles Peralo

      At the end of the day it isn’t a good strategy. He was someone’s Vice Presidential mate and the tone of how he said things about her and how the media then had a perfect chance to spin whatever they wanted alienated many people. This would’ve also happened had Bill Weld said he was vouching for Donald Trump exclusively or defending him or praising him on anything and it would’ve alienated some Democrats that voted for Johnson/Weld.

    • Charles, but when Maddow asked if he really thought Johnson would make a better president than Hillary, he deflected the question and didn’t really answer directly.

      He was also asked, “The Libertarian Party hasn’t treated you great if they’re putting out statements you disagree with over your name” and he responded, “I’m here vouching for Hillary”.

  • I think with over 3 years still to go might be a bit premature to think of who the libertarian candidate is actually going to be. Anything can change between now and then

  • Perhaps you should have been the candidate during last election

  • I think if the ticket would’ve been reversed with Weld as the candidate there would’ve been a much higher percentage of the vote for the LP.

  • I’m in. Weld 2020. It is the only choice that could win. That’s the major point at this juncture

  • I like Weld a lot, but at 72 he’s just too old. This is like the Democrats I know advocating for Biden.

    The Presidency isn’t a walk in the park. Unless you have a **** good VP in mind, the candidate should be under 60.

  • I like Gary Johnson but couldn’t help thinking that the 2016 libertarian ticket ought to have been reversed with Weld at the top. Both are highly experienced, but he presented as more sharply engaged and serious about things. Didn’t know his age…well he didn’t stike me as old or in decline. I wouldn’t count it against him. Healthspans are continually lengthening.

  • I’d vote for him again. He was a great Gov. of MA.

  • Other than that famous Hillary line, and his slow adoption of gun rights views, he awesome (not being sarcastic I actually like him, just had a few missteps)

  • I hope Bill runs, even though I’m not as excited about him as I was about Gary. He simply doesn’t have the aura of complete integrity that Gary did. In fairness, I’m a long-time New Mexican, so I’m more familiar with Gary’s record than Bill’s. By all accounts, he was a good governor of MA and popular. I, too, think he made a number of political faux pas during the campaign, which were sins of commission, not omission, like Gary’s. I see Bill as more of a “politician” than Gary, which may be both good and bad. All that said, I think he is probably the best potential Libertarian candidate, having name recognition on the East Coast, good ideas, and sense. I would say “common sense”, but that isn’t common among politicians these days.

    • He also had sins of position. They directly contradicted the party platform on many occasions, and the way they spoke made it abundantly clear that neither Johnson nor Weld truly understood what libertarianism is all about. Don’t get me wrong, if they had run under any other party I would have loved them being in the race. Perhaps they’d fit better in the Federalist Party if they really can’t stand being Republicans. But the Libertarian Party needs to field candidates who understand that libertarianism is not just a moderate political ideology, but a coherent moral philosophy. There’s no crime in advocating for only a little bit of change at a time. I do not support having self-declared anarchists carry the banner. But we also must not sacrifice who we are for the sake of electoral success. Because next thing you know Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush will be begging to get in to the party. If someone like Jeb Bush wins the presidency under our party banner, a libertarian didn’t win.

    • I’ve been a thoroughgoing libertarian since the 1960’s. I believe in small government, fiscal and personal responsibility and individual liberty. Polls show that’s what most Americans believe in too. Johnson, in particular, espoused just those policies. I can tell you that he really believes in them. As I’ve implied above, if the Libertarian Party is to succeed in becoming anything more than a fringe party, it must take a moderate position. One can be a libertarian and be moderate. Indeed, that’s the essence of being libertarian. I’m afraid that the Party will be taken over by Tea Party people, who have a right to their opinions, but are only libertarians on fiscal policy.

  • He’s a lib. When did he get fiscal religion? Didn’t have it in MA

  • The Libertarian Party does not need to be openly radical, but it does need to field candidates who understand that libertarianism is not just an economic doctrine but a moral philosophy. If we compromise who we are for the sake of electoral success, a libertarian didn’t win.

    • I don’t mean to be contrarian, Sean, but ALL parties compromise their deepest beliefs to some degree to be able to get their candidates elected. If anybody thinks the Democrats and Republicans don’t compromise their positions occasionally, they haven’t been listening. I don’t think that it’s necessary to compromise libertarian values to elect moderate Libertarian candidates. If we can’t elect candidates, there isn’t much point to running campaigns. We can just fall on our swords as we tell ourselves how “right” we are! 🙂

  • Noooo! Fresh candidates, please!

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