Rightblogger for President? What David French's Weird, Six-Day 'Can't-Didacy' Was About
As discussed in my last column, the Libertarian Party recently nominated two former Republican governors for POTUS and VPOTUS — but the #NeverTrump rightbloggers who’ve been claiming they’d vote for any reasonable alternative to Trump balked, because these two former Republicans weren’t right-wing enough.
Last week, Weekly Standard editor and neocon legacy pledge William Kristol gave rightbloggers another candidate who should have been much more to their liking: anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-Muslim, anti-contraception — the whole package! The only problem: He was a National Review staff writer — a rightblogger, even! — with zero name recognition, not much charisma, and, it turned out, not much support even from other rightbloggers.
On Sunday, this not-quite-candidate announced he wouldn't run. But what, apart from Billy Kristol's incompetence, was this bizarre episode about in the first place?
Kristol promised his followers in a May 29 tweet that "there will be an independent candidate — an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance." PJ Media, tantalized, ran through several conservative indie candidate possibilities: Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, retired Army general Stanley A. McChrystal, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, et alia.
Finally, Kristol made his pitch. He started by mentioning a column by David French of National Review, asking Mitt Romney to throw his hat in the ring. "Yet the fact of Trump's and Clinton's unfitness for the Oval Office has become so self-evident" said Kristol, "that it's no longer clear one needs a famous figure to provide an alternative." His proposal: Run French himself. "To say that he would be a better and a more responsible president than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump," Kristol went on, "is to state a truth that would become self-evident as more Americans got to know him."
Also self-evident, he might have added, is that French had no chance. But he had one thing going for him: Philosophically, he was just what the brethren ordered.
Not only is the evangelical French anti-abortion, he’s anti-birth-control: Raging against the fall of DOMA in 2012, French said of Griswold v. Connecticut — the 1965 SCOTUS case that put an end to anti-contraception laws — "the Court was undeterred by the total absence of textual constitutional support for its position because of, well, implications (or something).… Is there a single legal doctrine that can stand against the quest for personal sexual fulfillment?”
Sexual fulfillment, as such, seems to disgust French: See him here denouncing "the rutting life of the sexual revolution, where restraint is evil, physical experience is king, and people are simply sentient mammals trying to get the best out of life." The only person on earth for whom French will forgive sex outside of marriage is apparently Bristol Palin.
As you have probably already guessed, French doesn’t much care for gay or trans people, either. When the Supreme Court decided for gay marriage last summer, French went ballistic. "This is the era of sexual liberty — the marriage of hedonism to meaning — and the establishment of a new civic religion," he roared. And when Obama issued his trans bathroom guidance last month, French wrote, "It took men wanting to use women’s bathrooms and vice versa for the Left to truly show its hand, plainly and unequivocally declaring that American legal traditions should be set ablaze.…"
Sex isn't his only topic, thank goodness; French also tackles poverty. "It is simply a fact that our social problems are increasingly connected to the depravity of the poor," he wrote in 2011, and suggested paupers all go to church and get jobs: "The bottom line is that we need more free enterprise, and we need more virtue. Sadly, the Great Society and the sexual revolution have deprived us of both." (Man, that sexual revolution fucked everything up, huh?)
In 2015, when he learned white, working-class people were committing suicide at alarming rates, French first blamed liberals for "mocking poor whites," which he apparently thought made them kill themselves. But French changed it up a little in 2016, when his colleague Kevin D. Williamson told poor whites to pull their socks up and hit the road in search of jobs. "Simply put," said French, "Americans are killing themselves and destroying their families at an alarming rate. No one is making them do it." Good news, sexed-up libtards — you’re off the hook! French ended by telling the struggling whites, "If getting a job means renting a U-Haul, rent the U-Haul. You have nothing to lose but your government check." (Note to unemployed readers: Please read the fine print on your U-Haul contract — rental is no guarantee of employment.)
In short, French ticks practically every box for rightbloggers. Confederate flags? Keep 'em flying, says French. What causes racial unrest? Black people, says French. Hate Muslims? Him, too! Just watching Game of Thrones for the nudity and violence? Not at all, it’s a redeeming story of faith!
Yet the French kinda-candidacy did not stir much of a groundswell even among other conservatives. "Kristol is making himself look ridiculous," said Pat Buchanan. "A suicide mission," said GOP Chair Reince Priebus. "Was Jay Nordlinger unavailable?" said Daniel J. Flynn at the American Spectator. "David French, with all due respect, is irrelevant," said — get this! — Herman Cain.
Even French's colleagues wouldn't pledge him a vote. "Thank God for David French," wrote National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy. "…I offer thanks today for his public consideration of an independent run for the presidency. It’s a very American thing to do..." So, would he vote for French? No, McCarthy told readers he was voting for Trump. (Wait, wasn’t McCarthy one of the signatories to the NR "Against Trump" manifesto? Sure, but why would that stop him?)
Finally, French came forward on Sunday and announced that though he had given it "serious thought," he would not run. He claimed to believe that someone could mount a credible independent campaign, but it would have to be someone "who either is extraordinarily wealthy...or is a transformational political talent." He thanked his supporters and buggered off.
So: What was that all about?
For six days, French enjoyed (despite his claim of "vicious attacks" during his can't-didacy) mostly gentle national coverage, not only from Fox News, but also from CNN, ABC, MSNBC, et alia. That coverage, you will not be surprised to learn, did not focus on his batshit crazy beliefs, but on his compelling biographical details — mainly, that he joined the Army late in life with the express purpose of going to Iraq in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, and that he and his wife have adopted an Ethiopian child.
This will be mainly what people remember about French. And down the road? As Janell Ross pointed out in her French profile at the Washington Post, his hometown of Columbia, Tennessee, is "a very Republican place. It sits in Tennessee's 7th district, which gave Mitt Romney 66 percent of the vote in 2012.… In 2008, the city's mosque was firebombed and vandalized by a trio of white supremacists." With the press boost he’s received, French is well-positioned to run for some smaller starter-office — certainly more so than when he was just another rightblogger. After that, who knows? If Trump means anything, it’s that the Republican Party’s getting further and further out of hand, and no cops are coming by to shut it down. A nut like French might be the future of the Party.
And what did Kristol get out of it? A chance to keep his title, I guess.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.