Why Donald Trump’s VP Choice Is More Complicated Than You Think.
Truly, I wish this U.S. election year were less… interesting. But like a mouse watching a snake, or Spock with a raised eyebrow, we cannot look away. “Fascinating” does not begin to describe it. One is tempted to demand: “who is writing this simulation, and how much longer before we all realize that it’s a farce?
Mind you, I have started to veer again toward offering long-odds wagers. Such as whether Donald Trump will actually walk away from the Cleveland Convention with the nomination that now seems so throughly sewn up, and carry it all the way to the election. I got a creepy feeling….
But in today’s missive, let’s talk about something else. Appraising the highly unusual set of factors that Donald J. Trump must consider in naming the person he wants the GOP convention to put forward as Vice Presidential nominee.
Of course that is the talk of the town. Salon has bruited Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Others speak Condoleeza Rice or Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, for reasons I’ll get to, below. And were this a normal situation, my money would be on Rice.
But no. In order to show you just how much must be on Trump’s mind, I’ll choose one fellow as an example, letting him serve are a mirror to the pros and cons.
Let’s consider the reasons why Donald Trump might choose Newt Gingrich.
1) Personal loyalty can be a strong factor. Gingrich endorsed DT fairly early.
Sure, this also applies to Sessions and to NJ Governor Chris Christie. But Sessions would crystallize so clearly that this is Civil War Part VIII that even Indiana might remember what side it had been on. And why. As for Christie? Please.
2) Insider connections. Gingrich knows everybody, including major donors like Sheldon Adelson. And the cryptic powers who may stand behind Adelson.
3) Ticket balancing. All right. Newt provides none of this. He can’t even help in his home state of Georgia.
It’s in this area that folks wax effusive about Rice and Fallin. Both of them could (at least in Donald’s mind) help him with women. Rice is a two-fer, allowing his most xenophopic supporters to shout the modern rallying cry of American bigots: “See? I like that’un! That means I’m no racist at all!”
Two problems here, though. Fallin seems interested, but Rice not so much. Also, other factors will loom much stronger in DT’s mind than obsolete ticket balancing (see below.)
4) Someone who gets along. “I want to have somebody who can deal with Congress, who gets along with Congress, who is a Washington person,” Trump said at a town hall in April. While Newt – former Speaker of the House – would seem to fully satisfy this aim…
5) Needs a firebrand. Gingrich is also enough of a rebel firebrand that he might (perhaps) be able to serve the other function of a veep nominee — ministering to the base of radical-populist-confederates who gave DT the nomination, keeping them calm while Trump tries to veer toward the middle, after Cleveland. Sessions could do this. So could Cruz or Palin. Not Fallin or Rice.
(That is… if DT runs for the center! I used to deem that likely. I even fantacized that Trump might, in the debates, drop some hoary and insane, dinosaur-obsolete standard GOP incantations like Supply Side voodoo and climate denialism. Now? That seems less likely, alas. But if he did try a middle-ward veer, he’d need to send a firebrand into Tea Party territory to calm them.)
Sure, some in the base will remember that Newt betrayed the Dennis Hastert Rule – “Never ever negotiate with democrats, even for the good of the nation.” Gingrich paused several times in the 1990s – amid general nastiness and craziness — to negotiate important measures with President Bill Clinton. You and I would deem that a good thing! But it enraged Hastert*, Tom DeLay**, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, leading them to oust Gingrich and send him into exile. That is still cause for resentment among the harshest culture warriors…
6)Someone Reliable. This could make Newt ideal, from Trump’s perspective! It means that Gingrich is not a reliably obedient servant of Rupert Murdoch and the other GOP lords. Not totally. He’s always been a bit of a wild card, like Trump, mixing bilious insanity with moments of lucidity and independent thinking. This means that Newt may not be ‘impeachment bait.’
What’s that? Well, ponder this. Even if he wins the election and is inaugurated into the Oval Office, Trump would start his administration more hated by establishment pols than any president since maybe Lincoln. (And he is no Lincoln.) Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney must have already worked out the following scenario — and it is a doozy.
== The GOP replacement gambit ==
All they have to do, after inauguration, is wait till President Trump (shudder) does or says something frightful. Which should happen within a week, maybe a month, of entering office, as sure as sunrise.
Tell the democrats in Congress: “Go ahead and impeach him! We’ll provide just enough GOP votes to help you succeed!” A perfect, pre-packaged coup that would install Donald’s “establishment” Vice President in the White House for an almost-full term, getting all those juicy Supreme Court appointments plus a solid chance of re-election.
(Think this unlikely? Ryan has already threatened to sue a President Trump if he misbehaves. )
Voila. Rupert M is back in the driver’s seat – with the bonus that Fox News will rake in billions of extra eyeball revenue during the impeachment drama!
Better yet, the GOP moguls could thereupon nurse confederate resentment, blaming the Democrats for ousting the people’s choice – Trump! Call it pulling a “JFK” without all that risky conspiracy-murder stuff.
Note that this is where the establishment will move Heaven and Earth to get Condi Rice or Mary Fallin into the VP slot, or some other absolutely-owned Murdochian prince or princess.
Hence, my reason for asserting that The Donald has to factor in more than just the usual considerations, in choosing his VP. His ideal partner is not just someone “established” … who can also minister to the radical base… but in addition she or he must be crazy and un-controllable enough not to serve as impeachment bait!
Hence, my focus (for the moment) on Gingrich. Ryan and McConnell and Murdoch will look at Newt, pondering the option of using the impeachment gambit to make him president. They’ll recall what they did to him… …and Gingrich’s tenacity at revenge… and shake their heads, saying “naaaaah!” (That is, unless President DT truly does over the edge, even for him. In which case of course Newt would be preferable – in my mind – over any other republican politician. If for no other reason because… well… he’s a sci fi author!)
6) Oh, one more thing. With six marriages between them and countless conquests — and with all that hair — these guys will surly win the woman vote.
LATE NEWS: Yipe. Newt really is angling for Trump’s VP spot, by proving how Trumplike he can be. “Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is calling for the creation of a new House Committee on Un-American Activities, invoking the infamous “Red Scare”-era congressional body as a blueprint for weeding out American ISIS adherents and sympathizers.”
But complications continue!
You think we’re done here? Then think again. Consider why anyone would want to be Donald J Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee. Traditionally, that role sets you up as the party’s heir apparent. (And perhaps Paul Ryan is kicking himself, right now.) But again, this year is different.
Innumerable GOP stalwarts have removed themselves from consideration, under the widely held assumption that Trump will go down in flames, this November, taking his running mate’s career with him. Not heir-apparent, but political dead meat.
Sure, that’s likely. Some — like tenured Stanford Professor Condoleeza Rice — might shrug that off. Others, like Gingrich and Christie appear to have zero alternate hopes of mattering, ever again, and might as well toss dice. They are in a shrinking minority.
But consider a variant on the impeachment gambit. Imagine it’s October and Donald is being Donald on steroids. The party is fracturing and the election is way, way, way lost. As DT’s VP nominee, you labored through August and September, visibly gritting your teeth and trying, knowing that you’ll go down with this ship… that is, unless… you rebel!
And in October, that’s what you do. Visibly and publicly you separate yourself from Trump, declaring that you are running for the constitutional office of Vice President independent of him!
Can he fire you as his running mate? I think not. That would take at-minimum a vote by the Republican Party Central Committee, if not a reconvened convention.
What would this accomplish?
(1) It would be memorable, and that’s some consolation prize.
(2) It would restore your status as a top figure in what’s left of the Republican Party, drawing tons of press as you crisscross the country, disavowing DT and collecting political IOUs by helping down-ticket candidates***.
(3) Heck… there’s even that weird possibility that the Electoral College… nah.
Sound implausible? Not so much actually, if Trump accepts a truly mainstream GOP figure as his running mate. If the election seems lost, she or he is likely to betray him, in October.
And if by some chance they win? Then the Impeachment Gambit is exactly and precisely the reason the establishment is urging such a person upon you, Don. Ponder that, big fellah. Think about it really hard.
== Oh, what a mess ==
In two weeks or so, we’ll know, so why did I type all these words? Only to show you the mélange of factors that must be spinning right now, under Donald Trump’s hair.
Having put aside all the usual considerations like geographic balance or picking someone from a crucial state (Florida’s Rick Scott? urgh!), is this my wager? Will he pick the Newt Gingrich?
Nope. All of the above depends on Trump being fiercely logical — which he claims to be, but of which we’ve seen little sign.
No, in fact I think DT will choose a woman as his running mate. He has to, imagining that doing so will instantly patch things up with female voters. Given the other factors I just described, Gov. Martinez would be a logical pick… but he insulted her. Maybe Gov. Fallin or Condi Rice… ignoring that he’ll thereby be walking into a trap laid by Ryan And McConnell.
Whether he wins or loses the November vote, sooner or later, his assigned establishment partner will betray him. So he must pick someone outside the tent.
In fact, the person who actually fits all of the criteria listed above – even more than Newt does – is… gulp… Sarah Palin. No. No. He’s not that crazy. Who would be?
Don’t answer that. Just blame Arizona.
* Hastert, the head of the GOP for many years and Speaker of the House recently went to prison for child molestation and conspiracy.
** DeLay is also now a convicted criminal… though released on a technicality… oh such role models!
*** You heard it here. Mitt Romney will re-emerge bigtime in 2020. He is copying all the methods used by Richard Nixon during his wilderness years, after 1960, collecting scads of political IOUs. Bet on it.