05 July 2016
Russian Roulette: the Republican veepstakes
Donald Trump's best option for the general election probably would be to make his running-mate irrelevant, but neither the Republican party nor the media is going to let that happen. The significance of Trump's choice for a vice-presidential candidate inevitably will be inflated by weeks of media speculation before his decision, and weeks of second-guessing afterward. The process may be as near to a no-win situation for Trump as he's encountered so far in his political career. If he opts for a veteran politician, that risks alienating fans who fetishize Trump's outsider status. If he chooses another outsider he'll probably further alienate Republicans who find Trump himself dubious on many levels. His own apparent short list is full of danger. Tapping Newt Gingrich, as may now believe he will do, would be just about as good as firing a bullet into his brain. The former Speaker is not a veteran politician but a has-been politician, and one who is not, so far as I'm aware, remembered fondly by the Republican base or the general electorate. Gingrich is the man who actually made people tired of the Clinton family's legal troubles, while emerging as a hypocritical persecutor of the adulterous President. He emerged as a quitter when a backlash against the Clinton impeachment reduced his majority in the House of Representatives. What Trump sees in him I can't say, unless the presumptive nominee sees the 1994 "Contract With America" campaign as a model of political entrepreneurship. Gingrich is supposedly one of Trump's favorites despite his support, as Speaker, for NAFTA, the Munich of protectionist history -- but conveniently enough, he's repudiating his former free-trade stance, arguing that we're in a different era now without scrutinizing his role in making the era different. Fairly or not -- since people should be able to say they were wrong in the past -- Gingrich will be portrayed as an opportunistic trimmer if he lands the second spot on the GOP ticket, and Democrats probably could not pray for a better running-mate for Trump, for their purposes. Trump simply can't be that stupid .... or can he? For all we know, the gun he has to put to his head may be fully loaded. But to be fair, he didn't make the bullets.