“Most Would Join His Ticket Only If He Kidnapped Their Children”: How Badly Will Trump Hurt Himself With His Choice Of A Running Mate?
When Donald Trump was asked by a local television station about his potential choice of a running mate, he responded, “Everybody wants it, that I can tell you.” Like many of the things Trump says, it was a laughably transparent lie; there are any number of Republicans who have said that they wouldn’t run with Trump, and that only counts the ones who have been asked by reporters. The number of prominent politicians interested in that job is pretty small, and you can’t blame them; while it’s possible to run on a losing ticket and emerge with your reputation intact (as Paul Ryan did), spending a few months going around the country talking about what a great president Donald Trump would be is unlikely to be a career booster. To emphasize the point, today Trump tweeted, “The only people who are not interested in being the V.P. pick are the people who have not been asked!” Which is actually much closer to the truth, since there are lots of people he hasn’t asked (he may not have actually asked anyone yet), and most of them would join his ticket only if Trump kidnapped their children.
Nevertheless, there are some willing to take that plunge into the unknown with Trump, and he’s been meeting with them as he gets closer to a decision. On Saturday he got together with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and today he’s meeting Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. The other names we’ve heard mentioned most often are former House speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who is managing Trump’s transition planning), and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose relationship with Trump seems based on their shared anger about immigration.
Of course, as a successful businessman who has hired many people, Trump will give this decision all the care and deliberation it deserves, arriving at a choice that nearly all Americans will praise for its wisdom and foresight.
Or maybe not. In fact, there are multiple forces pushing Trump to make a choice that will hurt him, not help him.
He wouldn’t be the first nominee to do so. The truth is that running mates almost never help the nominee win the election; at best, their selection provides a few days of positive news coverage that gives a small bump in the polls, which soon settle right back down to where they were before. The only times where a running mate had an appreciable impact on the race were those where they hurt their nominee, as Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin did.
So the best strategy is for the nominee to choose someone who would actually make a good vice president. Judging by what he’s said to this point, Trump might have a hard time determining who could perform well in the job, since he seems to have virtually no idea what the federal government does or how it works. But the most important factors are that the VP have a strong relationship with the president (vice presidents can’t be effective unless everyone knows they can speak for the president) and that he have a detailed knowledge of government. The ones who have been effective, such as Joe Biden and Dick Cheney (in George W. Bush’s first term, though less so in his second) are those with long experience in Washington that enabled them to navigate the federal government’s complexities to accomplish the tasks the president set out for them.
Trump has seemed to acknowledge this by saying that he wants someone with Washington experience as a running mate, an insider who can make up for what Trump himself lacks. But many of the people on his list don’t really qualify. Christie hasn’t served in Washington, and Ernst has been there only a year and a half, during which time she’s just been a backbench senator in a Congress that does almost nothing. Sessions has been in Washington for almost two decades, but he’s not exactly known as a legislative wizard, not to mention the fact that when people are calling your campaign racist, choosing the guy who once said that he thought members of the KKK were “were OK until I found out they smoked pot” might not be a great idea. Pence spent a decade in Congress, so he’d have a case to make, as would Gingrich, who engineered the GOP takeover of 1994, then went down in flames just a few years later after he oversaw the impeachment of Bill Clinton while simultaneously carrying on his own extramarital affair.
If those are the only options, one might think Pence is the obvious choice. He’s colorless, bland, uncharismatic and has the appropriate résumé. But is it really plausible that Donald Trump would make that kind of choice? Wouldn’t he want someone with a little more pizazz?
Now add in the fact that Trump is trailing in the polls, which increases the incentive to try to do something dramatic to dominate the news and shake up the race — which Trump is inclined to do anyway. Of course, that’s the same impulse that led John McCain to pick Palin.
The internal dynamics of the Trump campaign are opaque, but one can’t help but picture the candidate leaning back in his chair and saying, “I gotta tell ya, I really think Newt would be great,” at which everyone else in the room grinds their teeth and looks around nervously at one another, until someone finally speaks up and says, “Sir, the problem with Newt is that, well, everyone hates him. Republicans, Democrats, independents — nobody can stand the guy.” On the other hand, Newt is such a self-important, pretentious blowhard that he and Trump must get along great. He’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like, which might make him irresistible to Trump.
On the other hand, Trump might surprise us and choose a running mate who hasn’t been publicly discussed. He might be persuaded by his staff to choose someone sober and responsible. But given what has happened up until this point, the real surprise would be if Trump didn’t make a decision that looked bad on first glance, then revealed itself to be even worse than anyone had imagined.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 4, 2016
Donald Trump’s shortlist for VP looks like just another communications and demographic nightmare for the GOP. The main candidates that we know of so far appear to be Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich and now appears to include Indiana governor Mike Pence:
According to two Republicans familiar with the meeting, the conversation between Trump and Pence lasted for more than an hour, and the governor was joined by his wife, Karen, as he visited with the real-estate mogul.
One person described the session as “warm and friendly,” while the other called it a “getting to know you thing, a chance for both of them to connect.” They both noted that the presence of Karen Pence is probably a sign that the Pence family is comfortable with the prospect of the Republican governor joining the ticket, although they said they have not spoken with her.
Both people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their knowledge of the meeting, the location of which had been closely guarded for days.
Pence’s stock has been rising in Trump’s orbit, they said, describing him as respected by the candidate, despite Pence’s endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) in the Republican primary.
Trump’s camp says that he will pick a running mate before the convention. That would be common sense. Less commonsensical is Trump’s shortlist of older white male Republican government types as VP. Even Trump must realize at this point that political appeals to older white men won’t be enough to win him the election. He has to expand his base to have a prayer of winning that doesn’t depend on Hillary Clinton self-imploding.
Trump could try to win votes by expanding demographically by picking a woman or minority. The challenge for him there is that he has alienated most of the reasonably potential choices, from Nikki Haley to Meg Whitman. He could try to expand the map geographically by choosing someone from the midwestern states like Ohio and Wisconsin.
Or he could use the vice-president slot to communicate that he’s not your typical Republican politician by selecting someone from the business community, perhaps a tech entrepreneur.
But it’s not at all clear what Trump stands to gain from picking someone like Christie, Gingrich or Pence. The voters to whom those figures appeal, Trump already has. And that won’t be enough for him in November.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 1, 2016
“A Monumental Headache”: Conservative Media Struggles To Defend Trump And His Widening University Scam Scandal
What good is having a right-wing echo chamber if it’s not cranked up and blaring out a disciplined message during the presidential campaign? The conservative movement continues to grapple with that propaganda question in the wake of Donald Trump clinching the nomination, which has created deep fissures within the right-wing media and its historically united front.
For decades, conservatives have taken pride in their media bubble that not only keeps Republican fans selectively informed about breaking news, but also bashes away at all political foes. In full-fledged campaign mode, the right-wing media can effectively serve as a battering ram that Republicans use to attack their enemies or fend off in-coming volleys.
But Trump has scrambled that long-held equation. Embracing positions that often fall outside the orthodoxy of modern-day conservatism, while simultaneously rolling out non-stop insults, Trump has presented conservative pundits with a monumental headache: How do you defend a creation like Trump? Or as one National Review Trump headline lamented last month, “What’s a Conservative to Do?”
That riddle is especially tricky when Trump puts would-be allies in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the truly indefensible, like the widening scandal surrounding Trump University, the presumptive nominee’s former real estate seminar business. Over the years the dubious venture has been the subject of several ongoing fraud investigations and lawsuits, including one by the state of New York on behalf of 5,000 alleged victims.
“It’s fraud. … straight-up fraud,” the state’s Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reiterated during an MSNBC interview last week after a judge unsealed court documents from one of the Trump U. lawsuits and allowed for a more detailed look into the allegations of deceit.
The strange part? Some key conservative voices agree with the Democrat’s legal assessment. That’s why back in February, a National Review writer denounced the Trump seminars as “a massive scam.” And last month, The Weekly Standard warned that Trump U. represented a “political time bomb” that could doom the candidate’s November chances: “Democrats will see to that.” (Both magazines have opposed Trump for months and have pointed to Trump U. as a reason for their opposition.)
That’s what’s so startling about watching the conservative media this campaign season: It’s been completely knocked off its game. Known for its regimented messaging and willingness to almost robotically defend any Republican front-runner and nominee, Trump is finding only a smattering of defenders when it comes to damning allegations about his scam seminars.
And when Trump recently escalated the Trump U. story by attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel and insisted he couldn’t be impartial because of his “Mexican heritage,” the presumptive nominee found himself even further isolated within the conservative movement. (The Wall Street Journal editorial page called Trump’s judiciary attack “offensive” and “truly odious”; Bill O’Reilly did defend Trump last night.)
As for the scamming allegations, even for members of the conservative media who are willing to try to assist Trump, there’s very little to grab on to in terms of defending the scandal-plagued Trump U. Based on mountains of allegations and complaints from angry students — students with no partisan political ax to grind — all indications point to a widespread fraud operating under Trump’s name and one that bilked victims out of millions of dollars.
As The Atlantic noted after reviewing previously secret training materials for Trump U., “the playbook focuses on the seminars’ real purpose: to browbeat attendees into purchasing expensive Trump University course packages.” According to an affidavit from former student Richard Hewson, he and his wife “concluded that we had paid over $20,000 for nothing, based on our belief in Donald Trump and the promises made at the free seminar and three-day workshop.”
The con appeared to touch every aspect of the real estate selling events. Instead of getting an implied, in-person meeting with Trump at one three-day seminar, some attendees were allowed to take their picture with a cardboard cutout of him. That’s one reason Schneiderman dubbed the whole program an “elaborate bait-and-switch” scheme. (Trump’s personal, immersed involvement was a key selling point.)
Still, some loyal conservative have tried to explain away the allegations. Last week on Fox, Tucker Carlson tried to downplay the damage by wondering if Trump U. was a “scam” the same way Princeton is a “scam.” Over at Outnumbered, co-host Jedediah Bila asked if Trump U.’s allegedly fraudulent practices weren’t just good “aggressive sales tactics.” She added, “I mean when the public hears this story, I’m wondering do they just see this as non-story?”
Bila’s co-host Melissa Francis also didn’t see what the big deal was: “You know, it goes to the story of him as an aggressive businessperson who wanted to sort of profit at all costs which is kind of what business is all about.”
And former Republican candidate Ben Carson assured Sean Hannity that, “I recently talked to a physician who went to Trump University, and this man is very wealthy, but he’s not wealthy from being a physician. He’s wealthy from what he learned at Trump University and learning how to do investments.”
Note that many of Trump’s other friends at Fox have been a bit more suspect on the matter. “Trump has a simple assignment, find five people who are graduates who are willing to go on TV and say, you know, my life was improved, my income went up, it was a good experience,” announced Newt Gingrich on Sean Hannity’s show, rather than categorically defending the dubious seminars. (To date, Trump has struggled to produce a multitude of satisfied graduates.)
Conservative talk show host Larry Elder also appeared on Hannity’s show last week to discuss Trump U. and insisted that while it was a “minor issue,” nonetheless “Trump should have settled this a long time ago.”
Even Trump’s fiercest media defender, Breitbart.com, has taken a timid approach to the Trump U. fraud story, with the site refusing to offer up a full-throated defense of the alleged scam.
The ferocious conservative echo chamber isn’t built for nuance and it’s not designed for internal debate. But by sparking so much general dissention and by putting conservatives in the position of having to defend something as noxious as Trump U., the nominee is helping to mute the right-wing media voice this campaign season.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, June 7, 2016
“He Believes In Nothing And Everything”: If This Was Trump At His ‘Presidential’ Best, He’s In Big Trouble
After Donald Trump’s big speech yesterday on foreign policy, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Twitter, “Washington elites mock Trump for mispronouncing Tanzania. They don’t get it. He said the most important word correctly: America. He gets it.”
I suppose this is true in a literal sense. It is “important” for an American presidential candidate to pronounce the name of their own country correctly, and if this is the new standard for success, I’m pleased to report that Gingrich is correct: Trump cleared this absurdly low bar.
But aside from pronouncing “America” correctly, the rest of Trump’s remarks were an unnerving mess. MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin reported:
Looking to soothe fears that he lacked the experience and gravitas necessary to manage the most powerful military in the world, Donald Trump delivered a rare pre-written speech Wednesday in Washington outlining his foreign policy vision.
In many ways it raised more questions than it answered, bouncing between typical anti-Obama talking points, jarring threats to America’s friends and rivals, and soothing talk of peaceful global cooperation.
“Jarring” is the ideal adjective in this case. At one point, Trump said the United States must be prepared to tell our old allies that they should “defend themselves” and not look to us for support. In the next breath, Trump expressed dismay that so many U.S. allies feel abandoned by President Obama.
How did the Republican frontrunner reconcile the contradiction? He didn’t – Trump simply transitioned to new contradictions before anyone could fully come to terms with the last one.
Americans were told, for example, that a Trump administration would replace “randomness with purpose” through “a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy.” He then insisted, “We must as, a nation, be more unpredictable.”
Trump opposes the idea of a foreign policy based on “ideology,” rejecting the idea of exporting Western-style democracy abroad. He then emphasized the importance of “promoting Western civilization” around the globe.
Trump lamented the way in which our “resources are overextended.” He also believes the United States must “continually play the role of peacemaker” and “help to save lives and, indeed, humanity itself.”
Trump boasted about all of the leverage we have over China, around the same time as he complained about how we no longer have leverage over China.
And don’t get me started about Trump’s ridiculous factual errors.
So, what does Donald Trump believe about foreign policy? He believes in nothing and everything, all at once. As president, he would do more and less, wage war and peace, reach out and push away, all while being unflinchingly consistent and wildly unpredictable.
In other words, Trump doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about – and unfortunately for him, quite a few folks noticed. Politico reported:
[A]cross the ideological spectrum, and even among natural allies, Trump’s speech received a failing grade for coherence and drew snickering and scorn from foreign policy insiders who remain unconvinced that Trump is up to the job.
“It struck me as a very odd mishmash,” said Doug Bandow, a foreign policy scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, who shares many of Trump’s beliefs about scaling back America’s role abroad. “He called for a new foreign policy strategy, but you don’t really get the sense he gave one.”
Trump’s speech was “lacking in policy prescriptions,” and its “strident rhetoric masked a lack of depth,” said Robert “Bud” McFarlane, a former national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan who attended the speech.
If Trump had merely presented a blueprint for a bad foreign policy, that would at least be the basis for a credible debate. Plenty of candidates offer misguided ideas and dangerous solutions, and if nothing else, they serve as the foundation for something that can be critiqued.
But dealing with an incoherent, contradictory mess is far more difficult.
The irony is, yesterday’s speech, coming on the heels of his five landslide primary victories the day before, was supposed to help Trump appear more presidential. Speaking from a teleprompter, the Republican frontrunner hoped to convey a sense of seriousness and gravitas. But for anyone who actually listened to the content of his remarks, yesterday served as a powerful reminder that the former reality-show host isn’t yet prepared for the role of Leader of the Free World.
By: Steve Beben, The Maddow Blog, April 28, 2016