According to CNN, Trump’s running mate list is down to two names: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Indiana governor Mike Pence.
Feeling excited? Puzzled? Disappointed? Meh?
Jonah summarized the strengths and weaknesses of Gingrich well last week; he reinforces Trump’s strongest qualities (bold statements) as well as some of his weak spots.
Bill Clinton tapped Al Gore in 1992 to reinforce — rather than offset — his brand as a next-generation Southern moderate. (This was before Gore became a Silicon Valley cliché.) In many respects, a Trump-Gingrich ticket would also count as a “double-down” move (and not just in the sense that they’ve totaled six wives between them) — except that while Trump can’t offer much beyond the bumper sticker “Make America Great Again,” Gingrich has written books on “Renewing American Civilization.” Gingrich could complement Trump; he could be like the walking explanatory footnote to Trump’s every outburst.
Next to forecasting that bears will continue to use our national woodlands as latrines, the easiest prediction in the world to make is that Trump will say some outlandish things in the months to come. Gingrich’s job will be to explain why the outlandish isn’t outlandish.
But what’s perhaps most dispiriting about the prospect of a Trump-Gingrich ticket is the recognition that with a slew of great young GOP talent in governor’s mansions across the country, the Republican Party will offer the electorate of 2016 an episode of VH1’s I Love the 90s. An eighteen-year old voter was just born when Gingrich stepped down as speaker.
Does either man improve Trump’s odds of winning in November? You probably shouldn’t pick a potential president by their home state, but picking John Kasich might have helped a little bit in Ohio and picking Rick Scott might have helped a little bit in Florida. As noted in recent Jolts, picking retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn could have at least helped turn the election into a referendum on Obama’s counterterrorism policies.
Meanwhile, Mike Pence is a blank slate to many voters. Once introduced to him, Americans could like him a lot. But by being a blank slate, there’s a danger that Democrats will define him before he has a chance to define himself. Any early gaffe or mistake could have much bigger consequences. He’d be a vice presidential nominee from Indiana; Democrats will try to paint him as Dan Quayle.
There was a time when Mike Pence on a presidential ticket would have seemed thrilling. Back in 2011, I wrote Pence was “the candidate with perhaps the best chance of uniting the, for lack of better terms, Tea Party and Establishment wings of the Republican Party. Pence is a thoroughly consistent conservative. But he doesn’t snarl, he’s rarely negative, and I can’t recall too many off-the-wall statements from him.” There was a time when you would call him one of the most principled conservatives in the GOP ranks, as Veronique de Rugy recalls:
Pence was one of the rare conservatives who stayed loyal to his free-market principles when he was in Congress during the Bush years. He voted against No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D, for instance, when so many of his colleagues went ahead and embraced bigger government policies in the name of politically driven compromise and government-induced competition.
But his political instincts seem to have failed him since then. He expanded Medicare after Obamacare was enacted, insisting that a couple window-dressing changes meant he was fighting the president’s health-care law. He proposed a state-run news service, then abandoned the idea in the face of outrage. He was blindsided by opposition to his signing of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Right before the Indiana primary, Pence hemmed and hawed and offered a halting, half-hearted endorsement of Cruz.
Note that if Pence signs on with Trump, he can’t run for reelection this year under Indiana law, meaning his days as governor will come to an early end either way.
Is the governor ready for the Category Five Hurricane of scrutiny and attacks that will come from being Trump’s running mate?
Maybe Presidents Should Just Stop Speaking at Memorial Services
I hope to live a long and happy life. But if, God forbid, I come to the end of my days in some terrible event that attracts countrywide attention, and my funeral or the memorial service for my fellow victims and myself becomes a nationally televised event, I make a brief, final request: Don’t invite the president of the United States to speak. I don’t just mean this president, or the next one; I don’t care if the president at the time is a president I like or don’t like.
Because after Obama’s speech at yesterday’s memorial service for the five police officers slain in Dallas, there’s just no guarantee that the event won’t turn into a rally for the president’s pet cause.
As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools! We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment! We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs! We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book!
A lot of people are screaming about the sheer nonsense of the Glock remark. But even if Obama had made his complaint in a less glaringly inaccurate way — “these poor communities have too many gun shops and too few libraries” or something, the long lament of how America’s government fails its citizens by not spending enough money or not enacting restrictive gun laws just doesn’t belong at a memorial service, which is supposed to be about the dearly departed.
Our Charlie Cooke wonders who the hell thought Obama’s political turn in his remarks was a good idea:
This, remember, was a funeral — a funeral for one of the police officers who was murdered last Thursday. It wasn’t a rally. It wasn’t a White House press conference. It wasn’t a public statement, hastily arranged on the airport tarmac. It was a funeral. Presumably, those attending had all sorts of political opinions. Presumably, some of the cops were Republicans. Presumably, there was some serious disagreement in that room as to how the country should move forward. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait until the proceedings were over to call for change? Wouldn’t it have been more politically effective for the president to have made his push somewhere else?
Thus, my request. I just figure my loved ones will have a hard enough time dealing with everything without this future president declaring, “and that’s why we cannot let poor Jim’s death be in vain, and we must pass comprehensive reform of the alternative minimum tax!”
With my luck, a President Hillary, being “often confused” as Huma Abedin said, would stand before my loved ones and the television cameras and declare, “the best way to honor Jim’s legacy would be to create a well-funded, well staffed federal Agency of Invasive Species at the U.S. Department of Agriculture!”
One more point: even if President Obama is right that every American has some racism or prejudice in his heart, is this really what a grieving family, colleagues, and community needs to hear at that moment? They just had their loved ones shot to death by a hateful madman. Does it really do these attendees any good for Obama to get up there and remind everyone else about how flawed they are?
America, we know that bias remains. We know it. Whether you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or of Middle Eastern descent, we have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point. We’ve heard it at times in our own homes. If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts. We know that. And while some suffer far more under racism’s burden, some feel to a far greater extent discrimination’s sting. Although most of us do our best to guard against it and teach our children better, none of us is entirely innocent. No institution is entirely immune. And that includes our police departments. We know this.
Did Dallas really need to hear “none of us is entirely innocent” on a day they’re saying goodbye to their fathers, sons, brothers, friends and neighbors?
A Lot of Us Had This Guy Pegged From the Start
As Obama stands before a racially divided, angry, frightened, exasperated, exhausted nation and declares that “none of us is entirely innocent,” two old quotes come to mind. First, Evan Thomas’s infamous assessment of him in 2009 on Chris Matthews’s show:
THOMAS: Reagan was all about America, and you talked about it. Obama is “we are above that now.” We’re not just parochial, we’re not just chauvinistic, we’re not just provincial. We stand for something — I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above — above the world, he’s sort of God. He’s—
THOMAS: He’s going to bring all different sides together.
And then his 2008 assessment of his white grandmother:
The point I was making was not that Grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn’t. But she is a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, you know, there’s a reaction that’s been bred in our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way, and that’s just the nature of race in our society.
Yup. None of us are innocent.
ADDENDA: Don’t ask me why, but Heavy Lifting is now embarrassingly inexpensive with Amazon Prime. Remainder bin pricing, people! For some reason it’s now way less expensive as a hardcover than the paperback The Weed Agency. Of course, my 2006 book, Voting to Kill, can be found “like new” for less than two bucks at some used bookstores.