Monday, May 13, 2024

Trump VP rumors swirl

In recent days, rumors about Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick have taken on a new life. Several new potential picks are being mentioned, and at least one formerly prominent choice has probably dropped out of contention.

compiled a list of likely picks back in January, and one of the potential running mates that I viewed as most likely back then now seems to be very unlikely. Amid the backlash to revelations in her shouldn’t-have-told-all book, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s chances of being added to the ticket now seem as dead as her family’s puppy. Noem’s tale of killing her family dog not only turned the nation against her but raised questions about her political judgment in believing that bragging about the killing was a good idea.

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While Noem’s star was dying, Nikki Haley’s seemed to rise. At least momentarily. Over the weekend, Axios reported that Haley was under consideration. It didn’t take long for Trump to refute the report, posting on Truth Social, “Nikki Haley is not under consideration for the VP slot, but I wish her well!”

Spoiler alert: He doesn’t wish her well and the idea that Haley would be considered was never more than wishful thinking on the part of Republicans who are not fully MAGA. Haley directly challenged Trump and continues to rack up a nontrivial share of Republican primary votes even though she is no longer in the race. As of this writing, Haley has still not bent the knee to Trump. All of these are reasons that she could never be Trump’s running mate, even though she would be a smart strategic pick.

As I wrote back in January, Trump almost certainly wants someone with three specific qualities:

  1. Loyalty

  2. Loyalty

  3. Loyalty

Trump does not want another Mike Pence who let vestigial principles get in the way of doing Trump’s bidding. Without a doubt, Trump’s vice president would be asked to engage in ethically (and possibly legally) questionable acts. Trump wants a sold-out loyalist who will follow his orders, not think and question him. That eliminates Haley.

But many Republicans do meet that test, including Tim Scott. Scott was last seen on NBC News preemptively refusing to commit to accepting the election results. This should not be a gotcha question, but Scott would only say, “At the end of the day, the 47th president of the United States will be Donald Trump.”

Taken in context, Scott’s statement is tantamount to an admission that he will not accept the results if Trump loses. That is the sort of person that Trump wants.

Marco Rubio is a similar possibility and one who has the added benefit of not having directly opposed Trump since 2016. Rubio, formerly a conservative, penned an op-ed in The American Conservative last week titled “Trump Is Right: We Should Raise Tariffs on China,” in which he acknowledged that the policy would raise prices for American consumers, but if Trump wants it, that’s good enough for him.

“Will greater trade barriers raise some prices at the department store?” Rubio asked rhetorically. “Perhaps, but American producers will step up to fill the gap.”

The unspoken truth is that Trump’s 10 percent tariff on all imports (and here is your periodic reminder that a tariff is by definition a tax on trade) would also include raw materials and components used by American manufacturers. If inflation and consumer prices are a concern, tariffs are bad policy, and the truth undercuts Trump’s claims that he would lower taxes.

Rubio’s nomination would be problematic because both he and Trump are Florida residents and the Constitution prohibits a president and vice president from being citizens of the same state. When asked, Rubio refused to say whether he would give up his Florida residency, a move that would also put his Senate seat in jeopardy.

And then there is Doug Burgum. The North Dakota governor was recently seen speaking at a Trump rally in New Jersey. Like many of the other potential picks, Burgum loses points for having had the temerity to oppose Trump in the primary, but the governor has been striving to prove his loyalty since dropping out.

And Burgum has something that Trump desperately needs: Cash. The Trump campaign is losing the fundraising race to Joe Biden and much of Trump’s take is going to pay legal fees. Forbes estimated that Burgum is worth at least $100 million, enough to buy his way into the Republican primary debates by offering $20 gift cards to anyone who donated $1 to his campaign. Burgum is undoubtedly already tapping his corporate contacts for donations, and it is uncertain how much of his personal wealth he would bet on the election.

I included quite a few other potential picks in my January article, and a lot of these still make sense even though they haven’t been the subject of recent rumors. Personally, I think Elise Stefanik is still a strong candidate although she’s been a sleeper choice recently. The New York congresswoman has been a fierce supporter of Trump since she abruptly changed teams during Trump Impeachment I, and like Tim Scott, she has also laid the groundwork to be an election denier.

Another possibility that I mentioned in January is likely out of contention. Kari Lake, the failed gubernatorial and current Senate candidate in Arizona, seems to have lost Trump’s favor. Sources say that The Former Guy is concerned that Lake’s unpopularity might hurt his own polling, and the Washington Post reported in April that Trump hinted that Lake needed to spend less time at Mar-A-Lago and more time on the campaign trail.

I have to wonder why anyone would think that being Trump’s running mate is a good career move. Donald Trump has left a trail of destroyed and incarcerated Republicans in his wake since he descended the Wonka-ish golden escalator in 2015. Any delusions that a moderate Republican on the ticket or in Trump’s cabinet could temper his worst tendencies have long ago been shown to be folly. Many of the hopefuls probably assume that the name recognition and association with Trump that come from being at the top of the ticket will translate into frontrunner status in 2028. That’s not necessarily a safe assumption.

Just ask Mike Pence.

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STATE DEPT REPORT FAULTS ISRAEL: A new report by the US State Department found that Israel has probably violated international humanitarian laws, but the AP noted that the violations were so far not linked to specific American weapons. Last week, the Biden Administration announced a pause on deliveries of offensive weapons like bombs and artillery shells to Israel over concerns about civilian casualties.

As someone noted recently, it’s possible to love and support Israel without supporting every policy of the Israeli government. After all, God has been doing that for much of the past few thousand years.

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