Thursday, July 09, 2020


A couple of days ago, Ed Kilgore at New York magazine was writing about a possible VP switch for President Trump.
On two previous occasions I have addressed and dismissed rumors that the president wanted to dump his intensely loyal vice-president, Mike Pence, before voters go to the polls this year....

On both occasions I figured that Pence was just too valuable to Trump as his ambassador to white conservative Evangelicals to be discarded....

So what might have altered that calculation in the last year? Two things: First, Trump is in very serious danger of not being reelected. He needs a game changer to reset the race, and a fresh veep is a time-honored way to do that.... In a podcast at FiveThirtyEight in which Nate Silver, Claire Malone, and Perry Bacon Jr. batted around various emergency steps Team Trump could take to turn it all around, a switch in running mates was the one that made the most sense to them.

Second, Trump could perhaps try to blame Pence for his administration’s deadliest and most politically damaging error, its mishandling of COVID-19 from the get-go. The veep is, after all, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.... it wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary for the sycophant-in-chief to be asked to step aside as one last act of service to the warrior-king: taking the fall for a public-health disaster.
But Trump can't make Pence the scapegoat for his failed response to the pandemic because the president continues to assert that his response to the pandemic has been a rip-roaring success. I don't think Trump regard this as mere messaging -- as far as I can tell, he actually believes this. Here was Trump on Tuesday:
“We’re at 130,” Trump said at an event on reopening schools, referring to the more than 130,000 Americans who have now died from the virus. “I think we could have been 2 and a half or 3 million people,” he said.

“We’ve saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives,” the President said.
Trump always needs to believe that he's the best, the smartest, the most brilliant and capable; he seizes on any shred of evidence that confirms his egomania bias. In this case, he's seizing on the early Imperial College projection that 2.2 million Americans could die from the virus if there were no mitigation efforts whatsoever. The vast majority of what's been done to stop the virus's spread in America has been the work of states, localities, and individuals, and much of it has been actively resisted by the Trump White House, yet Trump has pocketed the difference between whatever our death toll is at any given moment and 2.2 million, declaring that his inadequate and fitful steps to combat the virus are the sole reason the U.S. death toll isn't in the millions.

Kilgore continues:
In the FiveThirtyEight discussion, [Nikki] Haley was regarded as the most likely Pence replacement. As a woman of color who took down her state’s Confederate flags, she could obviously help address the perception that the president’s reelection effort is one long exercise in white male reactionary culture-war politics.
But that's precisely why Trump wouldn't pick her even if he does decide to dump Pence. In this campaign, Trump has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on white male reactionary culture-war politics; choosing Haley as his running mate would be a repudiation of himself.

Besides, Trump's pal Tucker Carlson would be horrified. Recall what Carlson said on the air shortly after the death of George Floyd:
No one jumped in more forcefully, or seemed angrier at America, than former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley. “Tonight I turned on the news and am heartbroken,” Haley wrote. “It’s important to understand that the death of George Floyd was personal and painful for many. In order to heal, it needs to be personal and painful for everyone.”

But wait a second, you may be wondering. “How am I quote, ‘personally’ responsible for the behavior of a Minneapolis police officer? I’ve never even been to Minneapolis. And why is some politician telling me what I’m required to be upset about?” Those are all good questions. Nikki Haley didn’t answer them. Explaining isn’t her strong suit. That would require thinking. What Nikki Haley does best is moral blackmail. During the 2016 campaign, she compared Donald Trump to the racist mass murderer Dylann Roof. How is Donald Trump similar to a serial killer? Haley never explained. She wasn’t trying educate anyone. Her goal was political advantage. Nikki Haley is exceptionally good at getting what she wants. She’s happy to denounce you as a racist in order to get it.

In this case, Haley’s wish came true: the riots were indeed quote, “personal and painful for everyone.” And then the pain kept increasing. Two days later, dozens of American cities had been thoroughly trashed. A country already on the brink of recession suddenly faced economic collapse. An already fearful population had been throughly terrorized. Mission accomplished. Let’s hope Nikki Haley is pleased. We’ve atoned.
Why would Trump go to so much trouble to defend Confederate statues and military bases named after Confederates and then dump his VP for the woman who oversaw the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina's state house grounds? For that matter, why would she want to link herself to his presidency for four years? She's clearly trying to thread the needle, remaining loyal to Trump while expressing less racist views, in the hope that the Republican Party in 2024 will be less white nationalist. Why would she risk that by signing on to Trump's white nationalist campaign?

The white nationalists at Gateway Pundit also remind me that Haley expressed sympathy for NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace when it was announced that a noose had been found in his garage at the Talladega speedway.

It would be a tad awkward for her to run with this guy:

Kilgore continues:
Another name you occasionally hear as a substitute veep is Haley’s own 2016 candidate, Marco Rubio, a Latino pol whose presence on the ticket could arguably be worth a couple of points in must-win Florida.
Liddle Marco? The guy who recently said, "everyone should just wear a damn mask"? Nope.

Only one name on Kilgore's list made any sense:
A Forbes article last month touted 36-year-old New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a recent Trump favorite, as a potential replacement for Pence.
Despite her occasionally moderate voting record, Stefanik would be very appealing to Trump fans because she attacked Adam Schiff during impeachment. For a few weeks last year, they really loved her.

I think Pence is safe -- but if he's dumped, it will be either for Stefanik or for Trump's amour fou, his daughter Ivanka. It certainly won't be for Haley or Rubio.

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