A reluctant Teddy Roosevelt wrote Senator Thomas Platt in 1900 that, "I would a great deal rather be anything, say professor of history, than vice president" [Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership, by James M. Strock, p. 39 (2009)]. Though an accomplished scholar, Roosevelt never had the opportunity to teach history. Now, a former history professor, Newt Gingrich, seems eager to become vice president and may well get his wish. But he shouldn’t.
After Gingrich opened for him in Cincinnati last night, Donald Trump said that “In one form or another, Newt Gingrich is going to be involved with our government,” and “I’m not saying it’s Newt, but if it’s Newt, no one’s going to be beating him in those debates”. [Donald Trump: Newt Gingrich Will Be ‘Involved With Our Government’, Fortune, July 6, 2016]
Gingrich is also popular with the GOP grassroots and with Trump’s base. He won a Drudge Report poll for VP candidates, and many of Trump’s most right wing supporters want him [Drudge Poll: Trump Should Pick Gingrich for VP, Newsmax, July 5, 2016].
To give the devil his due, Gingrich does have a few things going for him. He fills Trump’s gaps in policy minutiae and legislative experience. He handles himself very well against hostile press, and has, sometimes, defended Trump effectively. However, upon closer scrutiny, these assets are not that strong—and do not come close to outweighing his many liabilities.
On paper, Donald Trump is not a perfect candidate. He is relatively old and has been married three times. Yet these characteristics do not doom Teflon Don. Voters know Trump as a reality TV star and socialite and do not expect him be married to his high school sweetheart. Importantly, every single ex-wife and ex-girlfriend the Main Stream Media has tried to turn against him has instead come to his defense. Still, ideally, Trump would pick a younger running mate in a stable first marriage.
Gingrich, is three years older than Trump and has just as many wives—the latter two beginning as mistresses during previous marriages. Unlike Trump, he committed his known infidelity as a self-proclaimed Southern Baptist (he started out as a Lutheran and has since converted to Catholicism) and champion of family values.
Gingrich’s has excused his past indiscretions to the Christian Broadcasting Network by saying he was too concerned fighting for America to keep stay faithful to his wife, “partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” and he told James Dobson that “I've fallen short of God's standards” but have since turned "to God to receive forgiveness and to receive mercy" [Newt Gingrich’s faith journey: How a thrice-married Catholic became an evangelical darling, by Dan Gilgoff, CNN, December 10, 2011; [Newt Gingrich says his love of country contributed to affair, Associated Press, March 9, 2011].
While this may have soothed redemption-loving evangelical voters in the 2012 GOP primary, it will turn off many swing voters as self-serving hypocrisy. To make matters worse, Gingrich’s now-deceased first wife accused him of serving the divorce papers while she was in the hospital for cancer (the cartoon below ran in 1994.)
Gingrich’s second wife went on national TV during his last presidential campaign to call him morally unfit for office [Gingrich Lacks Moral Character to Be President, Ex-Wife Says, by Brian Ross, ABC News, January 12, 2012]
If Gingrich is selected, the MSM will relentlessly note the ticket’s combined six wives—matching Henry VIII and making it near impossible for them to campaign on social issues.
Donald Trump has a strong message, but sometimes struggles with the details of policy and can come off as brash. An ideal VP would share his vision, but would be able to fill in the gaps in Trump’s presentation. Kris Kobach, Jeff Sessions, Scott Brown or Tom Cotton—my personal choice of those apparently under consideration—would fit this need.
In contrast, while Gingrich is certainly skilled at expressing and advocating policy, his entire career stands firmly athwart Trump’s America First message.
But for Newt Gingrich, we may very well have blocked NAFTA and ended mass immigration and Affirmative Action years ago. As minority whip, Gingrich colluded with Bill Clinton to force NAFTA through the skeptical GOP caucus. As the Washington Post reported at the time,
In sharp contrast to the approval of Clinton's economic package last summer, which was passed without the vote of a single House Republican, Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (Ga.), usually a confrontational leader, rallied House Republicans to support NAFTA. "This is a vote for history, larger than politics, larger than re-election, larger than personal ego," said Gingrich, who is to be his party's House leader in 1995.When the bipartisan Jordan Commission supported reducing legal immigration and cracking down on illegal immigration, Gingrich blocked any efforts to enact its recommendations after “meeting with representatives of caterers, fast-food establishments and restaurant chains”. [A Nation by Design: immigration policy in the fashioning of America, by Aristide Zolberg, p. 413 (2006)]
[House Approves U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trade Pact on 234 to 200 Vote, Giving Clinton Big Victory, by Kenneth Cooper, November 18, 1993]
Despite campaigning to end Affirmative Action, he deferred to token black Republican J.C. Watts on racial issues and fought the truly colorblind black Republican Ward Connerly’s efforts to end racial preferences.
It may seem petty to focus on what Gingrich did over twenty years ago, especially as Trump’s positions have evolved, But Gingrich’s speakership is his main political qualification. Furthermore, Gingrich has reaffirmed his globalism until he vied to be Trump's running mate. He defended NAFTA up until last week. [Newt Gingrich Will Pretty Much Say Anything to Be Trump’s VP, by Josh Voorhees, Slate, July 1, 2016] He supported Amnesty during his 2012 presidential campaign and in late 2014 wrote an op-ed advocating the creation of a massive guest worker program and “policy that takes into account the real human complexities” of illegal aliens. You can guess what that means. [Solving immigration, one step at a time, Washington Times, November 14, 2014] Whenever Trump attacks Clinton over trade or immigration, the MSM will eagerly point to Gingrich.
Of course, most vice presidential candidates’ records at least partially contradict the campaign’s platform—that’s part of “balancing the ticket.” This could be a surmountable obstacle if Gingrich used his considerable intellectual and media skills to defend Trump and his policies. However, he has already proven himself unreliable in this regard.
When the MSM and the GOP Establishment threw everything against Trump after his absolutely reasonable comment about La Raza Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnic biases, Gingrich called the remarks “inexcusable” because “this judge was born in Indiana. He is an American. Period". [Trump increasingly alone in defending his racial attacks on Latino federal judge, by Jose DelReal and Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, June 6, 2016] Gingrich was already eying the VP slot when he denounced Trump. There’s no reason to think he’ll be any more willing to defy media outrage over supposed racism if he’s on the ticket.
Despite belittling the office, Teddy Roosevelt became vice president to William McKinley. A Leftist radical (Leon Czolgosz, a "homegrown" Anarchist) assassinated McKinley six months into his term. While initially promising to continue his predecessor’s pro-business policies, Roosevelt instead ushered in an era of trust-busting. Then, feeling his handpicked successor William Howard Taft was reverting to McKinley’s conservatism, Roosevelt ran on the Progressive Party ticket in 1912, leading to the ascension to office of Democrat Woodrow Wilson (a former history professor).
Even if vice presidents are inconsequential in the office, a vice presidential choice can alter history.
Trump has already faced one assassination attempt. The entire MSM-political establishment relentlessly calls Trump an incipient dictator. If he becomes President, many individuals may take these smears seriously and attempt to sic semper tyrannis.
In addition, before Trump even won the GOP nomination, many in the MSM were speculating about his possible impeachment. Paul Ryan would have few qualms about joining with Democrats to find some trivial scandal to remove him.
Gingrich is worthless as impeachment/assassination insurance.
John Adams remarked that, as the vice president, “I am nothing, but I may be everything.”
If Newt Gingrich becomes Trump’s running mate, we may win everything—and end up with nothing.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.