Just last week, Donald Trump’s campaign made a staffing announcement: going forward, Team Trump’s director of African-American Outreach would be Theresa “Omarosa” Manigault. It was an odd move: Manigault isn’t a political professional, but rather, she’s a television personality known for having been a contestant on some reality shows (including Trump’s).
This week, the story got a little stranger. TPM reported yesterday:
For their counter-programming for the Democratic convention, Republicans brought in Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on the first season of Donald Trump’s television show “The Apprentice,” to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy views on Tuesday.
This may seem hard to believe, but Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s communications director and chief strategist, published this message on Twitter yesterday, highlighting the reality-show personality discussing Clinton’s “foriegn [sic] policy failures” at an RNC event.
Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson asked soon after, “How are Republicans not mortally embarrassed by what’s become of their party?” MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin, marveling at Sean Spicer’s message, called it “another tweet for the 2016 time capsule.”
My point, of course, is not to suggest that reality-show contestants can’t have worthwhile views on matters of international affairs. Rather, what’s striking here is the Republican Party – which once considered credibility on foreign matter a matter of GOP birthright – is taking on a former Secretary of State in this presidential election, and the party lacks the kind of credible, experienced, high-profile professionals who can assess Clinton’s record on foreign policy in a serious way.
To be sure, such figures exist in the party – there are several living former Secretaries of State from Republican administrations, for example – but they generally want nothing to do with promoting Trump’s candidacy, and they’re keeping political activities this year at arm’s length.
The “surrogate gap” is one of the campaign season’s under-appreciated stories.