Over the weekend, Donald Trump repeatedly insisted that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) was always his “first choice” for a running mate. No one seriously believes this, and no one should: Trump’s reservations about the governor have been well documented, as have the near-desperate appeals to superior alternatives.
Take, for example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a popular Republican governor of one of the nation’s largest and most important swing states. Kasich’s presidential campaign didn’t turn out well – he only won one state (his own) – but the Ohioan is a highly credible figure in GOP politics and in the media. By most measures, his role on the GOP ticket would have made a significant and positive difference.
And with this in mind, the New York Times’ Robert Draper reports today on an amazing attempt at outreach from Team Trump to the Ohio governor.
One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?“Making America great again” was the casual reply.
This reminds me of a story that went largely overlooked a few months ago.
In May, Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, sat down with the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman for a lengthy interview, which touched on the search for a running mate.
“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do,” Manafort said in reference to Trump. “He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”
The similarities between the two reports are striking. Trump, who’s never demonstrated any meaningful knowledge of any area of public policy, or really any interest in how government works at any level, apparently wants to be president.
He does not, however, want to do the things presidents are elected to do. That requires hard work, long hours, and, you know, reading and stuff. Trump can’t be bothered with such unglamorous tasks – he wants to “make America great again” while having others roll up their sleeves.
As his own campaign chairman freely admitted, day-to-day governing and overseeing the executive branch represent the parts of the job “he doesn’t want to do.”
Kasich, obviously, spurned the outreach – the governor still hasn’t endorsed Trump and is playing no role at the convention held in his home state – but the significance of the story is no less important. Trump tapped Mike Pence for the job, and he’s an unpopular governor with a record of mind-numbing extremism.
As voters weigh their options, it’d be wise to remember that Trump envisions a governing dynamic in which Pence, of all people, may end up in charge of tackling Trump’s presidential duties – including, but not limited to, “domestic and foreign policy.”