Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Trump's unstable character can't be 'balanced' by a weak GOP

Newt Gingrich is mentioned often as a potential running mate for Donald Trump, with Gingrich himself usually doing the mentioning. But last week, he also spoke highly of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee as a possible vice presidential nominee. As Gingrich described him, Corker is a "very stable guy, in some ways would balance Trump."


Balance is a common criteria in putting together a presidential ticket. If your top nominee is from the Northeast, you might want to pick someone from the West or South. If your presidential candidate is a conservative, you might want somebody from the moderate wing of your party as a running mate.

And as Gingrich suggests, if you nominate Trump to be president, you might want to balance that pick with someone who is, you know, stable.

In addition to being stable, Corker serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is respected as a foreign-policy pragmatist. As vice president, he could be expected to offer competent advice to Trump. The problem is that Trump could also be expected to ignore it. Asked to whom he turns for guidance in foreign policy, Trump has already said that “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things."

We saw another example of that trait late last week, when Trump thought it was a good idea to publicly attack the federal judge in his Trump University fraud case, Gonzalo Curiel, as "a Mexican" and thus a "Trump-hater". The tactic no doubt left Trump's attorneys horrified, but Trump himself didn't care.

So there's that.

Gingrich isn't the only one trying to help voters cope with the possibility of a President Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, backs Trump's election to the most powerful position on the planet, but you don't hear him lauding Trump for his experience and wisdom. He also doesn't praise his party's nominee for the quality of his policy ideas or character. Even in this day and age, there are still limits to what people will believe.

Instead, McConnell proposes the novel argument of "Hey, how much damage could he really do?"

"What protects us in this country against big mistakes being made is the structure, the Constitution, the institutions," McConnell said on CBS Sunday Morning. “No matter how unusual a personality may be who gets elected to office, there are constraints in this country. You don’t get to do anything you want to.”

McConnell continued that theme in an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Monday. Acknowledging that Trump may not have bought into the "historical limited government theory", McConnell argued that it didn't matter.

"I think Donald Trump will understand when he’s sworn in the limits of his authority. He’ll have a White House counsel," McConnell said. "There will be others who point out there’s certain things you can do and you can’t do."

Let’s first acknowledge how much of the argument McConnell concedes. He admits that his party’s nominee respects no boundaries and is liable to go off the deep end, but no worries, he says, we’ve got the system to save us! I’m just not sure that’s as comforting as McConnell might wish. Yes, Trump will have a White House counsel to guide him. But Trump is much more likely to appoint some pliable two-bit real-estate attorney from Queens to the post than someone with the guts to tell him no. People who tell Trump no don’t stick around long.

Bascially, McConnell and Gingrich are asking voters to bet the country’s future on the hope that when the time comes, they and other GOP leaders will have the backbone to stand up to Trump and tell him no. They won’t admit that their chance to take on Trump has already come and gone, and that they surrendered.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.