POLITICS

Donald Trump's Vice Presidential Picking Process Sounds Dodgy As Hell

Some poor sucker could get the surprise of his life.

If you're like, say, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) -- who's given presumptive GOP presidential nominee and foaming man-possum Donald Trump three weeks to "fix" his campaign -- you might be nervously watching for signs that Trump is undertaking an effort to bring order to an organization that has lately lapsed into chaos. Giving a speech with a teleprompter in which the overt white-supremacist content was dialed back a notch might have been a good start. 

But then you read the interview that Trump just gave Bloomberg News and ... wow. I don't know, you guys. Go read the whole thing -- it's a genuine doozy.

But then who really -- really, really -- wants to be Donald Trump's VP?
But then who really -- really, really -- wants to be Donald Trump's VP?

As Bloomberg's Michael Bender and Jennifer Jacobs report, there is much that seems off, perhaps even delusional, about how Trump sees the next part of his electoral strategy playing out. He seems not to understand how expensive an undertaking this race is going to be (or he's realizing that donors don't want to be associated with him), and he believes that living off the land of free media is sufficient to the task. Speaking of all that free media, he also seems to think that the issues that have dogged him over the past week -- Trump University and his disparagement of Judge Gonzalo Curiel -- are now effectively in the rear-view mirror.

What might be most alarming to veteran GOP figures is how Trump details his process for choosing a running mate. Bender and Jacobs report that Trump has narrowed his search to four or five politicians, plus two "respected military officials." Of the latter two, Trump says that he probably won't choose them because he believes he will "do very well on national security." (For a counterpoint, see Ian Bremmer in Politico.)

Why Trump would say he'd short-listed two military experts if he's not seriously thinking about choosing them is a genuine mystery. Maybe he reckons they'll be honored just to be on the short list? 

Trump says that the benefit of picking a politician is that the "voters and the media" will have already vetted the person. What this says is that Trump really isn't planning to vet his own candidates, which is generally seen as the essential thing to do when selecting a running mate. As a team of experts at the Bipartisan Policy Center laid out, there are five steps to picking a vice presidential candidate, which I've previously summarized like so:

  1. Take a deep breath, and come up with some names.

  2. Vet their public records.

  3. Narrow the choices and vet them again, this time taking an “‘intrusive’ look at the contenders’ personal lives, including medical and financial matters that could be embarrassing to the ticket.”

  4. Tell your prospects to their faces what you found out and browbeat them into revealing anything that was not “unearthed but which could come out in the media.”

  5. Make a choice, and then pray you did your due diligence and didn’t pick a liar.

So literally three of the steps involve the campaign personally vetting each candidate. Of course, you need to actually have a competent campaign to perform these tasks, and what Trump has is a gaggle of anger-management candidates fighting an anonymously sourced civil war with one other.

Still more unnerving is the process by which he'll disclose his eventual selection. As Bender and Jacobs relate, there has been some tension within the campaign over this, in which "some advisers have worried that Trump may decide on his own to post the announcement on Twitter one night with little warning." But this actually sounds like the saner alternative after Trump describes what he'd really like to do:

"I’d like to save it, give it the old fashioned way, right?” Trump said about keeping the announcement until the convention.

Trump said he'll probably choose one of four or five politicians, and that his short list includes some vanquished rivals who have dropped out of the 2016 presidential race. He is considering at least one ex-rival who has so far refused to endorse him, but who will "come over to my side," he predicted.

Hold up now, let me get this straight: He's going to wait until the convention to make his pick, and it could end up being someone who has not offered Trump an endorsement but who Trump thinks will join up with him anyway? Ordinarily I'd say, "Well, surely he wouldn't actually fail to apprise the selectee of his decision, and nail down whether they'd actually accept the position." But Trump is so enamored of wielding the element of surprise, and so steeped in reality-television tropes, that I can genuinely imagine him springing it on some poor sucker, right there on the convention stage.

You can see it, right? There's an audible gasp, the camera cuts to a shocked Marco Rubio, and some previously unseen emcee asks, "Will Marco accept Trump's nomination? Find out after the break." And then after the break, there are several more breaks, after which Rubio finally renders his decision. "Donald, we'll try to make it work," he says, whereupon a torrent of balloons gently waft down from the rafters as Rubio's soul exits his body in the other direction.

Don't get me wrong -- this would be, on a purely demented level, fun as hell to watch. But I would not, as a matter of practice, recommend this. Trump should definitely not put someone on his short list who has heretofore refused to endorse him, let alone actually name that person as his running mate.

But who knows? The way things are going, he may not have a choice.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

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