For the Globe and Mail, I wrote about how, if elected, Trump will outsource the day-to-day work of the presidency to the VP — most likely to be Newt Gingrich:
Donald Trump’s top adviser, Paul Manafort, recently reflected on the role of the vice-president in a Trump administration, saying: “[Mr. Trump] needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He sees himself more as the chairman of the board than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”
Since declaring his candidacy for the Republican nomination a year ago, Mr. Trump has been underestimated at every turn: in his ability to woo voters, to transform the GOP opponents he insulted into sycophantic lackeys, and to sell himself as a leader despite being the only major presidential candidate in U.S. history with no legislative or military experience.
His bigotry and brutality – Mexicans are rapists, Muslims should be banned, waterboarding is good – are rationalized by his more moderate supporters as insincere pandering, a sales pitch to be walked back in practice. (That advocating torture and ethnic persecution is now a mainstream campaign strategy speaks volumes about both Mr. Trump and Americans.) His inconsistent positions and lack of government experience have left many wondering what he would actually do if he were to win office.
What is most likely, Mr. Manafort all but confirms, is that Mr. Trump would be deeply bored.
He plays to win – but wins to play. The day-to-day, bureaucratic machinations of power appeal to him less than the joy of flamboyantly wielding it. In his 1987 memoirThe Art of the Deal, he scornfully listed “number-crunchers,” “consultants,” “surveys” and “committees” as things he could do without. This is unfortunate for a man applying for a four-year job dealing with number-crunchers, consultants, surveys and committees.
But his boredom can be assuaged – and that is why the vice-presidential candidate is so important. Exit the showman, enter the wonk. The United States is not only on the verge of electing a master con artist as president, but a con artist backed by a shadow government that may wield more pragmatic power than the president.
The idea of a charismatic but unstudied leader backed by a wonkish power broker isn’t new. The United States saw it with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and to a lesser extent with Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. What is different now is the weakness of the United States at this political moment: economically wounded from the 2008 crash, exhausted by 15 years of war, and torn apart by partisanship and racial unrest. Mr. Trump’s rise was made possible by his country’s decline. But his rule will rest on the subordinates to whom he outsources the art of statecraft.