BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
As the nation moves forward in what will be both an unpredictable and, therefore, turbulent year this post will attempt to chart out where things may be going politically. It is a theoretical construct, but one that I think may bear out if trends persist (which, in this environment they might not). In any event, it might be a fun thought exercise. So, I hope you enjoy!
Let’s get a few points out there to frame this piece properly:
– The Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak has been okay. They have taken decisive action at times, moving faster and harder than other administrations under similar circumstances likely would have, yet no one is perfect and there have been missteps. These missteps could either be ignored by the voters in 2020 or they could prove fatal to the Trump reelection bid.
– The selection of Vice-President Mike Pence to lead the disaster relief effort should be irrelevant under normal circumstances, but it is not. As I have reported, however well-meaning the vice-president may be, he has populated his staff by many “Never Trumpers” over the years. Whatever his personal loyalty to Trump is or is not, he has many advisers who have striven to undermine the president’s “Make America Great Again” agenda. Should the coronavirus outbreak prove damaging over the long-run to the stock market (and, therefore, Trump lose a key talking point going into November), then I suspect Pence may hear, “You’re fired!’
– Nikki Haley, a neoconservative darling, has been making the rounds lately. We know that, inexplicably, President Trump is fond of his former ambassador to the United Nations. To be fair, she has done well in her capacity under Trump. But, there should be no questioning here that her preferences are decidedly against the Trump agenda. Yet, her recent return to public life recently indicates to me that there is something more afoot here. There have been murmurings that Trump was already looking to replace Pence. If he did so because of the perceived failures of the vice-president at handling the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump may pick Haley to succeed Pence on the ticket.
– Meanwhile, the Democrats have chosen to go with “Sleepy” Joe Biden as their nominee. Of course, this is not official, but it is now all but inevitable. Many Democratic Party elites are even suggesting to simply end all debates and ignore poor old “Crazy” Bernie Sanders, who possesses a cult-like following–particularly among the youth–but cannot seem to win the professional classes or elderly in the Democratic Party’s primaries.
– Joe Biden is a disaster-in-waiting as president. There are legitimate concerns among his detractors that the former vice-president may be enduring cognitive decline in his advanced age. Whatever is the case, Biden has never been among the Democratic Party’s “best and brightest.” But, Biden is savvy enough to present himself not as a true leader but as a bridge or “vessel” as he put it in the press recently for the DNC to transition from the Boomer preferences to the Gen-X, Millennial, and Zoomer preferences that are already dividing the country (and the DNC). I refer to this as Biden’s “empty vessel” campaign strategy.
– In keeping with his “empty vessel” campaign strategy, Biden appears poised to disrupt what is sure to be a contentious Democratic National Convention this summer in Milwaukee by nominating an unorthodox figure as his vice-presidential nominee.
– Already, Hillary Clinton is waxing ineloquent about her chances to return to power (God help us all). Meanwhile, Biden himself has repeatedly made reference to Michelle Obama as a desired running-mate in 2020. Also, there have for years been musings about the Democratic Party’s need to combat Trump’s “toxic” star power with “positive” star power of their own in the form of Oprah.
– Should coronavirus prove catastrophic for the economy over the year (Nouriel Roubini believes it will and I think he is probably closer to correct than anyone right now is willing to admit), then, I suspect Pence will be punished by Trump and replaced with Neocon darling Nikki Haley–particularly if Joe Biden nominates Michelle Obama (the best choice for him) or even Hillary Clinton (a terrible choice for everyone).
The media is already excoriating President Donald J. Trump’s Oval Office speech about the coronavirus. Certainly, it was not his best performance. Then again, the president doesn’t do well when he’s reading from a prepared speech–usually. He did fantastically at the State of the Union this year, but that was because he was standing. I’ve long held a theory that Trump performs better when standing on a stage rather than sitting down (remember those awkward videos he would produce when he was a reality television celebrity from his desk in Trump Tower? They were mostly “meh.”)
Anyway, I agree with a colleague of mine who wrote over social media recently that POTUS didn’t seem to want to be there last night giving the Oval Office speech. While I think it was an OK speech, compared to previous speeches he’s given, it wasn’t that great.
His previous comments from Capitol Hill earlier this week on the matter were, I believe, much better. Then again, it’s because Trump is a man of action and he was in motion at the Capitol Hill briefing.
But, the facts do not support such claims–as I have been one of the few Trump supporters documenting the truth. This is, in fact, a very serious illness and there is no cure, and these facts are disrupting the markets BIGLY, which will have negative consequences for Trump in November.
And just to be clear: I belong to an informal group which refers to itself as the “Always Trump” movement. At the end of the day, no matter what problems or reservations we may have with specific Trump policies or statements, we stand with the president. My goal with these posts is to give the president and his team some constructive criticism so that his victory in 2020 is assured–which it is not at present.
That President Trump opted to place Vice-President Mike Pence in charge of disaster relief is very telling in itself. Yes, as governor of Indiana, Pence had experience dealing with natural disasters such as this (although not even the MERS outbreak in the Hoosier State could have prepared Pence for the COVID-19 outbreak). No, it was not very good for Trump to place Pence as the public face of the outbreak.
It makes it look like Trump is not the guy in charge; that Pence is the Dick Cheney figure behind the shadows of the administration (which no one really believes, even if true).
Although, it does work in Trump’s favor: should things go massively wrong with the coronavirus response, the president can place the blame at Pence’s feet and declare, “You’re fired!” as problems arise for the Trump reelection campaign over the year, should the outbreak continue propagating into the election (which, it most likely will–even if it goes away in the warmer months of Spring and Summer, it will return in the colder months of Fall and Winter barring any reliable vaccine or management protocol being available).
In fact, the president already gave what many think was the professional kiss of death to Pence during his recent Fox News town hall event in which POTUS insisted that Pence is “doing a great job” and replacing him would be a “disloyal act.”
To be fair, Pence is doing a relatively good job.
Mike Pence is Nice, But He’s Got Some Skeletons
No one can have forgotten about the fact that many of Pence’s former top aides were deeply involved in both the Russia-gate collusion delusion as well as the pathetic Democratic Party’s impeachment attempt last year.
Specifically, Mike Pence’s former vice-presidential foreign policy adviser, Jennifer Williams, was a key “witness” in the absurd impeachment trial last year. She was a key witness, mind you, for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and not the GOP defenders of the president in Congress. The president cannot have forgotten this fact. Perhaps he does have it out for his vice-president–especially if Pence cannot deliver good results for Trump going into the election this year.
There is a huge messaging problem within the Trump administration itself. At a recent press conference wherein Vice-President Mike Pence stood at the center of the podium in the White House Press Briefing Room, Pence assured audiences that the common flu is more dangerous to Americans than the coronavirus has proven. While technically true, Dr. Fauci of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) replaced Pence at the dais and, seconds after Pence made his statement, Fauci urged Americans to prepare for major changes in their daily lives and society writ large, as we adapt to live in the new paradigm of Normal Life + COVID-19.
The numbers guys and gals in the medical community have been on the ball with the COVID-19 outbreak whereas the political guys and gals are just interested in playing keep-away and prevent-defense in the messaging realm in a contentious reelection campaign. That is understandable but mistaken. This is not a political scandal, like the Russia collusion delusion or the Ukraine impeachment farce. This is a matter of public health; it is already impacting the economy and it will eventually reshape our society (personally, I think for the better–see C.R. Wiley’s excellent 2016 book, Man of the House: A Handbook for Building a Shelter That Will Last in a World That is Falling Apart and his 2019 follow-up, The Household and the War for the Cosmos: Recovering a Christian Vision for the Family, for where I hope we as a country are headed societally).
The Trump administration’s keep-away strategy on the information flow will prove insufficient if the disease outbreak pattern mirrors that of other COVID-19 outbreak patterns that have already occurred.
Immunology and virology experts, particularly at the University of Minnesota, led by Dr. Michael Osterholm, have thus far accurately plotted the progression of COVID-19 outbreak in places like China, South Korea, and Italy. (Please click here for his magnificent 2017 book on pandemics and how to make our system more survivable under those conditions).
They predicted in January that by March of this year the outbreak would slow. In keeping with those predictions, China is reporting that the outbreak has slowed and the disease has been contained (although we’ll never know because China’s government lies more than any government in the West does).
In places, like Italy, which became exposed to COVID-19 after it had spread in China, they are experiencing the worst of the disease now.
Cases began ramping up in Italy in mid-February. If there is a general three-month propagation of the disease, then, Italy has at least another month of extreme disease proliferation. The longer it takes for countries to be exposed to this disease, the longer it will take for them to recover. This should be common sense, but it bears repeating in print because most people seem unable to process this fact (at least in practice).
Consider this: the United States is only just now seeing the spread of COVID-19. We have not even hit the peak yet. If what many are predicting is true, and COVID-19 cannot spread as well in the warmer months of Spring and Summer, the United States might get lucky over the next few months. By April, the president insists that things will get back to normal and COVID-19 will become contained here. If he is correct, one can expect the president to (understandably) take credit for effectively mitigating and managing the disease. And, that is how it will appear on paper.
But, if COVID-19 is truly a seasonal disease, then, one can expect that it will return in force here in the United States with the return of the colder weather in the Fall and Winter seasons. Let me be clear: my friends on the Right who insist that Israel has a cure “just a few weeks away” have now said this for the last three weeks. I hope Israel can find a cure. But, according to the Times of Israel, the head of Israel’s health ministry has said a vaccine will not be available for at least a year (which is what I at The Weichert Report have argued since January).
Whether or not news emanating both from Israel and the US Department of Defense (which has reportedly partnered with Gilead) is true and there are vaccines coming online for the COVID-19 outbreak now, it will still take an average of 1,000 days to test and scale up the vaccine.
Now, it is more than likely that if a reliable vaccine is discovered, the Trump administration and various world medical groups will help to halve that scale time. Still, though, we are talking at least the end of the year until a vaccine is available for most people. Therefore, if the experts are correct, one can anticipate COVID-19 being a threat to economic stability and growth the closer one gets to November.
And that is a problem for the president politically (as well as the rest of us both from a health standpoint as well as economically, as the stock market fluctuates wildly with all of the uncertainty from COVID-19).
Right now, many voters are not really paying attention to politics. Historically, the closer to Election Day in November we move, the more attention more voters pay to politics. If Trump appears to be dithering or not responding effectively enough; if the economy is still a turgid mess-heap as it currently is, whether fair or not, the president will likely be punished–or at least it will be more likely than previously that he would be punished by the voters for what’s going on.
One of Trump’s saving graces, though, is his highly positive base of voters. But, the question will be: are his voters enough to push him over the edge to reelection again? I hope so.
We’ll explore some things that might prompt radical alterations to his campaign strategy here.
Nikki Haley Waiting In the Wings
If the COVID-19 outbreak resumes in the colder months before the election or even continues here unabated and has significant impacts on the stock market, this could also be the end of Mike Pence as vice-president.
Nikki Haley, the Trump administration’s former UN ambassador, and an unapologetic corporatist and neoconservative, has been making headlines again lately.
She has a book that was released recently in which she claimed to have been a singular bulwark against a coup attempt, as led by senior Trump administration officials, such as former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, former Secretary of Defense James N, Mattis, former White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, former head of the White House National Economic Council, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Still, it is important to note that Haley was a key figure in the “Never Trump” movement in the GOP during (and I believe well after) the 2016 presidential election. She is an internationalist at heart. She now sits on the board of Boeing and routinely gives what I am sure are dull and uninteresting speeches on the need for American leadership both abroad and in the boardroom…or something. It’s all very compelling, if you are a Fortune 500 executive engaged in shameless rent-seeking behavior or if you are a militarist looking for a few Mideast countries to bomb on the “cheap.”
The point here is that she has been elevating her public stature recently, despite having left the administration a year ago.
What’s more, she has gone from being persona non grata among the Trump circle to being a key, unofficial adviser of it. I hope her turn is true. I really do hope she understands the significance and importance of the Trump presidency rather than merely looking at it as a stepping stool for her own, grander political ambitions. Regardless, the president has switched from being highly critical of Haley to being very supportive of her. As have the Trump family members, most of whom view her in a positive light.
Do not underestimate the importance of Nikki Haley to the president.
While still a long-shot, should the COVID-19 management prove too damaging in the press for Vice-President Mike Pence, coupled with some other issues that have existed just-below-the-surface between Pence and Trump, I’d expect to see Nikki Haley as a potential successor to Mike Pence on the ticket in 2020, as one astute reader of The Los Angeles Times wrote recently.
This is especially true if former Vice-President Joe Biden and current frontrunner as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2020 moves to pick someone unique and competitive as his vice-presidential running-mate. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) all believe they have a lock on the nomination.
Joe Biden Wants a Young, Black Woman
I personally don’t think Harris or Booker stand a chance. Some have speculated it’d be South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but he won’t fit-the-bill either. While his supporters claim him to be similar to Barack Obama, in fact, I think Buttigieg is akin to former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan–meaning he’s going to hit a ceiling soon as to how far he can go up the political ladder.
Warren might prove decisive in Biden’s coming conflict with Bernie for the DNC nomination at the convention this summer. Then again, most Bernie supporters I know don’t trust or like Warren, because of her years as a nominal Republican who even voted for the maligned (in their eyes) Ronald Reagan!
She could be the stalking horse for vice-presidential pick under Biden, but I am no longer convinced she’d be the most competitive, in terms of uniting the fragmenting DNC or competing well against the Trump ticket–coronavirus or not.
Biden has already indicated that he wants someone who appeals to the identitarian proclivities of the Left. While he may or may not be senile and out-of-touch, Biden is clearly keen enough to understand that politics-as-usual won’t work for him in 2020. He needs to unite the party after what will be a divisive convention this summer.
After all, the socialist base of the DNC remains at each other’s throats, especially as their preferred candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), refuses to abandon his now-unlikely campaign for president (and he won’t stop until he gets to the convention and receives his payoff from the DNC power elite in all probability).
At the same time, Biden cannot just nominate Bernie because, well, Bernie is nuts and old just like Biden. The former vice-president has already stated his desire to serve as a sort of bridge between the old Democrats and the new, socialist, younger Democrat voters. He wants to be a mere transition candidate–and he has made deals with the power elite of the DNC to ensure that he is their nominee in 2020.
What’s more, Biden is attempting to stitch together the old Obama voting bloc of minorities, Baby Boomers, and young people. The latter of which is mostly disinterested in Biden due to the shabby treatment of Bernie Sanders by Biden and the DNC elite. Biden is also making a play for those mostly-white, working-class Americans who switched parties to vote for Trump in 2016. Biden thinks his Amtrak-riding years and days of fighting “corn pop” at the pool will win them over.
Fat chance. But it’s his only play at this point.
Yet, Biden might become more competitive with the youth vote if he picks the woman he’s been pining for months: Michelle Obama.
Studies have shown that whichever party had a president in power during a voter’s childhood or early adulthood, that voter was more likely to vote for that party once they were old enough to vote. Many Millennials and certainly the Zoomers who can vote this November came up with the Obama-Biden team in office.
Even though you and I may know the Obama years were a disaster for this country, most young voters don’t agree with that.
In fact, most hate Trump (although, it is important to note that 45 percent of my fellow Millennials did vote for Trump in 2016).
By putting an Obama on the ticket in 2020, Joe Biden might be given enough heft to effectively challenge Trump–particularly as the “Me Too” continues on the rise, as identity politics continues dominating the culture, and as the coronavirus and any economic downturn creates backlash to Trump’s presidency.
Of course, the question remains whether or not Michelle Obama will ever take the offer. Personally, if I were her, I’d not want to give up what appears to be a cushy lifestyle to return to the hurly-burly of American presidential politics. But, there’s this thing called ego–and the Obamas have a lot of that.
We know that former President Barack Obama and key members of his cadre were in South Carolina, working quietly behind-the-scenes to ensure that DNC party leaders sided with Biden in the primary there two weeks ago.
This could be because Mr. Obama fundamentally understands that 2020 is his only chance to save his pathetic legacy from being totally undone and besmirched by President Trump, meaning he’d have supported whoever appeared to be the most capable of winning in November.
Or, it could mean that he’s in service to ensuring that his preferences and predilections are preserved as the dominant feature of the DNC.
Who better than getting his former, empty vessel, vice-president as the nominee?
Failing that, we know that some kind of a strange deal was made between the Obama cadre and the Clinton cabal heading into 2016. As Jodi Kantor brilliantly reported in her book, The Obamas: The Partnership Behind a Historic Presidency, neither family particularly liked each other–with Michelle Obama preventing her husband from nominating Hillary as his vice-president in 2008 (for obvious reasons). This was reinforced in Ed Klein’s provocative work, Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas.
Obama, though, was working in tandem with the Clinton team in 2016. In fact, he personally discouraged Biden from running back then. So, either Obama is working to manipulate Biden to do his bidding by placing Michelle as his number two or Obama is working with Clinton to get Biden to nominate her as vice-president (meaning she’ll be the de facto president without having to deal directly with us pesky voters) in repayment for whatever dirt or hold the Clintons have on Obama.
Either way, it is a destruction of democratic values and principles.
Hillary Clinton Fails to Get the Message: They’re Just Not That Into You
Hillary has said over the last few months that she has thought about getting into the 2020 race. She has made it her mission to attack Bernie Sanders, even releasing embarrassing messages about him from the 2016 campaign.
Meanwhile, she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, did a bizarre documentary where they divulged their innermost feelings and “anxieties” about the Monica Lewinsky affair during the Clinton administration which has not only plagued them since the 1990s, but also played a role in suppressing voter turnout among young female voters in 2016–which directly harmed Hillary’s chances for victory then.
Once it appeared that Joe Biden would be the nominee after his victory on Super Tuesday, Hillary made a weird statement to the press in which she said Biden was cobbling together a group of voters similar to her own from 2016.
Perhaps it is all just sour grapes on her part. Or, perhaps there is something more odious afoot. I do not think she will openly enter the race. I do believe, however, she will work assiduously behind-the-scenes at the coming Democratic Party convention this summer to get herself on the ticket. This is particularly true if Michelle Obama is in no way interested in being named herself (although, again, I think she would be best suited to challenge Trump).
Besides, the presence of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, notorious Trump-hater, and close friends to the Clintons, and is hundreds of millions of dollars cannot be ignored. He may not have been entirely serious about being the DNC nominee himself but he is committed to shaping the future of the party. Bloomberg’s billions might be Hillary’s vehicle for landing on the DNC ticket in 2020.
There have also been repeated calls from the Left to get someone with star power to rival that of Trump’s in 2020. Oprah has been mentioned non-stop over the last four years. This is a possibility, though I don’t think a probability.
The names to lookout for are all women, in my opinion: Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Oprah. The last two are improbability, I believe, though they are certainly possibilities. The two I’d watch out for would be Michelle Obama and Hillary.
Here’s Where the GOP Vice-Presidential Selection Comes Into Play
And, this is where my theory about Pence’s potential replacement comes into play: if it is to be identity politics and needing to secure his place in the GOP as the economy falters due to COVID-19 the closer we move to the election, then, I believe Trump will fire Pence.
He will want a strong, “conservative” woman who is also a minority (Nikki Haley is Indian-American). Trump would likely believe Haley’s presence at the bottom of the ticket would give him the oomph he needs to overcome any challenge from a Biden-Obama or a Biden-Clinton ticket in November.
Although, I should just warn the Trump team that while I have problems with Pence’s staffing choices generally, a core base of support for Trump are Evangelical Christians.
I belong to this community. I can tell you that many Evangelical and Baptist Christians support Trump specifically because he has a Believer at his back in the form of Mike Pence. Get rid of them as vice-president and you may see a depression in Evangelical Christian turnout in November–which could be devastating for Trump.
COVID-19 Is Here to Stay & Play With Us
Basically, though, the COVID-19 outbreak is not something to scoff at, in terms of its impact on the nation’s economic and political circumstance. Biden may appear as a buffoon (he is), but he just might prove to be the empty vessel the Democratic Party needs to win–especially if greater destabilization and dislocation occurs due to the propagating disease. Trump needs to win. And he might be tempted to replace Pence. Maybe he should, but for poor staffing choices rather than the COVID-19 thing (and if he does do it, he needs to do it sooner rather than later and if he cannot replace him with Haley).
While the Trump administration can–and probably should–be criticized for some inaction, for the most part both Trump and Pence have responded ably to the disease (if not always in word or tweet than certainly in deed). But, this is the nature of what Nassem Taleb has rightly identified as “black swan events.” They disrupt everything in unplanned and unorthodox ways. While they expose weaknesses in a given system in need of remedying (and often do bring about those necessary changes), there are some unintended victims.
In this case, Mike Pence as vice-president might be the unintended political victim if the disease and, therefore, economy does not behave as planned. More generally, should Biden nominate someone like Michelle Obama, he will become very competitive against Trump.
And I do not think Haley will galvanize the eclectic Trump voting base the way that Pence brings the Evangelical vote out. Of course, many Evangelical leaders, such as the Rev. Franklin Graham, will likely continue standing by Trump (as well they should). The average Christian voter, however, just might not should Pence be removed from the ticket.
Time will only tell how things shape out. But, it is imperative that you understand not to buy the Pollyanna routine the administration seems intent on playing out. Don’t panic. Please, because there are many opportunities going forward and this is not the end of the world. But, understand that there will be, as Dr. Fauci indicated, fundamental changes to our way of life.
At the end of the day, though, we will ultimately get through this crucible. If we can keep Trump in office, when the economy really does rebound–and it will–we’ll all be better off. If it is Biden and whoever the DNC elite favor as his running-mate, then, only the entrenched wealthy of this country will truly prosper…most likely at your expense.