by Cinzia Croce
Donald Trump owes Jeb Bush an apology. After mocking him for his “low energy” at a time when the country needs spirit, Trump has selected a veritable cadaver to be his vice president — and just like that, the Trump Train has been derailed. It is still possible to put it back on track, but it is severely damaged. Instead of barreling to the finish lines, Trump and his dead weight — sorry, running mate — may straggle across it.
A few hours after Trump confirmed his selection via Twitter, Mike Pence made his first media appearance, on Fox’s Sean Hannity Show. He delivered a respectful, albeit extremely laid back, performance — laid back to the point that I frequently wondered if he had pulse. Pence was a little shaky addressing Trump’s controversies, such as the temporary ban on Muslim migration, which he had previously denounced as “offensive and unconstitutional.” The next day, both Trump and Pence appeared together for the formal introduction of the ticket. It was a no-frills event — one that did not even include any signage featuring both candidates’ last names. Pence delivered the standard conservative stump speech with the requisite homages to Ronald Reagan and nods to fiscal discipline, strong defense and traditional values. He showed some signs of energy — but one can imagine fast-paced, mile-a-minute New Yorker Trump pushing Pence to pick up his pace a little.
But the real problem was written all over Trump’s face. He came across like a trapped man, and for the first time since the night he lost the Iowa Caucuses, he looked unhappy. The only time he seemed to enjoy himself was while dancing on the grave of the failed #NeverTrump effort, which failed to force a floor vote to plunge the convention into chaos. This, combined with Trump’s admission that he chose Pence to unify the party, lends credence to the speculation that the ticket was a backroom deal. The GOP establishment would deliver a drama-free convention, a united party, and donors with open checkbooks — and in return, they’d get their man on the ticket. But Trump has never struck me as the type of personality that is willing to accept a situation not to his liking for very long. He is an intelligent man, and must know that the GOP establishment is not interested in helping him get elected. All they care about is maintaining their majorities in Congress. Their hope is that once Trump is gone, they put the populist wave that swept through the primaries behind them — and go back to their old, comfortable ways. I would not be surprised at all if Trump is already plotting ways to dump Pence after Cleveland.