Trump on whether he might refuse to serve if he wins the election: I'll get back to you

Trump fans assure me this is a joke, but if he confirmed he’s serious he’d probably get a five-point poll bounce overnight. All America has to do to make him go away is flatter his ego by letting him win the election and then step down in favor of someone who knows what he’s doing?

Why didn’t he just say so!

Presented in a recent interview with a scenario, floating around the political ether, in which the presumptive Republican nominee proves all the naysayers wrong, beats Hillary Clinton and wins the presidency, only to forgo the office as the ultimate walk-off winner, Mr. Trump flashed a mischievous smile.

“I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens,” he said, minutes before leaving his Trump Tower office to fly to a campaign rally in New Hampshire…

Even Mr. Trump’s supporters acknowledge that his past campaigns had the air of a vanity tour. That impression lingers. A recent Trump news release promising “a speech regarding the election” prompted many reporters and political fortunetellers to predict a declaration of his departure. But just the fact that a routine news release prompted paroxysms of conjecture throughout the political universe suggested that, as Mr. Trump might say, “there’s something going on.”

Prominent Trump crony Roger Stone assured the Times he’s “fairly certain” that Trump would actually serve as president if elected. Fairly certain?

This theory, that Trump’s running this race for nothing more than the bragging rights that’ll go to the winner, is probably the second-most popular conspiracy theory of his candidacy among #NeverTrumpers behind the perennial favorite “He’s a Hillary plant.” The Times fueled it a few months ago with a story linking Trump’s presidential run this year with his appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner five years ago, shortly after he did his big Birther tour in the media. Obama took a bunch of shots at him in his routine that night with Trump sitting glumly in the audience. The Times’s hypothesis was that being humiliated publicly in front of the political class lit a fire under Trump to force them to take him seriously, starting with getting Mitt Romney to seek his endorsement in 2012 and continuing all the way to last year’s surprise presidential announcement. That idea, that this is really all just an act of revenge by the GOP’s Al Czervik on the pointy-headed elites who mocked him and that he has no real desire to lead the country, is grade-school psychoanalysis on the order of Citizen Kane blurting out “Rosebud.” But because Trump is so ostentatiously narcissistic, it feels credible in a way that it wouldn’t for more traditional candidates. What he seems to crave most in life is being seen as the ultimate winner. If he achieved the ultimate win this fall, why stick around and bother with the drudgery of governing?

The obvious answer is that the stature of the presidency would be too enjoyable to relinquish and that most of the drudgery of governing can be farmed out to others, especially if he surrounds himself with technocrats. But the tiny chance that the Times is right and that President Trump would quickly tire of being president does make his VP pick suddenly crucially important. If you think Trump’s doomed in November then who he chooses is inconsequential. If you don’t think he’s doomed but believe there’s a fair chance that he won’t serve out his term then it’s obviously hugely consequential, more so than any VP pick in recent history. There’s a small but nonzero chance that the insane chaos of the 2016 election will end up with Newt Gingrich running the government, either formally or informally, circa 2017. Especially since Newt is now going out of his way to prove his yes-man value to Trump by defending that Star of David image that came from Trump’s alt-right fan base. “A substantial part of the campaign is going to be — if you think the news media is honest and fair and totally neutral, then you ought to vote for Hillary,” Gingrich crowed to CNN. “But if you think the news media is biased, then join me,” Um, why? How many general-election voters are prepared to treat the election as a referendum on whether the media is biased, especially as regards imagery that many people find anti-semitic? Newt’s goading Trump into trying to run on the same lame “damn the media” platform that didn’t even work in a Republican primary when Newt ran on it against Romney four years ago. Trump doesn’t need to prove how politically incorrect he is by whining about the media; he’s already proved it. What he needs to do is build the case that Hillary Clinton is a cancer that destroys American jobs. I can’t believe Newt would be so stupid as to push this instead — unless he’s trying to show Trump what a good soldier he’d be as VP by blindly speaking in defense of his latest screw-up.

And it does look like he’s going to be VP. This story published this afternoon is pure candy for Chris-Christie-haters:

It is highly unlikely that Gov. Chris Christie will be Donald Trump’s running mate, according to two sources who are advising the Trump campaign and who requested to remain anonymous…

The source added that Christie’s stout defense of Trump and unwillingness to criticize him may have backfired, saying, “You want someone who’s willing to be a Devil’s advocate at times.”…

The reason why Christie was asked to fill out the 100 plus pages of disclosure documents?

“They’ve been vetting him (because) it would be embarrassing not to be vetted,” said the source.

Imagine that: Chris Christie’s too much of a toady even for Donald Trump. Glorious.

I continue to think that Rick Santorum would be a surprisingly strong dark-horse VP for Trump, as does Ramesh Ponnuru. But if you’re looking for a long longshot, there’s always Ivanka, I guess. Everyone likes her — she’s smart, beautiful, charming, and seems competent — and her instincts, such as in wanting to can Corey Lewandowski, appear sound. But I’m … a little nervous about how seriously some of the talk about her as VP or a cabinet official seems to have gotten lately. She’s 34. She has no policy experience. She seems like the most capable member of the Trump family, but we should probably expand the pool a bit in finding people with the brains and know-how to run a government for a country of 300 million people. Although that same country produced two deeply unqualified people as the major-party nominees this year, so who knows? Maybe we really can’t do any better at this point.

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