I’m already sick of the phrase. Whenever somebody in the Tower comes up with a dingo idea, and gets roundly dissed in return, the dissee covers himself with, “Trust me, I know what I’m doing, folks.” At first we laughed. Now we groan.
You have to hand it to T. The man’s a phrasemaker. “I know what I’m doing, folks” wasn’t part of the politico-lingua-franca until last week when, according to the leak-machine, T laid it on GOP Senators at their unity meeting in DC. Having pulled the pin on a stink bomb and then rolled it across the parquet floor, T left the room with the “Trust me” line. Who else, I ask you, could pull that off? For the record, nobody in that room thinks T has any idea what he’s doing — these are pros, okay? — but everybody has to be impressed by his sheer gonadal presence.
It will be ancient history by next week, but that meeting was, or should have been, a learning moment for establishment types. A “unity meeting” in DC-speak means a ritual self-flagellation by an errant tribal member, who confesses to multiple shortcomings, apologizes profusely, and promises not to do anything even remotely untribal again. That’s not really how T operates. By temperament, he’s a flagellator, not a flagellatee.
That was a basic failure to communicate. A “unity meeting,” in T’s perfect world, would be a high ceremony at which DC elders rip open their shirts and with large rusty knives carve T’s in their chests — big, bright T’s, blood-rimmed, with the cross bar stretching from nipple to nipple. Sasse, Kirk, Flake — all of them disfigured but chin-up proud. Now, that would have been an amazing unity meeting.
We gathered this morning in the big Conference Room. (I love that sign at the door, “Senior Staff Only.” Who’s sh–ting whom? There is no junior staff.) T’s not present, which means two things. First, it’s not a real meeting. And second, we’re free to speak our minds without getting Tweet-fired before we get back to our desks.
The topic, of course, is the big quesadilla: The Veepstakes.
First up is your huffing-and-puffing, early-endorsing, crap-absorbing, formerly blue-state-winning loyalist, Chris Christie. Everybody likes him and thinks he could be a vicious attack dog (“look what he did to Rubio!”), but, if I’m counting right, four out of eleven senior advisers mention the word, “fat.” In Trump World, frankly, it’s not good to be fat. (Ask any of the former wives and lady friends.) I’m thinking about Christie — yes, T owes him a spot in the finals, but he’s probably not the guy.
Then we look at Joni Ernst. Again, a nice buzz about her. She gets good reviews around the table, but there are just too many references to “Sarah Palin.” I’m thinking again — probably not.
Then there’s Bob Corker, who gets shrift shorter even than the little man himself. The only enthusiasm in the room comes from a Downeaster who’s been waiting a lifetime to print a bumper sticker braying, “He’s a real Cawkah.” I cut him off with a “Trust me.”
Then there’s the name that will not die, but seems to spring up persistently from somebody unwilling to own it — Mary Fallin, Governor of the sure-thing state of Oklahoma. I have no reputation in this business (and will doubtless have a bad one by November), but if I did, I’d bet it all against Mary F. Nice lady, but there’s no “it” there. Let’s be honest, she’s no Ivanka. On the same grounds, we dismiss Jeff Sessions. Wonderful man, maybe even the indispensable man, but T will be looking for juice and it just isn’t there.
Then there are the two guys who really, really want it. Mike Pence might be the first unindicted Republican incumbent in history to lose in Indiana. He’s looking for an excuse to get out of town and he’s ours if we want him. And Newt, of course. At 73, he’ll never get another shot. The sentiment in the room is that they both have a puncher’s chance. T likes to work with desperate people.
Now it’s getting interesting. The last three names that really are on the no-BS list. We took them in alphabetical order. First, Scott Brown. A lot to like there — he’s good on the tube, has a family as mediagenic as T’s, symbolizes resistance to Obama’s shrinking of America — and he’s a scrappy happy warrior.
Then there’s Tom Cotton — bright, well-informed, only partially Beltwayized, solid but not risk-averse. The question here is, would a young man with two Harvard degrees and the world at his feet be willing to take an all-or-nothing ride in T’s demolition derby? We have to be (uncharacteristically) prudent. T can’t afford to have a boy-Senator say no thanks.
Lastly, we kick around the idea of the outsider’s outsider — Mike Flynn. A retired general, registered Democrat, a guy known to dozens of black-ops guys and hundreds of Fox News viewers and, let’s be real, to nobody else. But he’s a credible guy who could lay the national-security wood to Hillary and whatever dipsqueak she picks to run with her.
We debate these three at length. Everybody’s into it, the first major decision of the candidate and all that sort of thing. We decide to go with youth and energy and brains. Our decision, as the meeting-timer clangs, is Tom Cotton.
Paul will talk to T. Everybody’s aware that our recommendation, which will be presented as the irreducible essence of deep political wisdom, may carry the weight of lint-flecks on a pinstriped suit. Even as we speak, T could be closing the deal with Derek Jeter. Or Bo Derek. Or Beau Bridges.