Court verdict will propel Trump to name key picks


For Trump, the stakes after the New York verdict have become much higher, the road to the White House more challenging, writes Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat

In most countries, being unanimously convicted of 34 counts of fraud by a jury would disqualify a candidate for the Presidency. Where Donald Trump is concerned, the one-sided New York verdict only reinforces the view within large swathes of voters in the US that it was unwarranted by the facts. Eventually, the guilt or innocence of Trump will be decided by the US Supreme Court or by Trump himself, were he to get re-elected President of the US on November 5.

The verdict, and even the likelihood of his being sent to prison, would only supercharge the Trump campaign. It makes it more likely that he will announce key personnel choices soon. In such a context, both Tulsi Gabbard as well as Nikki Haley are feisty politicians with charisma and determination. However, in their approach to politics as well as in their views on major global events, the two are opposites.

Tulsi Gabbard sacrificed her seat in the US House of Representatives because of her taking on the establishment within the Democratic Party on numerous policy issues, including the way in which President Biden, Senator Chuck Schumer, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and others prominent in the Democratic Party have given precedence to helping Ukraine over other more pressing issues relating to the intersection of security and foreign policy.

Donald Trump with Nikki Haley (White House Archives)

From the start of the crusade that President Biden began in 2022 to assist Ukraine to claw back the lands that had been lost to the control of Kiev in 2014, this columnist had warned that the time and expenses devoted to what in terms of practicality was an impossible task would be wasted.

Also, that where domestic politics was concerned, Biden’s obsession with helping a European country when countries in South America, Asia and Africa were going through even worse travail could cost him the African-American votes that he needed to defeat his Republican challenger in the November 2024 Presidential polls. Or that leaders of friendly countries in Asia would privately be surprised by the way in which President Biden was acting as though it were still Russia and not China that was the principal external danger to US influence and interests.

Or that it was Europe that even in the 21st century was the pre-eminent continent where US interests were concerned, rather than Asia. A few campaign appearances at universities having a majority of African-American students, or at gatherings of that vibrant segment of US society, would not compensate in goodwill for the way in which taxpayer dollars are being showered on Ukraine.

Every dollar spent on that country is seen by that demographic as a dollar less to spend on measures that would improve the lives of African-Americans. Such obvious logic seems not to have registered with those active in the campaign to ensure a second term to President Biden.

While Nikki Haley, the last remaining rival to Donald J. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, is committed to the Republican establishment’s Eurocentric view that Biden is right in materially giving far more priority to Ukraine than to Taiwan, Tulsi Gabbard angered the Democratic Party establishment by pointing out that it was China more than Russia that was the clear and present danger to US primacy, and that Ukraine was not the topmost priority that the Biden administration assumed it to be.

Were Trump to nominate Haley as his Vice-Presidential pick, the choice of an individual who is opposed to most of his initiatives as his running mate would indicate to voters that Trump is just another politician who can be expected to change his policies just as the weather does.

Tulsi Gabbard

In contrast, picking Gabbard would show that the Republican candidate is sincere in his views on both Ukraine as well as China, given that Gabbard has the same view concerning Biden’s policy towards Ukraine as Donald Trump has, which is that it is a disaster. Were the Biden administration to accept the Zelenskyy-Macron view that NATO should assist Ukraine to strike deep into Russia, and even join in such a move, it could ignite the NATO-Russia war that Zelenskyy has sought since the initial months of 2022. It would not just be a disaster but a calamity for US interests.

Not that Nikki Haley ought to be ignored by Trump. She is a politician of courage, even if many of the convictions she has adopted from the traditional Republican establishment are far removed from those held by Trump or Gabbard. What Trump could do while picking Gabbard as his running mate is to say that Nikki Haley would be his choice as Secretary of State of the US.

Given her energy and intellect, Haley would be ideal for the job. She would also be able to assuage fears in European capitals about the consequences to themselves of a return of Donald Trump to the White House. Both these choices by the Republican presidential nominee would reassure independent voters in particular about both the sincerity of Trump’s intentions as well as his pragmatism.

Not just his Vice-Presidential and Secretary of State pick but equally well thought out choices for a Secretary of the Treasury and a Secretary of Defense in a 2025 Trump administration would boost his chances for beating Joe Biden in what is by far the most important contest that takes place in the US.

At the same time, the Gabbard and Haley picks would derail the charge of misogyny that has been flung at Trump ever since the Access Hollywood tapes surfaced during the 2016 campaign.

The good news for Trump is that administration efforts at tarring him with capers such as the Karen McDougall or Stormy Daniels scandals are losing their effectiveness because of the growing perception that the Republican nominee is the victim of an effort by the Justice Department working under the Biden White House to knock him out of the contest by sending him to prison.

If Trump were to be indicted on the basis of the numerous charges being made against him by Prosecutor Jack Smith, any businessperson in the US would be only as safe from prison as businesspersons in China are who attract the baleful gaze of the CCP leadership.

President Biden’s attack on his challenger for the White House, Donald Trump, is that a second tenure by the former President in the White House and just convicted felon would be a disaster. Were Trump to announce his choices for top jobs in a Trump administration that would convey certitude about his reliability as an effective President of the White House.

Two ideal candidates for such picks are Nikki Haley and Tulsi Gabbard. For Trump, the stakes after the New York verdict have become much higher, the road to the White House more challenging. Not that such setbacks would dampen his pugilistic nature, nor dent his appeal to over a hundred million US voters.

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