Can Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s dreams of being House speaker be saved by the art of the deal? He might need to swallow his ego and ask for former President Trump’s assistance in order to accomplish this.
In 1960, fellow Californian Richard Nixon had a similar situation. He was aware that the then-President Dwight Eisenhower secretly preferred another GOP candidate to be his successor. Nixon was angered by this mockery and ended up making a crucial decision. He sought to project the image that he had won the White House on his own, independent of the general. John F. Kennedy, a Democratic challenger who was viewed as a lightweight junior senator supported by his father’s wealth, was the favorite to defeat Nixon.
But JFK shrewdly avoided the well-known GOP military hawk on the right by running to the left of his rival on traditional Democratic economic issues. The “missile gap,” as it was nicknamed by JFK, was allegedly created by the Eisenhower-Nixon administration and left America open to better Russian missiles. He continued to repeat this political winning line despite knowing it to be a lie.
Eisenhower, the supreme commander who dismantled Hitler’s military machine, could have gone door-to-door informing Americans of their increased safety if his protégé were in control of the nuclear trigger. Ike, however, awaited a call that never came. Nixon’s conceit proved to be too much. He ultimately lost a race that he had a good chance of winning.
Now enter Rep. Kevin McCarthy, 62 years later. He does not support Trump. In that aspect, both parties agree. McCarthy undoubtedly holds Trump responsible for the GOP’s failure to secure the anticipated large House of Representatives majority.
McCarthy can, however, take a chance and ask Donald Trump for assistance. Trump would be wise to embrace in that regard. GOP swing voters increasingly view the former president’s politics as a “me” thing rather than a “we” thing. Such a tactic might still enable him to secure a third GOP presidential nomination, but it will not enable him to retake the White House. Even the president’s closest advisers don’t think he won the 2020 election, as the committee’s final report from January 6 makes clear.
Trump however begins the first year of the presidential nomination campaign with a significant victory in one shrewd move. Trump can boast that no one else could have finalized such a deal. McCarthy will deliver the speech. It’s true that he didn’t want to go down that route. However, he will at least have prevented Nixon’s error.
Except for Trump’s opponents, everyone gains. The togetherness will not last long. However, looking back, Nixon would have been much better off swallowing his ego and turning to Ike for assistance.