The Trump campaign is floating some names of possible Cabinet appointments Monday, including Newt Gingrich as secretary of state. Gingrich has been on the Trump train for a while now, but this is still a bit odd given that his record on foreign policy represents everything Trump opposes.
Trump is a protectionist. Gingrich is a stalwart free-trader, who lobbied hard for what Trump says is the “worst trade deal ever,” NAFTA, when he was in the House leadership, and strongly supported expanding trade with China. He’s supported immigration reform, suggesting when he was running for president in 2011 that many of those who entered the United States illegally have earned the right to citizenship.
Trump thinks the U.S. should stop getting involved in foreign wars. Gingrich is a military interventionist going back to the war in Bosnia, when he urged a tougher line against Serbian aggression and more aid for Muslim forces to create a “balance of terror” in the conflict. (The ’90s were a long time ago.) He not only supported the invasion of Iraq, which Trump claims to have been against, he was among the small group arguing for the necessity of overthrowing Saddam Hussein just weeks after 9/11. Gingrich also argued in 2012 for ramping up covert assistance to Syrian rebels to defeat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, telling CNN “it is definitely in our interest to get rid of Assad as a dictator.” (Trump thinks Assad could help us fight ISIS.) Gingrich has also called for the U.S. to be much more aggressive in containing and pushing back against moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Trump admires.
More broadly, Gingrich is a “national greatness” conservative who venerates Ronald Reagan for his moral leadership during the Cold War and believes America should play a leading role in advancing democracy and preserving global stability. Trump views foreign policy as a transaction in which countries that don’t pay up should be left to their own devices.
On the other hand. Gingrich was calling for singling out Muslim Americans with discriminatory legislation long before Trump got into the race, so they do have some common ground. Plus, it’s not as if the former speaker, memorably described by George Will as a “rental politician” during the previous election, isn’t willing to change with the times. Remember when he appeared in an Al Gore–sponsored climate change commercial and then completely disavowed it when running for the GOP nomination? Like Trump, Gingrich turned against the Iraq war when supporting it was no longer politically useful. (Unlike Trump, his initial support had gone well beyond saying “I guess so” to Howard Stern.) He also changed his tune on Syria once the Obama administration started getting more involved. And since he’s joined Trump’s campaign, he’s all of a sudden not so bothered by the nominee’s affection for Vladimir Putin, and he’s not so crazy about NAFTA anymore either.
An utterly craven figure willing to abandon any deeply held position in the name of political expediency? Maybe he’s not such an unlikely fit after all.