March 1, 2024

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) joined the veepstakes only last Friday when he endorsed Donald Trump at a rally in New Hampshire, and yet it feels like we’ve been watching him go through the pledge process for an eternity.

In a gobsmacking moment on Monday, Trump called Scott up to the podium to shower him with praise, but not before celebrating Scott’s recent engagement by feeding into gossipy, oftentimes derisive, speculation that Scott is gay.

“Today it was a big story, the biggest story out there: He’s engaged to be married. We never thought this was going to happen. What’s going on?” asked Trump mischievously before calling Scott up to ask the crowd, amongst other questions, “How many of y’all want me to stop talking so you can hear from your next president, Donald J. Trump?”

Then during Trump’s rather irritable Tuesday night victory speech, Scott laughed awkwardly behind the former president as both Trump and one of his rivals for the no. 2 spot on the GOP ticket, Vivek Ramaswamy, rained down insults and smears on Nikki Haley, who appointed Scott to his Senate seat back in 2013.

“We’ve won almost every single poll in the last three months against Crooked Joe Biden and she doesn’t win those polls!” declared Trump as Scott whooped and clapped behind his right shoulder.

Trump continued to lambast Haley for supposedly claiming victory in her own speech on Tuesday (she actually congratulated Trump on winning), declaring that “she did very poorly” and “failed badly” before calling on Ramaswamy to inveigh against her.

“What we saw tonight was America First defeating America Last,” began Ramaswamy as Scott smiled broadly, yet robotically, behind him.

“What we see right now with her continuing  in this race is the ugly underbelly of American politics,” argued Ramaswamy. Scott nodded along as Ramaswamy condemned Haley for wanting “to cut your Social Security to fork over more money to Ukraine so some kleptocrat can buy a bigger house.”

While Ramaswamy enjoyed a primetime speaking slot at Trump’s celebration, Scott got only a brief cameo.

Here’s how that went:

TRUMP: Did you ever think that she actually appointed you, Tim? And think of it. Appointed and you’re the senator of her state. And she endorsed me. You must really hate her. Nah. It’s a shame.

SCOTT: I just love you!

TRUMP: That’s why he’s a great politician!

Bear in mind that Scott’s backstabbing of Haley represents not just a betrayal of her, but of his own principles. Scott doesn’t believe that providing aid to Ukraine is linked to cutting Social Security or that its primary effect is to fund kleptocrats.

He’s written op-eds about the “Ukrainian fight for freedom” and celebrated the “degradation of the Russian military” on a debate stage as recently as November.

Moreover, Scott’s buoyant, optimistic messaging can be easily compared to Haley’s rhetoric and contrasted with Trump’s dark warnings.

“Our party and our nation are standing at a time for choosing; victimhood or victory? Victimhood or victory?” Scott asked the crowd at the kickoff event for his short-lived presidential campaign last spring.

“Grievance or greatness?” he inquired in a follow-up.

To follow Scott’s own formulation: “Power or principles?”

We already have our answer.

Scott’s willingness to endure Trump’s ritual humiliation of him raises a number of important questions. How many Republicans left in the party are willing to tell the truth about Trump? How much further will Scott and his competition go in pursuit of the vice presidency? How much can abasement can any one person take before collapsing in on themselves like a dying star? And, of course, how funny will it be if this ends with Scott earning the same reward Chris Christie did back in 2016? Or, crueler still, a stint as Commerce Secretary?

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.