Tired of Trumpian losses, Gallagher leaves House

Thank you for your service, Mike Gallagher.

In the aftermath of his recent decision not to run for a fifth term, critics on the far right of the Trump-infested Republican Party won’t mouth those gracious words, the words that many veterans hear and appreciate, even though he served with distinction for seven years as a U.S. Marine officer, including a stint in Iraq, and will have served eight years as the congressman from the 8th Wisconsin District. Trumpophiles have taken the opportunity to belittle his service.

He has both personal and political reasons for his resignation.

On the personal side, Gallagher cited his young family in his surprise announcement to step aside. Nor will he run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin. He was a leading choice by many Republicans for that candidacy.

Congressman Mike Gallagher with his wife, Anne Horak.

No one will know exactly what factors he and his wife took into account when they mutually decided to spend the next chapter of their lives outside elective office.

Pay level has to figure in to his calculus. Congressmen make $174,000 per year, a lot of money for many people. But Gallagher has the opportunity to make much more. He could go on the speaking tour as an expert on foreign policy strategy. He holds two masters degrees and a doctorate in international relations, and he chaired a House Select Committee on China. Speaker fees could be $25,000 or more for his expertise on the biggest economy in the world.

He will be asked to serve on corporate boards whose companies do business in China. Director fees can be six figures.

He could choose to be a consultant on international trade and military affairs. If money were no object, he could return to academia, where he spent a good portion of his 39 years. He could write a book on the threats from China. Book royalties are not that great, but books help to land gigs on the speaking tour.

Lobbying on behalf of companies with foreign holdings is a lucrative option, which I hope he doesn’t take.

He has much to offer in shaping concepts on how to deal in a world where America’s position as the leading super power is under attack on many fronts.

Beyond his personal life, politics must have weighed heavily on his decision to step aside. He has been a proponent of term limits for public office, including limiting congressional tenure to eight years in both the House and the Senate. I take him at his word that he believes that Congress needs new blood on a regular basis. Most congressmen serve decades, but it was never meant to be life-long work. (Republican Sen. Ron Johnson promised he would only serve two six-year terms, and then, enamored by the power and perks of high office, decided he was indispensable to the future of the country and ran and won a third term. Like Trump, only he can save the country.)

The major factor in Gallagher’s decision was surely deep discomfort with the leadership of the Republican Party that has become lapdog for former President Trump, one of the biggest losers in American history.

Only 10 presidents have failed to win a second term. (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Benjamin Harrison, William Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump).

In 2018, with Trump in the White House, the GOP lost 41 seats and control of the House. In 2020, the Dems held the House with Trump in the White House. In 2022, with him out of office, his candidates lost and the Dems took the Senate. Losing gets old.

Trump is proving to be a big-time loser in state and federal courts for his fraudulent business dealings, for defaming a woman he raped, and possibly for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. In business, he bankrupted six Trump companies and lost much of his inheritance from his father. That’s not winning; it’s losing.

The loser pattern can’t sit well with Gallagher, a winner all his life.

Note that Gallagher is not an innocent when it comes to Trump. He voted with Trump 93% of the time in Congress. That is a stain on his record and credibility as a clean thinker. The Trumpsters are attacking him for calling Trump out in the heat of the insurrection and departing from the then-President Trump agenda 7% of the time.

My guess is that he and his wife wanted no further damage to their reputations as part of the Trump train wreck.

Gallagher’s Marine Corps stresses leadership at all levels, but it is not top-down as much as people might think. It is a learning organization that listens to combatants on the front line. It uses collaborative dialogue to come up with the best answers for fighting wars.

In stark contrast, Trump throws the most talented people working for him under the bus. If a different Republican were elected, Mike Gallagher would be in the front ranks for a cabinet position. With Trump in the picture, Gallagher can do more good on shaping U.S. strategy from the outside than inside a Congress bogged down by Trump-induced dysfunction.

Putting it all together, Gallagher can do more for the country in the private sector, waiting for the day when the Trump shadow is gone from GOP leadership.

(Torinus is a former Marine Corps officer and Congressional Fellow)

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