An impromptu master class on the art of the non-apology apology after last night’s dinner with the president-elect. He doesn’t take back anything he said about Trump during the campaign — ahem — but he’s all sunshine and rainbows about how impressive Trump has been since the election. That’s the way out of this maze for Romney and Trump if Mitt ends being picked for State, which I doubt he will. Emphasize the future, insist on putting duty above personal squabbling, accentuate the positive by focusing on Trump’s behavior since the election, not before it, starting with his cabinet picks. (Romney does some of that here.) That should reduce the awkwardness for, oh, about a week, until Romney does his first TV interview as Trump’s nominee for State and has to sit through an extended sequence of video highlights of him attacking Trump viciously earlier this year. He may not have to utter the words “I’m sorry” at any point but he will, assuredly, have to say “I misjudged him.” Is he prepared to say that? Does he even believe it?
If nothing else good comes from this, at least social media was interesting during their dinner. Model Chrissy Teigen remembered this tweet of Romney’s from the day the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged:
Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America's face to the world.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) October 8, 2016
She added a postscript on Romney’s behalf: “But yes I’ll have the crab cakes.” Things took another turn once photos from the dinner began to trickle out. This made me laugh, in a “we are watching a good man die” kind of way:
I made the Trump/Romney photo black and white, and it looks like a Twilight Zone episode where a guy just made a foolish deal with the Devil pic.twitter.com/froiDYDJei
— Adam Murray (@Atom_Murray) November 30, 2016
There’s no telling how a Romney stint at State might go because, as usual, there’s no telling what Trump will do. It’s entirely possible that he’ll have little influence on Trump’s thinking, will endure endless backbiting from the populists and loyalists in the inner circle, and will be scapegoated for any Trump missteps abroad. His main role may have less to do with negotiating with foreign states and more to do with selling Trump’s foreign policy on television as sober and responsible, a traditional Republican mouthpiece for a not-so-traditional outlook. If Mitt thinks that’s the best use of his patriotic energy over the next four years, God bless.
If you’re not too bored by the Trump/Romney drama yet, this WaPo piece on how the detente came to be is interesting. It was helped along by Stephen Pagliuca, a close friend of Mitt’s and an alumnus of his old firm, Bain Capital, who was also friendly with Trump. Supposedly Pagliuca dialed up Trump’s advisors to make the case for Romney once he heard his name was being floated, then dialed up Romney to pitch him on considering the State job if it were offered. That seems awfully proactive for an outsider. Are we sure Mitt didn’t nudge his old pal Steve to sound out Team Trump about a position in the administration for a newly loyal former enemy?
The latest on the State drama, by the way, is that Trump is down to four contenders for the position, although those four weren’t named. I assume it’s Romney, Giuliani, David Petraeus, and Bob Corker. No decision is expected today or tomorrow, per Reince Priebus.