Maybe it’s just the five cups of eggnog I’ve already had this morning talking but this seems semi-plausible. It’s not just the fact that WaPo cites a “Trump associate” as the source. It’s the fact that various stories about the Trump/Romney saga over the past month had sources of their own claiming that Trump liked Mitt because he “looked the part” or seemed straight out of “central casting.” WaPo’s story is peppered with quotes from people who know Trump confirming that presentation — “the look and the demeanor and the swagger” that someone exhibits in their position, as Trump pal Chris Ruddy put it — matters to him in his staffing choices. “Don’t forget,” said Ruddy, “he’s a showbiz guy.”
The irony is, Bolton’s a type of “showbiz guy” too at this point. He’s a Fox News mainstay, which is probably what drew Trump to him in the first place. He’s good on television, eloquent, self-assured, and politely aggressive in attacking Democratic “weakness.” But … he’s got that ‘stache and those egghead glasses. His fashion sense might best be described as “professorial frump.” Contrast him with Romney or Rex Tillerson, the super-rich Exxon exec with tailored suits and leading-man looks, who would have seemed right at home as a cabinet officer in some golden-age Hollywood political drama starring Henry Fonda as the president. Bolton’s not the guy sitting next to Henry Fonda in the war room, he’s the guy who screens that movie for you as part of his “Cold War on Film” seminar at the local community college.
Trump’s closest aides have come to accept that he is likely to rule out candidates if they are not attractive or not do not match his image of the type of person who should hold a certain job.
“That’s the language he speaks. He’s very aesthetic,” said one person familiar with the transition team’s internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “You can come with somebody who is very much qualified for the job, but if they don’t look the part, they’re not going anywhere.”
Several of Trump’s associates said they thought that John R. Bolton’s brush-like mustache was one of the factors that handicapped the bombastic former United Nations ambassador in the sweepstakes for secretary of state.
“Donald was not going to like that mustache,” said one associate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. “I can’t think of anyone that’s really close to Donald that has a beard that he likes.”
Might the fact that Bolton is anti-Russian-fascist while Trump is pro have had something to do with the decision also? As much as it flatters my NeverTrumper ego to imagine Trump choosing his cabinet via something as superficial as screen tests, Bolton and Romney each had a substantive problem that Tillerson does not. They’re Russia hawks, and that was reportedly a sticking point in Romney’s conversations about the State job with Trump. They’re on the same page vis-a-vis China, but when it came to the great detente with Moscow, Mitt wanted to “balance” Trump’s approach and Trump evidently didn’t want to be “balanced.” Bolton would have found himself in the same position — unless, of course, he turned out to have less of a backbone than Romney did and caved to Trump by becoming a Russia dove himself overnight. We might get to find out: As far as I’m aware, Bolton’s still being considered for undersecretary at the State Department. No ‘stache problem if you’re in a deputy role and hardly ever on camera!
Exit question: Does Trump’s “look the part” rule mean Rick Perry’s going to have to trade those geek glasses for a cowboy hat? You’re a Texan in charge of the energy department, for cripes sake. Get some contacts.