Walk away, Mitt. Salvage what little dignity remains in this situation by withdrawing from “consideration” for State before Trump ends this sham on his terms.
Treating Romney like a toady wasn’t the saddest part of yesterday’s “firing squad” meeting with the media, actually. The saddest part was Trump allegedly complaining to NBC that they’ve been using photos of him that show off his multiple chins.
Sitting at a large conference table and flanked by his top aides, including Stephen Bannon, Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, and Conway, Trump also told the attendees that Mitt Romney, who had been an unvarnished critic during the campaign, now “desperately wants” to be Secretary of State under Trump. The two men met at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, over the weekend. It was unclear if Trump was going to give the job to Romney or was, instead, toying with his one-time adversary.
That’s from the New Yorker’s account of the meeting. Politico’s account also has the detail about Romney, although Trump is quoted there as saying Mitt “really wants” the job rather than “desperately wants” it, which makes Romney sound a tad more pathetic and subservient. (Both accounts, as well as this one from NPR, have the detail about him complaining about NBC’s photos of his chins.) One notable discrepancy, though, has to do with the tone of the meeting. All accounts agree that Trump complained about his coverage, but Politico’s source insists that the exchanges were “less intense” than the New York Post’s “firing squad” story yesterday suggested. The New Yorker’s source makes them sound … more intense:
Another participant at the meeting said that Trump’s behavior was “totally inappropriate” and “f***ing outrageous.” The television people thought that they were being summoned to ask questions; Trump has not held a press conference since late July. Instead, they were subjected to a stream of insults and complaints—and not everyone absorbed it with pleasure.
“I have to tell you, I am emotionally f***ing pissed,” another participant said. “How can this not influence coverage? I am being totally honest with you. Toward the end of the campaign, it got to a point where I thought that the coverage was all about [Trump’s] flaws and problems. And that’s legit. But, I thought, O.K., let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After the meeting today, though—and I am being human with you here—I think, F*** him! I know I am being emotional about it. And I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But I really am offended. This was unprecedented. Outrageous!”
There are advantages to Trump no matter how the press reacts to his dressing-down. If they bend over backwards to find ways to cover him favorably, that’s all to the good for the White House. If they recoil and cover him antagonistically from the outset, he can use their antagonism to argue to the right that unflattering coverage of missteps by the administration, conflicts of interest, and so forth are all little more than “enemy propaganda.” As for Romney, as much as he might regret having met with Trump when he discovers this morning how he was casually humiliated yesterday, I don’t think he had a choice. If he had declined the meeting on grounds that Trump obviously was never going to offer him a cabinet position, he’d have been attacked as vindictive and unwilling to give the new president-elect a chance. Purely as a matter of goodwill, he had to accept the invitation — although maybe he should have stipulated from the beginning that he didn’t want to be considered for a position and would meet with Trump purely to wish him well. That at least would have stopped Trump from crowing later that Romney groveled to him for a job. As it is, Twitter pal “Kilgore Trout” is correct: Eventually Trump will do something as president that private citizen Mitt Romney feels obliged to speak up against, whereupon Trump will tweet that Mitt once “begged him like a dog” for a job. Whether that’s true or not.
I think the job has always quietly been promised to Rudy Giuliani, whom CBS confirmed just yesterday remains the top candidate for the position. Trump crony Newt Gingrich also notably said a few days ago that he thought Giuliani would be a better diplomat than Romney because of his “temperament,” which is wildly, wildly incorrect but revealing as an insight into Trumpworld’s thinking. Even so, you would think Trump would have held off on embarrassing someone he met with about a job knowing that other prospective employees are bound to notice this and wonder if they want to share Romney’s fate, but humiliating critics is something Trump evidently can’t resist. Which makes me wonder: How many other Trump enemies also received invitations to meet, ostensibly for a position of some sort, and turned Trump down flat knowing they’d end up getting the Romney treatment too? Did Jeb Bush get a call?
Oh, one other detail from the meeting found in both the New Yorker and Politico accounts: Trump apparently had lots of nice things to say about Barack Obama, whom he “loves” and whom he’s spoken to by phone twice since their Oval Office meeting. Looks like that Obama charm offensive is paying off. Don’t sell those ObamaCare shares just yet!