C’mon, man. Is this actually happening? Or is this all part of building Romney up publicly, the better to devastate him when Trump yells “psych!” and names Giuliani Secretary of State instead?
As a basic matter of spoils-system politics, how will Trump justify passing over the many loyalists in his orbit who crave a position as august as this in favor of a guy who devoted an entire speech to attacking him viciously? It’s the most bizarre detente in modern American political history.
Delaying Mr. Trump’s decision about secretary of state is an internal tug of war between supporters of Mr. Romney, and those urging the selection of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. A third group is pressing the president-elect to keep searching for candidates.
The next U.S. president is also likely to name retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as secretary of defense in his administration, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the leading candidate to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, the people said…
The New York businessman views Mr. Romney as the prototypical choice to be the nation’s top diplomat, and a group of advisers inside the transition are pushing him to select the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. Two people said Mr. Trump is inclined to select Mr. Romney…
But another faction is still pushing for Mr. Giuliani, who was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest supporters and has openly campaigned for the job. Mr. Giuliani, after leaving the mayor’s office, created a security consulting firm that has contracts with some foreign governments, including Qatar and Colombia.
Trump supposedly likes Romney in the role because he “looks the part of a top diplomat right out of ‘central casting,'” which is both true and a weirdly superficial reason to put someone in charge of U.S. diplomacy. But here’s the wrinkle: Romney is well qualified and would be a strong pick, especially if you’re worried that Trump’s admiration for Putin would lead him to roll over on Russia absent strong pushback from his inner circle. (Raise your hand if you saw Trump hiring a guy who famously warned years ago that Russia remains America’s preeminent “geopolitical foe.” Raise both hands if you saw him being hired for foreign policy.) Romney’s temperament is better suited to a diplomatic role than the pugnacious Giuliani’s is, he wouldn’t have the ethical conflicts mentioned in the excerpt that Rudy has, and most importantly he’d be less likely to be a yes-man in the position — I think. I respect Romney enough to believe that he wouldn’t keep quiet about bad decisions or rubber-stamp irresponsible foreign-policy measures for fear of getting on Trump’s bad side again, but it’s true that Mitt would need to prove his loyalty at first in a way that Giuliani wouldn’t. Rudy might be able to speak more freely at the beginning than Mitt would. How much is that worth?
It will be beyond strange, less than a month removed from Trumpers like Sean Hannity vowing to call out big-name #NeverTrumpers on air if Trump lost, to have one of the GOP’s most prominent #NeverTrumpers installed as chief diplomat under Trump. I can’t imagine how the first round of media interviews with Mitt will go. “Do you regret demanding that Trump release his tax returns? Do you regret calling him ‘a phony, a fraud’ and lamenting his ‘bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics'”? “Bizarre” doesn’t begin to cover this; it’s a Twilight Zone episode. And maybe even more bizarre is wanting Nikki Haley as ambassador to the UN. Where did that come from? She was also supposedly under consideration for Secretary of State initially, which made little sense since she has no diplomatic experience. Now Trump’s eyeing her for a different diplomatic post. And she, like Romney, was a Trump critic for much of the campaign, although she came around in the final few months. All I can think of to explain it is that Team Trump sees her as someone who might end up as a prominent, media-friendly critic of the administration from the right if she’s not coopted early, so they’re going to dangle a job in front of her to buy her silence. As the old saying goes about critics in politics, better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.
Update: Here’s something Trump said to the New York Times editorial board this afternoon. How do you square this with choosing Romney?
Trump savages Rs who didn't back him, said he told Ayotte "no thank u" on a Cabinet post, Heck fell "like a lead balloon" & he wasn't sorry
— Julie Davis (@juliehdavis) November 22, 2016
Ayotte was ruled out because she was mildly critical of Trump but the guy who savaged him and teased the media with gossip of “bombshells” in Trump’s missing tax returns is okay?
Update: It’s worth saying, even though it should go without saying, that Trump picking Romney for State would be an especially encouraging sign about the success of his presidency because it’ll suggest that he’s willing to put pride aside for the good of the country. One thing to worry about with a strongman figure is vindictiveness towards his opponents. Putting Romney in the cabinet would be as dramatic a break from that as you could reasonably expect from Trump, short of him appointing Hillary Clinton to something.