The knives are out for Mitt among his old primary nemeses. Last night Newt Gingrich dropped this on him:
“I can think of 20 other people who would be more naturally compatible with the Trump vision of foreign policy,” Gingrich told Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Gingrich said that Trump would have to consider whether Romney would be a secretary of state “in the John Kerry tradition” and whether the 2012 Republican presidential nominee would “represent the kind of tough-minded, America-first policies that Trump has campaigned on.”
He isn’t wrong. Russia hawk Romney is an odd fit given Trump’s impulse towards detente with Putin. The only way it makes sense strategically is if Trump’s team is worried about a revolt on the right over his foreign policy; making Romney the point man for a thaw with Moscow would reassure traditional conservatives that Trump’s not getting rolled. After all, surely Mitt would resign if he thought otherwise. (Wouldn’t he?) But maybe there is no grand strategy to the appointment beyond the facts that (a) Romney’s a respected elder statesman who fits the part, right out of “central casting,” and (b) including him in the administration would be a tremendous show of goodwill and magnanimity by Trump to his critics among movement conservatives.
But … what about all of the populist Trump voters who despise Romney as a rich “globalist” establishmentarian who knifed Trump publicly during the campaign at every turn? That’s where Huck comes in. Watch below as he claims that unless Mitt formally retracts what he said about Trump during the campaign, appointing him would be a betrayal of Trump fans. Why Huckabee should care more about loyalty to Trump than Trump himself is unclear to me; if Trump is a big enough man to choose Romney on merit, despite the bruises to his ego, you would think Huckabee would applaud him for it instead of complaining. But maybe there’s more to it than meets the eye. As with all Huckabee grumbles, despite his composure and geniality, there’s a distinct air of butthurt here. As it turns out, Trump offered him a cabinet slot too — but Huck says he turned it down because it wasn’t a good fit, which sounds suspiciously like “not important enough.” Which position was it? He won’t say, but here’s a clue from Huck advisor Hogan Gidley, speaking to Breitbart on November 14th:
“I have heard commerce may be one of them,” Gidley responded. “Potentially, secretary of state as well.”
“Remember, he’s been to every Middle Eastern country. He was friends with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even before he held elected office. He’s been going back and forth to Israel since he was 17-years-old multiple times per year, so he definitely has some knowledge of the world stage.”
Secretary of Commerce is a lesser cabinet slot typically handed to loyalists as a consolation prize. Secretary of State is a much bigger deal because it involves shaping U.S. foreign policy. Imagine Huckabee’s upset upon learning that, despite his support for Trump all year, State might be going to a Trump critic — and not just any critic but his old white-collar elitist rival, none other than Mitt Romney. No wonder he’s pissed off. He’d deny that any of this is true, I’m sure, and insist that he’s only looking out for the interests of Trump and his voters in saying all of this, but again: If Trump’s willing to forgive Romney because it’s in the best interest of the country, why wouldn’t anyone else? Frankly, it’d be one of the most impressive shows of character he’s made on the public stage so far.
He also grumbles a bit about Nikki Haley’s appointment as ambassador to the UN, which I don’t understand as much. Sure, she was also critical of Trump at times and her lack of diplomatic experience makes that an odd choice for her, but there are shrewd strategic reasons for moving Haley into the administration. (There are reasons of political patronage too.) Is there some backstory there too, or is Huck really this vindictive towards Trump critics? If you want the party united behind Trump, choosing someone like Haley is a nice bit of outreach by the transition team. You would think he’d acknowledge that, at least.
Update: Good point from a Twitter pal. Although hardcore Trumpers might hate Romney, many Republicans who ended up supporting Trump as a matter of party loyalty don’t. How many Trump voters were also Romney voters in 2012? The party is much, much bigger than movement conservatives, as we learned this year, but it’s bigger than devoted Trumpers too.