Kellyanne Conway smacks Romney: The price of party unity shouldn’t be the Secretary of State position
It’s tremendously bad form for Trump’s inner circle to be airing its debates over personnel on national television. Why knife Romney when he’s still in contention for the job, knowing that you might have to defend his selection in interviews literally tomorrow? As Twitter pal Cuffy Meigs said, anyone considering a job in the administration who’s watching this play out “would be insane to jump in this snake pit.”
One theory of why Conway’s doing this publicly is that she knows TV is an effective way to reach her boss. If that explains it, we’re in deep trouble. Trump’s own campaign manager should be able to make her point to him without feeling she needs to commandeer a broadcast network’s cameras. And she has made her point to him privately, or so she says.
If it’s true that she’s trying to “send Trump a message” by attacking Romney publicly, Trump should think very carefully about whether he wants her as press secretary, a job for which she’s allegedly the frontrunner. The daily briefing would shift from an opportunity for the press to ask questions of the White House to an odd spectacle of tea-leaf-reading in which the media tries to figure out whether Conway’s answers represent Trump’s actual positions or positions she (and maybe Steve Bannon) are trying to get him to adopt.
The real reason she’s punching Romney in the face, I think, is that she’s trying to get him to withdraw “voluntarily” from consideration for the job. That’s the only way to ensure that Trump won’t pick him. Trump must have been pretty impressed with him after their meeting to still be thinking of nominating him given the volume of opposition within his own team, with Conway and Bannon both apparently opposed, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee badmouthing Romney at every opportunity, and Rudy Giuliani desperately wanting the job. Making this process as painful as possible for Mitt, to the point where he finally drops out for fear of having to spend four years working with these vipers, might be the last chance for Conway et al. to stop Trump from choosing him. That’s not to say that her criticism of him is untrue (although the part about Romney backing Evan McMullin seems to be) — Romney wasn’t just disloyal to Trump, he was viciously critical — but John Podhoretz is right that there’s no reason to think Romney requested the post-election meeting. Why would he, expecting that Trump would use the session to gloat and call Mitt a “loser” to his face? In all likelihood Trump invited Romney and Mitt felt obliged to accept knowing that he’d look small and vindictive if he didn’t. It’s to Trump’s credit that he apparently didn’t use the meeting to gloat but rather to let bygones be bygones, and even to consider Romney for a job. If you’re mad that Mitt’s suddenly up for a plum position after having done nothing to help Trump win, I don’t blame you. But you’re mad at the wrong guy.
The alternative, I guess, is that Romney’s never really been under consideration and that Conway’s doing this at Trump’s behest, using the fakey consideration Mitt’s supposedly getting for State as a pretext to stomp him like this in the media. I find myself in the odd position as a longtime Trump critic of believing that not even Trump would be that cynical. We’ll see. Exit question: Of all the people to go on TV and lecture about loyalty to Trump, how did we end up with Conway doing it? She started off the campaign at a pro-Cruz Super PAC and attacked Trump at various points in the primaries during her television appearances. She lateraled over to Trump, in all probability, at the behest of the Mercers, who were funding the Cruz Super PAC she worked for and have been major players in Trump’s campaign this year. If you want to task a staffer with some public finger-wagging about loyalty, get Reince Priebus to do it. Anti-Trumpers were howling at him and the RNC to oppose Trump since last year, yet Reince remained firmly in the tank throughout. He’s got more loyalty cred at this point than Conway has. Anyway, three (very) short clips for you below.