The Trump Administration has been facing difficulties filling foreign policy slots in the president-elect’s cabinet — and his surrogates aren’t helping.
Trump voiced an interest in bringing Mitt Romney, a campaign-long critic of his, on board as Secretary of State. Over a week ago, Trump met with Romney about that very point. Since then, there has been no indication that Romney will or will not take that spot from either him or Trump.
What has happened is an expression of frustration with Romney. It began with Governor Mike Huckabee, who said that nominating Romney would be “a real insult” to Trump voters. He went on to say that the only way Romney could get the Secretary of State nod would be to repudiate everything about Trump he’d said.
So Mitt, who was not a candidate in 2016 and had nothing to gain personally by opposing Trump, would have to take back his apparently genuine opinions and sacrifice his intellectual integrity.
There are a couple of reasons why Romney might meet with Trump about taking a place in the administration of a man he considers unfit for the office. First, he may be interested in unity and magnanimity. Trump himself showed an uncharacteristic amount in considering Romney for the position. Some level of reconciliation might be healthy.
Second, Romney may want to influence the administration and the country in what he sees as the right direction. In the foreign policy arena, most experienced Republicans have indicated that they want nothing to do with Trump. Indeed, over a hundred right-of-center foreign policy experts signed a letter saying that they would even work to prevent his election.
Trump has few knowledgeable, conservative foreign policy experts left to work with. That’s largely his own fault, but if he can’t find any to appoint, he may turn to people who are ignorant, naive or who have terrible ideas. Romney is likely aware of this and, like many others who were Never Trump, hope that Trump can be steered in a constructive direction.
While Donald himself seems to have curtailed some of his internecine tendencies, his surrogates seem to have picked up the slack. Newt Gingrich responded to the idea that Romney should apologize, which Huckabee and others have voiced, saying “there is nothing Romney can say that doesn’t sound phony or frankly pathetic.”
So there goes that angle of reconciliation.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway took to Twitter and CNN to voice personal concerns about Romney as Secretary of State. She questioned his credentials for the job, which might be a legitimate concern, but argued the point by asking rhetorically what Romney has done over the past four years around the globe on behalf of the United States.
Conway did not ask rhetorically what Donald Trump has done his entire life on behalf of the United States that is relevant to the job of chief executive. Neither proves Trump or Romney are unqualified for the respective positions, but Conway shows an extraordinary amount of pointless inconsistency.
It seems that she and Gingrich — and, to a lesser extent, Huckabee — have not gotten the memo that the Trump transition needs to be at least somewhat practical. They instead continue the practice of alienating Republicans whose expertise they need. (Eliot Cohen provides one example of that very thing.)
I, like many others who voiced concerns about Donald Trump, hope that he proves us wrong — that he will prove to be a unifier and make wise policy choices. So far, on the foreign policy side of the cabinet, little has been done to ease those concerns.
If Mitt Romney has not already decided against being Secretary of State, I imagine he will. At this point, why would he still want it?