Throughout the 2016 Republican nominating process and the just-concluded general-election campaign, Mitt Romney stood out as one of Donald Trump’s harshest critics. The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate was a charter member of the Never Trump brigade. Romney questioned Trump’s integrity, his competence, and his temperament in unambiguous terms. Trump responded in kind. “He’s a loser,” Trump said of Romney at a May rally in Anaheim, California. “He choked like a dog . . . and he walks like a penguin onto the stage. Did you ever see? Like a penguin!”
Now comes news that Romney will meet with the president-elect this weekend to discuss the possibility of becoming Trump’s secretary of state. If true, it’s surely one of the most unexpected political reversals in modern history. It might also work, both for Trump and the country.
Appointing Romney as his chief diplomat would make Trump look strategic, high-minded, and gracious in victory. It would likely calm the nerves of American allies around the globe, who might prefer Romney to more hardline candidates whose names have been mentioned, such as John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani. It would also play well at home: Romney’s reputation has rebounded among Democrats, some of whom now regret their over-the-top demonizing of him in the 2012 campaign. A Secretary of State Romney could be all upside for President Trump.
What does Romney get out of it? In a heavily covered speech in March, the former GOP nominee predicted that a Trump presidency would lead to economic recession and that Trump’s bombastic style would complicate America’s ability to project power. “Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart,” said Romney. “I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.” Statements like that are hard to misinterpret. Were Romney to take a job in the Trump administration, he’d have to find a way to explain those comments.
At 69, Mitt Romney is unlikely ever to hold elective office again. If he still wants to serve in government, this could be his last chance. It’s clear that Romney cares deeply about the United States and its future (even Democrats can admit that now). Accepting Donald Trump’s offer to become secretary of state, should it come, might be the best gift he can give his country.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images