The mystery in Donald Trump’s vetting of Mitt Romney for the position of Secretary of State has seemed to come down to one question: Is Trump trying to humiliate Romney, or does he actually want him as Secretary of State?
Maybe the answer is: both.
Does Trump actually want Romney? Maybe! He “looks the part” — plus, what better way is there for Trump to show Romney who is the alpha male? As for the “apology” Trump is supposedly demanding, Trump may be savvy enough to know that he doesn’t need to demand it. The first time Secretary of State Romney faces questioners from Big Media, they’ll ask him: Hey, didn’t you say “Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark”? Didn’t you call him an unstable bully? And Romney will have to smile and squirm and kind of walk it back, a little.
So yeah, maybe Trump does want Romney after all.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not trying to humiliate him.
Part of my evidence for the theory that Trump was trying to embarrass Romney was my belief that Conway had permission to “go rogue.” As I said yesterday: “I don’t think Kellyanne Conway breathes without instructions.” As noted earlier this morning by Dan Spencer, the Trump campaign has confirmed that Conway asked permission before laying into Romney publicly. The New York Times has further details:
Mr. Trump, in a statement emailed Monday evening by his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said: “Kellyanne came to me and asked whether or not she could go public with her thoughts on the matter. I encouraged her to do so. Most importantly she fully acknowledged there is only one person that makes the decision. She has always been a tremendous asset and that will continue.”
But wait! Who really wrote that statement?
@benshapiro This does not sound like Trump. There are complete sentences in this statement. Who really wrote it?
— Karen, Proud Texan (@kleegrubaugh) November 29, 2016
"Write this: 'Kellyanne asked me whether she could go public with her concerns about Romney'…Mr. Trump, there's no space in 'Kellyanne.'" pic.twitter.com/PXrWie9Ub6
— Patterico (@Patterico) November 29, 2016
The NYT claims that Conway took the initiative and did not act on specific instructions from Trump to criticize Romney. She asked permission to express her concerns and he granted it . . . or so the Trump folks say. And that may be — but just because they make the claim, doesn’t mean it’s true. These people lie as easily as they breathe.
At a minimum, let’s just say that Trump . . . was not displeased to see one of his main critics trashed on “the shows.”
The Times claims that “little in Mr. Trump’s universe is simple.” Perhaps there is a more complex answer to the question: Does Trump really want Romney, or does he just want Romney to be humiliated? Maybe the answer is a little of both.
But maybe the answer is simple after all. Maybe, as with so many areas of public policy, the answer is that Trump has no idea what he wants.