There has been a massive level of rumormongering about the possibility that Mitt Romney would be appointed Secretary of State. The Trump transition team seems to be cooling to the idea:
Receiving deluge of social media & private comms re: Romney Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as sec of state https://t.co/HDtpjeJTc3
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) November 24, 2016
Conway is receiving good input, albeit, in may cases for the wrong reasons. Mitt Romney would be a horrible choice for secretary of state. Not because he doesn’t have the talent or experience or character to succeed as America’s top diplomat but because he would be a terrible fit with the Trump administration.
Romney and Trump are not close. Romney, in fact, is probably not close to anyone on Trump’s team. This is a critical fact. Increasingly, foreign policy is set by the National Security Council. State has input there but the actual decisions are made in the White House. The only influence a secretary of state has over foreign policy is if he has a close personal relationship with the president. The odds are that the chemistry between Trump and Romney would resemble that between Bush and Colin Powell and for a lot of the same reasons.
Romney and Trump do not share a common worldview. I’m saying this with the realization that Trump’s view of the world is remarkably unformed for a 70-year-old man with extensive business dealings overseas, but Romney, to draw in broad strokes, is internationalist and free trade in orientation, Trump is nationalist and protectionist. This different worldview could be a good thing if Romney and Trump were close. They aren’t and so it sets the stage for unending sniping and outright warfare between the foreign policy establishment (which Romney will fit in with nicely) and Trump’s NSC (where Romney will not fit in) on everything from NATO to NAFTA.
Romney and Trump have different and competing power centers within the GOP. Those power centers, again in broad strokes, the country class vs establishment class, have been fighting each other since at least 2010 and the war shows no indication of abating. While the principals will probably do what they can to work together, the people the principals represent don’t have the same interest. The Romney people will have a vested interest in criticizing decisions made by Trump’s people and vice versa. The media, in particular, will focus on differences between the two camps to sell an “administration in disarray” story.
Removing Romney would be painful. You should never hire someone you can’t fire. As George Bush found out with Colin Powell, if the relationship doesn’t work out, you are pretty much stuck with it for four years. Romney has national prominence and is not beholding to Trump in any way, he has no incentive to support Trump when he disagrees and firing him would be a public relations nightmare.
Does Romney really want to bet his reputation on serving in a Trump administration? The Trump administration may be wildly successful. But I would say the smart money is betting that Trump is the focus of one ethical scandal after another. Anyone serving in this administration, if it plays out the way I fear, is going to suffer some damage.
I think Romney would have made a superb secretary of state in a Cruz or Rubio or Walker or Bush administration but the frictions between Trump and his coalition and Romney and the segment of the GOP he represents are simply too stark and significant for this relationship to work out.