Donald Trump’s political rise within the GOP was unprecedented, but, so, too, was the equally-remarkable fall from grace suffered by the party’s former standard-bearer, Mitt Romney.
That the latter’s unceremonious fall came at the hands of the former goes to show that politics is not for the faint of heart.
As we all know by now, Donald Trump has approached the filling of his Cabinet positions as if the process is an Apprentice-esque stage production, with Cabinet contenders streaming in and out of Trump Tower past the gathered media, as Trump’s tweets reveal his staff preferences. No cabinet position was more publicly and theatrically discussed than the position of secretary of state. Rudy Giuliani and Gen. David Petraeus were among the prominent interviewees for the job, but it was Trump’s supposed serious consideration of Mitt Romney that raised the most eyebrows inside and outside Trump’s orbit.
Mitt Romney is, of course, the anti-Trump and during the campaign season he served as a symbolic head of the “Never Trump” movement. At the height of the Republican primary race, Romney delivered a highly-publicized speech that lambasted Trump in a manner that is uncommon in intraparty politics, especially among two individuals not running against one another. Romney called Trump a “phony,” “a fraud,” and a “con man,” while raising questions about his morality and his inflated business success.
Suffice it to say that the feeling was mutual on the Trump side during the campaign. During the campaign, Trump called Romney a “fool” who “totally blew the election,” in addition to a long list of other insults.
Romney, the quintessential establishment Republican, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the presidency, was loathed by Trump and his inner circle. He represented everything they were not. A moderate, a RINO, and, most importantly, a loser. Just weeks ago, when Romney’s name was near the top of Trump’s desired secretary of state list, Kellyanne Conway – a top Trump advisor – trashed Romney publicly and implied that his campaign comments against Trump more than disqualified him for a Cabinet post.
So, given all this, why then did Trump so publicly entertain the idea of granting Romney the top position in his Cabinet? Well, a prevailing theory is that Romney was never under serious consideration, at all, and Trump was simply using the opportunity to humiliate publicly a political rival and further thumb his nose at the establishment. Trump ally, Roger Stone, gave credence to this theory in a recent interview, with InfoWars’ Alex Jones, in which Stone claimed that Trump interviewed Romney “in order to torture him.”
While all that may be true, Romney himself may be the one who actually got the last laugh. It’s been reported by multiple media outlets that Trump just wanted one thing out of Romney during his public courtship of the secretary of state position – an apology. Romney evidently refused to grovel in such a manner, a fact made all the more humorous when you consider that Romney once penned a book titled, No Apology.
No matter what the eventual ends were to justify the respective parties’ means, the political calculus from Romney’s end is, indeed, curious. By appearing so publicly desperate to become a part of the Trump administration – and ultimately being denied – Romney, in effect, neutered himself politically. He is now in a position where he can’t criticize the incoming administration and be taken seriously, since he once sought to become a part of said administration.
By taking such a strong stance against Trump in the campaign, Romney set himself up politically to be a principled conservative voice who would be a check on any perceived overreaches from a Trump administration. Instead, as he has done for much of his political life, Romney made the wrong political calculation and proved himself to be the misguided political opportunist that we’ve long known him to be.
Sam was raised in our nation’s capitol and, for as long as he can remember, has always been an avid political junkie. In a former life, he worked as a staffer to a U.S. Senator. He now works as an economic development consultant in Atlanta, but moonlights as a freelance political writer as a way to scratch his political “itch.” He is a regular contributor to Political Storm.