By Frank Bruni – The New York Times.
A show of hands, please: How many of you would like Donald Trump to step away — far away — from his Twitter account? I’m pretty sure I have a majority, but to be safe: How many can at least agree on no tweets before breakfast?
Yowza. I’m above 95 percent. Reince, you don’t have to nod wildly and jump up and down; the raised hand alone will do. And you get one hand, Melania, not two. Two is a real, provable case of voter fraud.
Thanks in part to the president-elect’s predilection for outbursts of fewer than 140 characters, he routinely comes across as petty and mercurial. But right now he has an opportunity for the opposite impression. He can choose Mitt Romney as his secretary of state.
That he’s actually mulling this — the two had a second meeting about it, over dinner in Manhattan, Tuesday night — is alone extraordinary. Trump knows how to carry a grudge the way Jim Brown knew how to carry a football, and Romney gave him cause for vengefulness, with a major speech during the Republican primaries that labeled him a fraud and exhorted Americans to reject him.
Had some knowledgeable intimate of Trump’s told me on Nov. 9 that an unexpected fate awaited Romney, the State Department would have been my millionth guess. The stockade would have been my first.
Granted, Romney’s résumé isn’t the most logical for the job. He has spent most of his life as a businessman, and his lone public office was governor of Massachusetts.
But not all our secretaries of state were steeped in foreign affairs from an early point, like Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice. Many had backgrounds principally devoted to other concerns. That was true of James Baker, who held the post under the first President Bush, and of Hillary Clinton, though she traveled the world as first lady and served on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Besides which, Romney isn’t competing against the entire universe of possibilities. He’s competing against Rudy Giuliani, who, over recent years, has done such a masterful impersonation of a raving lunatic that I doubt he could get seasonal retail work at the Container Store.
David Petraeus is also in play, but his supposed brilliance matters less in this case than his conviction for mishandling classified information. Picking him would brand Trump an utter hypocrite, given how vehemently he threatened to jail Clinton for related trespasses.
As for Senator Bob Corker, he’s a real Washington insider, unlike Romney, and doesn’t have the useful political celebrity that Clinton and then John Kerry brought to the position. Romney does.
Over his own two presidential campaigns, Romney became ever more fluent in international issues, and he even showed some prescience, identifying Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a grave menace before other politicians woke up to that. He was ridiculed for dwelling in the past. Turns out he was living in the future.
That wariness and his advocacy of free trade put him at odds with Trump but also make him a prudent counterbalance, if Trump can find the modesty and confidence to size up the situation that way. (That’s a big if.) So do Romney’s seriousness and unflappability. He’d temper Trump’s tantrums. Giuliani would just goad Trump on.
With Trump’s cabinet and staff picks so far, he has repaid his staunchest supporters. With Romney, he would be taking a more inclusive, conciliatory approach that befits his lack of any mandate, tries to move the country past such a divisive campaign and reassures jittery allies. It would be an open-minded, big-hearted, self-aware move that challenges Americans to see him in a more nuanced light. It would help him govern, by signaling that he’s bigger than his grievances.
It would also reward someone who seems to have the country’s best interests at heart. Romney, interestingly, would be following the example of his father, George, who went from Richard Nixon’s adversary to his housing secretary, because a person can arguably do more on the field, under a flawed coach, than on the sidelines, griping. A person can potentially steer the game in a better direction.
So there’s a Trump tweet I do hope to see, at whatever hour he likes: “Impressive dinner with Mitt Romney. I believe he can help us MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. He’s hired!”
This column has been updated to reflect news developments.