The Rom­ney in­fat­u­a­tion

Pres­i­dents usu­ally get their Cab­i­net choices, but some­times pay dearly for it

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY -

Every pres­i­dent de­serves a Cab­i­net of his own choos­ing, bar­ring ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances, and that in­cludes Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump. Every pres­i­dent, af­ter all, is held re­spon­si­ble for the suc­cess or fail­ure of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, and he by right is en­ti­tled to choose his team. But even the most pow­er­ful man in the world must be wary of mor­tally of­fend­ing the peo­ple who fought hard and long to put him where he stands. He will need them to fight with him again.

Mr. Trump con­tin­ues to au­di­tion can­di­dates for sec­re­tary of State, the most vis­i­ble of Cab­i­net mem­bers, and the fi­nal­ists seem to have been pared to three: Mitt Rom­ney, Rudy Gi­u­liani and David Pe­traeus. Or per­haps four, with Sen. Robert Corker of Ten­nessee as back-up. Each man has vis­i­ble strengths and even more vis­i­ble weak­nesses.

Mr. Trump may well have other can­di­dates in mind. He likes sur­prises. It’s hard to tell be­cause every time some­one boards the el­e­va­tor at Trump Tower spec­u­la­tion spikes afresh. Mitt Rom­ney has been up the el­e­va­tor twice, and he’s the fa­vorite of the badly wounded Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment that the Don­ald skew­ered with such brawn and glee through­out the cam­paign.

Mr. Rom­ney in turn sav­aged Don­ald Trump, call­ing him “a fraud” and “a phony,” “un­qual­i­fied,” and other un­pleas­ant things. That he is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion at all demon­strates the re­mark­able for­bear­ance and will­ing­ness to let by­gones be by­gones that Trump crit­ics said the pres­i­dent-elect does not have.

Rudy Gi­u­liani cam­paigned hard and long for Mr. Trump, and if loy­alty alone counted he would be the man, but cer­tain busi­ness con­flicts might make con­fir­ma­tion dif­fi­cult. Any pres­i­dent would like to have David Pe­traeus at his side, but he would be an invit­ing tar­get for Democrats, hav­ing been fined $100,000 and put on pro­ba­tion for two years for se­cu­rity vi­o­la­tions sim­i­lar, if smaller in scope, to those that brought down Hil­lary Clin­ton. The gen­eral, an au­then­tic hero of the wars in Iraq, is re­garded by gun own­ers as weak on the Sec­ond Amend­ment, though do­mes­tic con­cerns are not usu­ally the con­cerns of a sec­re­tary of State.

Bob Corker, chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, could be the fourth fi­nal­ist only be­cause he’s the last man stand­ing with friendly con­nec­tions to the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment. Like Mr. Rom­ney, he had harsh things to say about the Don­ald dur­ing the cam­paign, and is the dark horse.

Any of these men, save Mitt Rom­ney, would be ac­cept­able to con­ser­va­tives once the shout­ing dies. But Mr. Rom­ney’s an­gry broad­sides against not only Don­ald Trump, but at the men and women who sup­ported him through the smoke and din of the cam­paign, have ren­dered him un­ac­cept­able to mil­lions of con­ser­va­tives. He is re­garded by them as the man whose chok­ing in the race against Barack Obama in 2012, par­tic­u­larly in the sec­ond de­bate when he failed to con­front mod­er­a­tor Candy Crow­ley’s res­cue of Mr. Obama’s fum­bling an­swer to a ques­tion, cost the Repub­li­cans the pres­i­dency.

Nom­i­nees for sec­re­taries of State rarely at­tract such ire. But oc­ca­sion­ally one does. The anger over the prospec­tive Rom­ney choice re­calls Allen Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-win­ning novel, “Ad­vise and Con­sent,” and the sub­se­quent Acad­emy Award­win­ning movie of that name, about the con­fir­ma­tion of a sec­re­tary of State who had been a youth­ful mem­ber of the Com­mu­nist Party. De­tails in the novel were thought by some to be a thin dis­guise of real peo­ple and events, though the au­thor in­sisted it was not. This time the con­tro­versy over a nom­i­na­tion is not about loy­alty to coun­try, but loy­alty to a cause.

The pres­i­dent in “Ad­vise and Con­sent” ul­ti­mately pre­vailed, as pres­i­dents nearly al­ways do, but in this event Don­ald Trump, wise as he may be but with no ex­pe­ri­ence in the high-oc­tane pol­i­tics of Wash­ing­ton, could pay dearly for his in­fat­u­a­tion with an at­trac­tive loser who does, as the Don­ald says, “look like a sec­re­tary of State.” But looks, as the pres­i­dent-elect might learn, can de­ceive.

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