Trump puts Mitt on limo roof
Farewell, Mitt Romney, farewell.
Romney, who once spent nearly a decade being rejected by the electorate, got the heave-ho from Donald Trump last week — passed over for the secretary of state nomination in favor of an oil executive who is great pals with Vladimir Putin.
It is, of course, extremely fashionable in Trump’s Washington to be great pals with Vladimir Putin. Also to be a general or a climate change denier. Romney was always suspicious of Russia, never served in the military, and although he came up with multiple positions on the environment over the years, he would still have been one of the only Trump nominees to have sporadically held an opinion that the globe was warming.
It’s not like the list of appointees doesn’t have variety. Rick Perry once competed in “Dancing With the Stars.” Linda McMahon, the new head of the Small Business Administration, is the only one who’s performed in a professional wrestling competition. McMahon is among the highest-ranking female nominees.
At the very tiptop, so far, is Elaine Chao, Trump’s pick for secretary of transportation. We failed to elect a woman president, but if Chao is confirmed, there will at least be a woman 13th in the line of succession.
On Wednesday, Trump named Romney’s niece as head of the Republican National Committee. Do you think that was an attempt to make Mitt feel better or worse? He had to think he’d get more than a job for his brother’s daughter.
During the campaign he had called Trump “a phony, a fraud,” and said some rather unflattering things about Trump University, Trump Magazine, Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks. But after the election, everything seemed fine and dandy. He was getting meetings with the president-elect, being dined (not wined; they’re both teetotalers) at a fancy Manhattan restaurant in front of half the national media.
Hard not to feel optimistic when the other apparent top finalists for state were David Petraeus, on probation for sharing military secrets with his mistress, and Rudy Giuliani, who had so come to resemble a bad-tempered Rottweiler that he did everything but howl at the moon.
After his big public dinner date with Trump, Romney burbled to reporters that they had a “discussion about affairs throughout the world, and these discussions I’ve had with him have been enlightening and interesting and engaging. I’ve enjoyed them very, very much.”
The man he’d denounced during the campaign, he added, had “a message of inclusion and bringing people together, and his vision is something which obviously connected with the American people in a very powerful way.” If you had asked Romney at that moment what he thought about Trump University, he’d probably have announced plans to enroll.
But then, whammo. He was passed over for Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, who seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Trump was moved by recommendations from Republican luminaries like former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice and Gates have a consulting firm that counts Tillerson’s company as a client, but that had nothing to do with their miraculous, totally coincidental and spontaneous decisions to drop his name.
Roger Stone, who frequently presents himself as a Friend of Trump, told a radio talk show host that the whole wooing of Mitt was just an effort to “torture” the former presidential candidate. Another theory is that Romney’s problem was a failure to apologize for those campaign insults.
It’s possible. Romney did once write a book called “No Apology.” However, given his track record, a better title might have been “No Apology Normally, Unless Something Else Happens.”
Should we feel sorry for him? He’d have been a more qualified pick than Tillerson. But Romney has been such a jerk during this election that it’s hard not to giggle.
He made a dramatic profile in courage out of his refusal to support Trump, but he didn’t have the spine to say that he’d be voting for Hillary. Instead, Romney straddled that swamp masquerading as moral high ground where he rejected everybody, took no responsibility for anybody, and therefore was no help at all.
Then, when the man he denounced as a fraud got elected, Mitt instantly was in the employment line, grinning and blowing kisses. Suddenly we were reminded of all the years of political shape-shifting, when Romney’s opinions on everything from gun control to health care changed with every twitch of the polls.
And, of course, he’s the guy who once drove to Canada with the family Irish setter strapped to the roof of the car. The worst part was his excuse — “my dog loves fresh air.” Somewhere, the spirit of Seamus is laughing.
GAIL COLLINS writes for The New York Times.