Mitt Romney for Secretary of State
Donald Trump and Mitt Romney: political allies? Now there is an idea I never thought I would put to paper or pixel. And yet, there it is.
Proving that anything is possible in American politics, Team Trump is contemplating the 2012 Republican nominee for president as the next Secretary of State. Despite a war of words between both men that seemed more personal than political, President-elect Trump now seems poised to make amends with one of his harshest critics, hosting him yesterday at his New Jersey golf course for what seems was a substantive discussion of world affairs.
Clearly such discussions are warranted. The post, which would make Romney America’s chief diplomat, is of supreme importance -- Trump must consider the appointment very carefully. The world is replete with challenges: The Islamic State is still a major threat, Russia can cause huge problems in Ukraine and Syria, and China wants to dominate the Asia-Pacific. The new administration will come into office on day one needing the most talented men and women it can recruit.
By whatever metric Trump may choose to judge, Mitt Romney is clearly the best candidate for the job. The reasons, when considered from a pragmatic and non-political standpoint, are clear. I would offer three key points for why Trump could make no better choice than Mitt Romney:
1. Trump Would Be Offering the Ultimate Olive Branch to #NeverTrump
Just weeks ago this seemed impossible, but successfully tabbing Romney for this key position would signal a cease-fire in what many have called the Republican civil war. While clearly Romney and Trump won’t be on the same page on all global issues, Trump would prove that he is gracious in victory, can work with past rivals, and is willing to listen to Republicans from all perspectives. He would be setting his administration on a path of inclusion and openness, showing that he is a pragmatic leader and that the good of the country is his greatest wish -- moving past the heated rhetoric of the campaign.
2. If America Is a “Brand,” There Is No Better Brand Ambassador Than Mitt
As someone who has worked in professional communications and helped build and maintain brands for a living, I can tell you with some certainty that it is no easy task. Donald Trump needs critically to communicate the important message that while he may take some detours in his overall foreign policy approach, the core of America’s foreign policy “brand” -- backing critical allies, maintaining global order, ensuring our commitments are backed up by action -- is secure.
There could be no better ambassador for America’s national interests than the former governor -- his appointment would signal to the world that Washington’s brand remains intact. World leaders know former Gov. Romney as a man of his word, as someone who understands global issues. His preparation for multiple presidential runs ensures he has a strong grasp of the challenges America has faced over a long stretch of time. He also has a wealth of key former staffers he can turn to for advice and counsel at a moment's notice.
3. On The Most Critical Issue, They Share a Similar Vision
While both men just several months ago seemed to be worlds apart, there is good reason to believe that Trump and Romney’s core national security philosophies are cut from the same cloth.
Take for example the most important issue for many national security and foreign policy wonks, that of rebuilding the American military, and specifically the Navy. Gov. Romney and President-elect Trump both agree that U.S. forces are stretched too thin and don’t have the resources they need to provide for the common defense, and have specifically called for a much larger and more robust Navy. Both men take to heart the time-honored words that peace can only come from strength.
To be fair, there may be differences. Take for example Russia. Trump has made it very clear he sees an opportunity to work with Moscow where our interests intersect, even signaling the possibility of some sort of detente-style easing of tensions. Romney famously called Russia in 2012 “our greatest geopolitical foe.” Can such positions be reconciled? I would argue that Moscow might be willing to deal on a host of issues, considering the precarious nature of its economy thanks to sanctions, low oil prices, and demographic trends that won’t be easy to reverse. Having Romney as Secretary of State, knowing his tough stance on Russia’s actions over the last several years, might create some worries in the Kremlin but could also give Trump the political cover he needs to make some tough deals, either now or down the line. There's an old Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.” So too could be the case for a Secretary of State Romney in dealing with Russia.
Would He Say Yes?
But would Romney even take the job, after years of service to his country and multiple bruising presidential wars that can wear out even the best of us? On MSNBC before the big meeting on Saturday, former Romney senior adviser Robert C. O’Brien said that in his opinion, Romney would be willing to serve the nation one more time. We can only hope he is right.