This past weekend, Kellyanne Conway and Newt Gingrich made headlines for criticizing Mitt Romney. Both advised President-elect Trump against choosing the former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee as his Secretary of State. Romney is currently being considered for the position, despite previously calling Trump a phony and a fraud. According to Conway, his loyalty is in question because he “went out of his way to hurt Trump.”
Regardless of their past, Romney would make a great Secretary of State, and Trump would do well in choosing him.
Mitt Romney has a solid understanding of foreign policy. No one can forget during the 2012 debate when he prophetically warned of Russia’s rise as “the next geopolitical threat”—a statement that immediately earned him mockery from President Obama.
Today, no one is laughing as Russia works to undermine U.S. interests abroad and threatens our allies. The Baltic states live in fear as Putin knocks on their door. Romney understands the need for America’s leadership in light of present circumstances. His selection as Secretary of State would signal that a Trump administration will proactively lead in light of Russia and China’s expansionist tendencies.
President-elect Trump made irresponsible comments on NATO during the campaign. Sending Romney to Foggy Bottom would send a strong message: The United States still stands with her allies. Brent Budowsky, in his piece for The Hill, describes well how a Romney selection would ameliorate the current sense of insecurity:
“From Romney’s point of view, America needs to be tougher with Putin, not even more accommodating, than Obama has been. From Trump’s point of view, he would send a signal to our allies, our military, Congress and Putin that he wants better relations with Russia but will take a tough negotiating position that any commander in chief should take to defend our security.”
From a leadership perspective, the principal question is whether Trump can trust Romney to be loyal. Every relationship hinges on trust, and it is in every American’s interest that Trump and his Secretary of State have a solid working relationship.
First, it is important to note that Trump clearly recognizes Romney’s talent. The fact that Romney is still being considered after his comments shows that Trump respects him. Perhaps their mutual background in business has opened avenues for understanding.
Regardless, it’s true that Romney made less-than-friendly comments towards Trump during the late stages of the primary season. If their partnership is going to work, both men will have to come to such an understanding. However, Trump would be responsible for gaining Romney’s trust, not the other way around. Romney would serve his position honorably and in good faith. Moreover, the fact that he criticized Trump might actually put both of them in a good position. As Dan McLaughlin writes in his piece for the National Review,
“If Trump is willing to hire Romney, that speaks well of his intent to be magnanimous and, perhaps, a little humility about the need to hire people who can bring something to the table rather than just yes-men.”
Critics of Romney would point out that he doesn’t have a background in foreign policy. There is, nonetheless, precedent for success despite a lack of experience. At the end of the day, Romney would reassure U.S. allies, be a unifying nod to the Republican establishment, and bring a level of professionalism and leadership that would benefit Trump.
Let’s not forget: The man could have been running the show.