Advisers in the Donald Trump transition team are wary of the president-elect favoring former Republican nominee Mitt Romney for the post of secretary of state. These insiders include Trump adviser (and former campaign manager) Kellyanne Conway.
Conway’s too-public concern is Romney’s staunch opposition to the Trump candidacy during the campaign, as opposed to prospective appointee Rudy Giuliani (who supported Trump for president from the beginning). Romney’s opposition to the Trump candidacy went beyond the nomination to the general election.
Alas, politics is not conducive to temperament. And a mature adviser to Trump should accept this reality. The animosity between Trump and Romney during the campaign was a two-way street. In accepting the post of secretary of state, Romney would have just as much acrimony to overlook as would Trump.
There is precedent for a president of the United States and a secretary of state having to overcome prior sentiments. Look no further than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama was a strong supporter of Clinton during this past year’s campaign. And as president, he had a good relationship with Clinton as secretary of state.
But during the Democratic primaries in 2008, when both Obama and Clinton were running for the Democratic presidential nomination, the two resorted to very personal criticism of each other.
Most ironic is that Conway has cited the Nixon-Kissinger relationship as an example for Trump to emulate. She has stated that Nixon chose Kissinger as his secretary of state because the latter was “loyal.” Conway has also praised Kissinger because he “flew around the world less, counseled POTUS close to home more.”
To be sure, Nixon and Kissinger were unique in conducting a foreign policy tandem. But Nixon tapped Kissinger first as his national security adviser in 1969 and did not appoint him to the post of secretary of state until 1973 (with less than a year to go in his presidency). Moreover, Kissinger was very much a globe-trotting figure who personified the term “Shuttle Diplomacy.”
But Conway is even more off base in her praise for Kissinger’s so-called “loyal” predisposition. Truth be told, prior to the 1968 election, Kissinger had intense contempt for Nixon, going so far as to say he was “unfit to be president.”
Not that Nixon held Kissinger in mutual contempt. But it is important to note that, as a professor at Harvard, Kissinger was a member of the “Eastern Establishment,” an establishment for which Nixon had unambiguous disdain.
The president-elect has to look more to the future than the past in selecting a secretary of state. And the country Trump is going to attempt to lead is very much divided. The transition is a time for the president-elect to strive for unity.
And if Trump cannot unite once-hostile Republicans, how can he unite the country?
John O’Neill is a writer based in Allen Park.