The news, as always, came via Twitter.
Mitt Romney, the face — and voice — of the resistance to Donald Trump in the Republican primary and the general election, will huddle with the president-elect over the weekend to talk about possibly serving as the nation’s top diplomat.
It’s possible, of course, that this meeting is solely for show. After all, Trump isn’t exactly someone who forgives and forgets. And Romney has significant policy disagreements with the president-elect — most notably on how they view Russia. (Romney has said Russia is “our number one geopolitical foe.” Trump has, um, not.)
Plus, the Trump transition team seems committed to floating every person who has ever been a Republican of any renown as a potential Cabinet appointee. (You can keep track of the various names and slots here.) Philip Bump got it right with this diagram:
So, yes, this could all be just a giant feint in the ongoing reality show that is “Donald Trump, President.”
But, what if it isn’t?
If Trump is willing to actually offer Romney the secretary of state job and Romney is actually willing to take it, it would represent a major coup for the president-elect. Why?
1. Romney is a serious and highly respected, card-carrying member of the Republican establishment.
2. Per above, Romney has made no secret of his disagreements — both personally and on policy matters — with Trump.
3. It would settle the nerves of the millions of people who didn’t vote for Trump as to what sort of president he might be.
The biggest question — for all of official Washington — is whether Trump can get beyond his own personal grievances and loyalty pledges to focus on doing what is best for the country over the next four years. Who he picks for his key Cabinet posts — and secretary of state is one of the most critical — is a key early indicator of where Trump’s mind is.
Picking Romney — or even South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another prominent critic with whom Trump met Thursday — would show something that was sorely lacking in Donald Trump the candidate: magnanimity. A willingness to pick the person he thinks is best for the job, not just someone who was unfailingly loyal to him during the campaign. Someone who might challenge his assumptions or opinions from time to time. An equal, not a lackey.
Again, this would, largely, run counter to how Trump ran his presidential campaign. But that would also make picking Romney all the more powerful a symbol. Campaigns are one thing, Trump would be saying, but being president is another. I want to be surrounded by the best people for the job — no matter what we said about each other in the past.
This is, of course, the whole “Team of Rivals” concept that garnered President Obama so much good press in his own transition period back in late 2008. Trump has further to go — a lot further to go — than Obama did to heal the rifts within his own party and answer doubts about his readiness to do the job to which he was elected. But the Romney meeting is a step in the right direction. Getting Romney to sign on would be an even bigger one.