When Duty Calls: Romney in a Trump Administration

Tom Warwick

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

-Edmund Burke

In early March, during the midst of the Republican Presidential Primary, Mitt Romney took the stage at the University of Utah to deliver a speech which chided Donald Trump for “lacking the temperament, business record, and substantive policies to occupy the White House.” Governor Romney warned that “if we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.”  He went on to describe Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.” Romney highlighted Trump’s “vulgar” behavior and warned that his “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”  Romney urged voters to vote for literally anyone else in order to save the party, and the country, from itself.  He became the face of the Never Trump movement.  Nine months later, Trump’s transition team has announced that Romney is under “active and serious consideration” to serve as Secretary of State.  

This rather surprising announcement came out a few hours before Romney, Trump, and Vice President-Elect Pence met at Trump’s National Golf Club.  Almost immediately questions began to arise as to how someone who so thoroughly denounced Trump could betray his previous convictions and serve in the administration.  While from the principled victory standpoint, this argument makes sense, I contest that this nation – and the principles raised by Romney in March – will be better served by Romney accepting the position. As Secretary of State, Romney would bring genuine executive governing experience to a wildly unqualified administration, he would be a signal to our allies of normalizing relations, and most importantly, he would help to diminish the potency of Trump’s hate filled echo chamber.

Although often ridiculed by his opponents in the 2012 Presidential election, Romney’s executive experience – both in and out of government – is top notch.  Unlike Trump, who inherited his business from his father and then proceeded to slap his name on anything that moved *cough* Trump Steaks *cough,* Romney built his empire, Bain Capital, from the ground up.  In time, Romney would lead the “shaky start-up from a staff of seven people managing $37 million to over a thousand people managing billions in assets.”  By the end of Romney’s twenty-five year tenure, the firm would, on average, double its return on realized investments each year; the success directly attributed to Romney’s guiding hand and managing style.  A few year later, Romney would leave Bain Capital to take on an even more ambitious project – Saving the 2000 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. 

In the late 1990s scandal had forced several members of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee to quit and the local Mayor to step down.  This scandal resulted in a large “crisis of confidence” which spooked corporate sponsors, athletes, and the local community. With less than two years until the opening ceremonies, the games were in chaos.  Romney, who had ties to the area, was called in from Boston to clean up the mess. Under Romney’s leadership, the Olympic committee, which had about a $1.3 billion operating budget, ultimately brought in tens of millions in profits and the games proceeded as scheduled

After the success in Salt Lake, Romney re-entered politics and was elected Governor of Massachusetts.  As Governor, Romney oversaw a major overall of the Massachusetts health care system.  He is credited with “negotiating a very complex situation, and he worked out a brilliant deal, at the end, with the Democratic leadership.” The result has been broadly popular and is largely considered a success. In a lengthy examination of Romneycare last year, the Globe called it “a revolution that basically worked,” securing coverage for the vast majority of the state’s residents “without devastating state finances.” While Romney would ultimately attempt to distance himself from the accomplishment as he faced challenges from the far-right, his experience remains.

Time and again Romney has demonstrated that he knows how to run an organization, and perhaps more importantly, how to run a bureaucracy.  Compared with the rest of President-Elect Trump’s appointments, most of whom have only legislative experience, and many of whom have no governing experience at all, Romney will be able to provide important advice and insights that will help to keep (at least some parts of) our government functional.

During the campaign Donald Trump made several comments that, in addition to showing his ignorance to the workings of foreign policy, left many of our allies unsure about the future of relations with the United States. While his assertions that Japan and South Korea should have nuclear weapons and that the level of protection provided by the United States should be based on monetary reward have shaken our allies, Trump’s blind spot when dealing with Russia and Vladimir Putin is the top concern. This Russian blind spot is one that is not shared by Governor Romney.  Throughout the 2012 presidential election, Governor Romney asserted that Russia was perhaps the biggest geopolitical threat facing the United States. He persisted with this view, even after President Obama tagged him in a debate as being outdated, that we could not look at Russia or Putin through rose colored glasses, and recent history has validated Governor Romney’s views. Just a few months after the 2016 election, Russia invaded the Ukraine and, at press time, still control a significant portion of the eastern front. As Chief Diplomat, so long as Trump would be willing to listen, Romney would be in a position to provide a clear-eyed analysis of Russian intentions. 

Perhaps the most compelling reason for Mitt Romney to accept the Secretary of State position, and presumably the most likely reason as to why it would not be offered to him, is that it would add a dissenting voice to the team Trump has been creating. Throughout the campaign and the transition process, Donald Trump has made overtures to neo-Nazis, racists, sexists, xenophobes, homophobes, and every other shade of intolerance that has so inconspicuously been labeled the “alt-right.” Trump’s decision to appoint people like Jeff Sessions and Stephen Bannon further demonstrates the tone of the advice he will be receiving in the oval office. America needs someone in the “room where it happens” that can serve as a voice of reason.  While Mitt Romney may not be the knight in shining armor, we can at least trust him to be the dissenting voice in a conversation on Muslim-registries or whatever other disgusting slime oozes out of the latest issue of Breitbart.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Trump offers Romney the position, or that Romney would even accept it.  Romney, who served as a punching bag for Trump, other Republicans, the Democrats, and the national news media over the last sixteen years; and he certainly has a lot of incentives to stay at home and play with his grandchildren. However, if the opportunity presents itself, Governor Romney would best serve his “Never Trump” conservative ideals by accepting. Romney would be able to serve as the first line of defense against the concerns he has expressed about Trump from within the administration. The concerns Governor Romney expressed about the President-Elect are no less true today than they were when he expressed them in March.  Serving in the administration would provide Romney, and presumably the staff he brings with him, the opportunity to cool Trump’s temperament, build on his own successful business experience, and propose substantive policies. Simultaneously he would be serving his party well by showing that there is a future for  Republicans outside of Trump, and be adding to his own considerable legacy as a bridge builder. While there is a real concern of “normalizing” Trump and his rhetoric, I believe that the larger threat exists in allowing his team to operate unchecked. America needs an advocate in this administration, and it’s looking like Mitt Romney  might be our best hope.

Photo Credit: ABC news 

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