Tuesday brought an incredible gift in the form of those hilariously awkward photos of Donald Trump's dinner with Mitt Romney, and the Internet, as always, took great advantage of the moment. However, the significance of the dinner meeting (and rumored job interview) is much more important than just its meme engendering. Trump, who is reportedly considering Romney for the Secretary of State job, subtly flexed his narcissistic tendencies by parading his former enemy in front of the cameras at a public restaurant. The dinner photos are a grave reminder that Trump is treating all of this — his Cabinet appointments, his upcoming administration, and his role as president — like a game, and all he cares about is winning.
Trump revels in making his former enemies eat crow, as his actions since the Nov. 8 election have proven. Romney is by no means the first former Trump opponent to be courted for the now president-elect's Cabinet, but he was certainly the most high-profile and vocal. Back in March during a no-holds-barred speech directed to the Republican party at large, Romney took no rhetorical back roads to completely denouncing Trump for both his political proposals and personal actions.
"Let me put it very plainly. If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished," citing Trump's foreign and economic policy, then moving on to attack his temperament and personal failings. "Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University."
As I've said before, it's not hypocritical for former denouncers to join the team — the humility and altruism needed to submit yourself to working for Trump in service of the American people is one of the most patriotic things I can think of. Even if I disagree with much of Romney's politics, I respect him for putting aside his clear loathing for Trump in order to bring a little moderate vision to the new administration.
The question is why would Trump bother? Why associate himself with this person who so thoroughly and consistently warned that he was the political equivalent of jumping the shark? The answer is simple and apparent throughout his brief political career — Trump wants to look like the winner in the end.
To Trump, everything is a negotiation and the means to the end don't matter. If something goes his way, he's the winner and that's the end of the story, even if there were other forces at play that affected the outcome. For instance, he had no problem claiming an unmitigated victory despite losing the popular vote, and only addressed that loss weeks later to denounce it without any evidence. In this case, Romney's motivations in taking the position become irrelevant and Trump glorifies himself as the all-powerful businessman who can talk anyone into anything. He subsists on that belief and he's going to keep chasing it throughout his presidency, whether or not it's what's best for the American people.
Romney is the White Whale to Trump's Captain Ahab, and this chase is nothing more than his latest self-centered challenge. Trump's dogged courtship of Romney isn't the best use of his time as president-elect, and Romney probably isn't the best choice for this incredibly important position, but as it seems much of his upcoming presidency will be, it's not about what the people need, it's all about what Trump wants.