It’s not easy being Mitt Romney. The former GOP presidential nominee, Massachusetts governor, Staples CEO, and savior of the Salt Lake City Olympics found out this week that he will not be America’s next secretary of state, even after some very public groveling at the feet of the president-elect, Donald Trump. It was kind of stunning that Romney was even in the running, after he very publicly called out Trump during the campaign — and apparently, according to a CNN report, that was the ultimate sticking point. Romney's unwillingness to publicly apologize for his anti-Trump speeches despite the desires of people in Trump's inner circle, including Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, and Steve Bannon, may have hurt him, according to CNN's report based on talking to sources close to the transition team.
If this report is true, then I have to admit something and it feels strange to say this, but… I’ve never been more proud of you, Mittens.
Even writing the words feels strange: Just four years ago, the Romney-Ryan ticket was the evil that needed to be warded off, the impending Republican apocalypse that needed defeat. Romney was the ultimate straight white one-percent dude who represented (what we thought) was the worst of Republican politics: stating proudly that corporations are people, or his “binders full of women,” or his writing off of 47 percent of Americans who were automatically voting for Obama because “they are dependent on the government” and “believe they are victims.”
What an adorable, naïve time it was.
Once it had became clear that Trump was going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2016, Romney spoke out forcefully against his party’s front-runner. Romney did so in March during the Republican Primary, and then again, in June after Trump had clinched the nomination, going after the GOP for not being more critical of Trump’s offensive campaign.
“I know that some people are offended that someone who lost and is the former nominee continues to speak,” Romney said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “but that’s how I can sleep at night.” Why, Mitt, you’re making me lightheaded.
That Romney’s inveighing against His Orangeness seemed to have no effect on the outcome of the election can hardly be laid at his feet, and when he was asked to meet with Trump to discuss the secretary of state job, he gamely went, smiled (grimaced?) next to the man he once called a “phony” and a “fraud,” and sang Trump’s praises to the media.
But the CNN report suggests that this wasn’t enough: Trump, or Trump’s people, wanted Romney to issue a public apology for his comments during the campaign, and that, appears to have been a bridge too far for Mitt.
The question of whether or not so-called “responsible Republicans” should serve in a Trump administration have been tricky: On the one hand, how do you help someone like Trump further his agenda? On the other, if you’re in the government, you have more of a chance of maintaining some sanity, right? It looks like Mitt was willing to entertain the notion, and even make a strong play for the spot, but wasn’t willing to go back on his past statements. Losing the secretary of state job had to have hurt — especially to a man like Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil — but at least Romney will be able to sleep at night.