OK, everyone! Sing with us:
How do you solve a problem like Mitt Romney?
How do you tell a Trump to turn him down?
How do you find the words to voice displeasure?
He’s a phony! He’s pathetic! He’s a clown!
Now that we’ve successfully implanted a “Sound of Music” earworm (sorry), let’s move on to the story that fed it: Mitt Romney and the battle for secretary of State. It’s your Tuesday edition of For the Record.
A PROBLEM LIKE MITT ROMNEY
This time last week, Team Trump hinted that there would be a slew of cabinet announcements to chew on over Thanksgiving. We got a few smaller ones, like UN ambassador and education secretary, but infighting over secretary of State seems to have ground everything else to a halt. At issue: Mitt Romney.
Donald Trump’s alleged top pick for secretary of State comes solidly from the GOP establishment. And that isn’t sitting well among some of his non-establishment advisers.
Newt Gingrich expressed his displeasure with Trump’s one-time greatest critic, saying, “I think there's nothing Mitt Romney can say that doesn't sound phony and frankly pathetic,” while Kellyanne Conway warned of a “breathtaking” number of voters who would feel “betrayed” if Romney got such a prominent cabinet position.
“We're all for party unity,” she said, but “I don't think a cost of admission for party unity has to be the secretary of state position.”
So, why all this hand-wringing over Mitt? Well, much has been written about how much Trump values loyalty. And there is a certain level of expectation among supporters that Trump lines his cabinet with people who will help drain the D.C. “swamp.” If Trump rejects both to go with Romney (retired Gen. David Petraeus also is reportedly meeting with Trump about the job, and Rudy Giuliani remains a top pick), that would say a lot about his governing style and the thrust of his administration.
A TEAM OF RIVALS OR A TEAM OF MASCOTS?
OK, one more thing about Trump’s secretary of State pick, and admittedly, it’s a little academic (maybe we’re compensating for singing about Mitt Romney). It takes us back to a 2012 Vanity Fair article that tells us how Obama promised a “team of rivals” when he was elected but ended up with a “team of mascots” – loyalists that the introvert Obama never really turned to for advice or gave direction.
“Team of rivals” refers to a book about Abraham Lincoln’s decision to appoint three former rivals to his cabinet. The author argues this was smart for Lincoln because not only was he able to win over his enemies, but he used their expertise to keep the country together during the Civil War.
The article uses this concept to explain how cabinet choices say less about the people in those positions and so much more about the presidents who choose them. And it’s great food for thought as Trump’s choices come together: Will he choose a team of rivals or mascots?
WAIT, WHAT IS THE RECOUNT ABOUT AGAIN?
If you’re scratching your head about Jill Stein’s quest to force recounts in the three states that pundits thought Hillary Clinton would win, maybe a recap of Monday’s developments will help: The Wisconsin election board said it would conduct the recount by running ballots through the scanner again. The Green Party candidate who garnered 1 percent of the state’s vote said nope, I really want a hand count and then sued to get it. Because this is about election integrity, dang it.
Stein also filed a recount in Pennsylvania and is expected to do the same in Michigan, now that the state finally made Trump’s win official (seriously, if it took nearly three weeks to certify the original results, how long is a recount going to take?).
Meanwhile, Clinton’s camp says it joined the Wisconsin recount not to challenge the results – why would you think that? – while simultaneously trying to burn Trump on Twitter for criticizing the effort: “We are getting attacked for participating in a recount that we didn't ask for by the man who won election but thinks there was massive fraud.”
But remember: None of this is about changing the outcome of the election (and that’s good, because pretty much every election expert says it’s highly unlikely). It’s about ensuring that what happened really did. Because no one thinks there’s massive voter fraud. They're just checking to be sure. Got it?