December 2nd, 2016
Today’s essay is supposed to be about Trump’s Secretary of State, but I should also mention all the other things that seem to be flaring up in the last 24 hours:
- Hillary Clinton’s lead is up to 2.5 million votes.
- It turns out the working class did, in fact, vote for Hillary.
- Trump will be appointing a general to head the Department of Defense.
- Clinton and Trump staffers got in a big fight during a debate.
- Trump picked a Goldman Sachs guy for Secretary of Treasury.
- A couple days ago, Trump praised the Pakistani leader.
- Today Trump called the leader of Taiwan. China is likely unhappy.
So that’s our backdrop to discuss the Secretary of State. So what does the Secretary of State do? Everything having to do with foreign policy that doesn’t include war. The position is considered the most senior in the cabinet, and that makes sense. When things go awry in the world, it’s this person’s job to handle America’s response to them.
There are four names being considered for Secretary of State, but let’s focus on two. On one end of the spectrum we have Mitt Romney. He ran for president once, he’s run large businesses, he was a governor, and he’s highly respected by people who follow this sort of thing. On the other hand, Trump’s base hates Romney. They hate that he lost against Obama in 2012. They hate that he’s not as extreme as them. They hate that Romney attacked Trump so viciously this year. Hate is not too strong a word. They hate him.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Rudy Giuliani. He’s accomplished a lot in his life, including being mayor of New York City during the attacks of 9/11. The Trump faithful adore his tough style. But he has no foreign policy experience and he comes off as pretty unhinged and angry to a substantial number of people.
I recently read an article that said we should give Trump credit for these picks, and I agree. Yes, he’s picking loyalists. Everyone does. Yes, he’s considering plucking Democratic senators from red states to shore up his advantage. That’s good politics, and it’s a thing people do. But he’s also picking some people who were previously critics. And some women. And some people with lots of experience.
I’m not thrilled with them, because I wish we had a Democratic president. But there’s a difference between “I would have preferred Hillary Clinton’s cabinet” and “These are bad picks.” Trump is showing some cleverness and range of thinking with his picks. So imagine a cabinet with both Bannon, whose worldview I despise, and Mitt Romney, who I respect while disagreeing with much of his politics.
That would be interesting.
I’m not here to predict what will happen. I don’t know. But if he does pick Romney, it shows that Trump has at least some level of seriousness when it comes to handling world affairs. Alternately, picking Giuliani would send a pretty clear signal that he’s not. It’s not that Giuliani would definitely fail. It’s just that Romney would have a much higher chance at success. He’s got more experience and a much better temperament for statecraft. That much is indisputable, not matter where you are on the political spectrum.
But remember Romney’s downsides. I think he’s the better pick for America, in a landslide. But he’s worse for Trump’s optics with his supporters, in a landslide. When you say Drain the Swamp, then hire a bunch of people your base hates, what does that mean for your poll numbers? Could Trump luck out and gain amongst moderates while staying level with his base? Maybe people who love him really love him enough to let him do anything, and all Trump has to do is please a few more percentage points of people in Ohio in order to be successful?
We’ll see. I assume he’s going to announce soon. It’s Friday now. Maybe Monday? He referred to how he wasn’t going to announce his Secretary of Defense pick until Monday, before actually naming his Secretary of Defense pick in the same sentence. Makes me wonder if Defense and State were going to be announced at the same time, but he couldn’t resist sharing early.
Tomorrow: China. And Russia.