Phil Quin on Trump’s proposed appointments

Phil Quin comments on Donald Trump’s proposed appointments and gives, for a lefty, some reasoned advice:

US President-elect Donald Trump is said to be considering one of his most vocal internal critics, Mitt Romney, as Secretary of State.

Howls of outrage, left and right, predictably ensued since the the GOP’s 2012 nominee – a mainstream Republican from Central Casting – berated Trump mercilessly in the lead-up to the recent election. He couldn’t even bring himself to vote for him.

And yet, at this turbulent moment, as Trump installs one far-right figure after another to his cabinet, accusations of hypocrisy against Trump and Romney – fair game in the normal course of events – should be set aside.

Trump would be wise to offer the Secretary of State post; Romney should accept it; and the Senate should rush to confirm him before the wildly erratic President-in-waiting changes his mind. Here’s why.

While no doubt Mitt Romney retains his view, expressed as recently as August, that Trump is a “con man” and “fake” who threatens to bring “trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny” to America, the stakes are too high to allow politics as usual to get in the way of what would be a profoundly reassuring appointment.

Romney at the State Department would go quite some way to quelling fears among US allies, in particular NATO, that the Trump presidency is set to redraw the geopolitical map in terrifying and unpredictable ways.

Mitt Romney would be an inspired choice. It would show that Donald Trump isn’t as vindictive as he’s been portrayed and also gets a sensible and stable man in charge of the State Department recovering from the legacy of sleaze from having had Hillary Clinton as Secretary.

On Romney’s part, it would be an act of patriotism to take over the State Department. After all, it seems unlikely the multimillionaire former Massachusetts Governor pines for a seat in Trump’s cabinet, populated, as it is so far, by alt-right identities whom he despises no less ferociously than Obama. The appointment of the radical Islamophobe, General Mike Flynn, as Trump’s National Security Advisor must send chills down his spine.

Romney’s credentials for the role are bolstered no end by his prescience on Russia.

In a 2012, during one of the presidential debates, Mitt Romney’s cited Vladimir Putin as America’s greatest global security threat, deemed a gaffe by most pundits at the time. He was derided for ignoring a rampaging Isis and Iran’s burgeoning nuclear programme. But events in the four years since – not least the annexation of Crimea, incursions into the Ukraine, and Putin’s catastrophic alliance with Bashar al-Assad in Syria – have vindicated Romney.

On critical questions as to how a Trump White House deals with Syria, along with the imperialist ambitions of Putin, particularly towards the Baltic states, Romney will not abide the kind of US-Russia alliance at which Trump has repeatedly hinted. Nor will he mimic his president’s fawning admiration of Putin’s uber-machismo.

Overall, Romney’s foreign policy views align far more closely to the current president than his soon-to-be successor.

The left will be unhinging. They considered Mitt Romney to be the devil incarnate having demonised him at the previous election. Now he is seen as a moderate and it is trump they are demonising.

Like Obama, he is neither a neo-conservative hellbent on remaking the world in America’s image, nor an isolationist determined to surrender the country’s global leadership. He is, again like Obama, a free trade proponent – he supports the TPPA, for example – and, while he may not be able to stop Trump’s rush to neo-protectionism, he would be well placed at the State Department to slow it down and mitigate its worst effects. And, unlike Trump, Romney vehemently opposes torture, an unlamented legacy of the previous Republican President.

Perhaps above all, temperamentally, Romney’s patrician demeanour – an irritating feature of his presidential bids – is well suited to diplomacy under a President who could not be less so.

Yes.

Alt-right conservatives who despise the GOP establishment – the lunatics now in charge of the asylum – will undoubtedly baulk at Romney’s appointment.

Lunatics who knew how to win against the “arguably most qualified candidate ever”.

But Trump’s knack for distracting them with meaningless but symbolic culture war stunts like yesterday’s Twitter tirade against the musical Hamilton will limit the fallout.

The payoff in terms of ameliorating concerns on both sides of the aisle about his foreign policy intentions will more than offset outrage from Trump’s “basket of deplorables”. And, while Trump’s approval ratings are the lowest of any newly elected president, there is no better time to disappoint one’s base than during a transition honeymoon.

He might have the lowest approvals, yet he won the elections. No one on the left has yet addressed that particular elephant in the room.

Democrats should resist the lure of point-scoring and welcome a prospective Romney appointment.

They won’t be able to help themselves.

If he is offered and agrees to serve as Secretary of State, it will not be to implement Trump’s reckless and often incoherent foreign policy agenda, but to act as a vital bulwark against it.

And for that reason alone, we should welcome the appointment with open arms.

Good, reasonable stuff from Phil Quin. I still wonder why people like him were ostracised and bullied out of Labour. He seems a reasonable bloke.

At the very least Leighton Smith will be happy.

 

-Fairfax

 

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