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Romney Agonistes?

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Given what we know of Donald Trump, it’s more believable that he’s currently flirting with the idea of choosing Mitt Romney for Secretary of State because he relishes making his fellow tycoon, and former fierce critic, subordinate to his will than because he seeks his counsel. Romney at State will have to take his orders from the man he once reviled, and behave with suitable deference towards him in public and in private. That has to appeal to the self-image of personal magnificence cultivated by Donald Trump.

For Romney, of course, this represents a chance to get back into the political game — maybe his last — to cease being politically irrelevant since Trump’s triumph on Election Day. For Trump, on the other hand, it’s a chance to throw a bone to those Republicans who scorned or questioned his bona fides during the campaign and so show his magnanimity and capacity to unite the party he previously tore apart.

But mostly, for Trump, it offers him the prospect of seeing Romney, a man who reviled him on the campaign trail, reduced to his personal errand boy since it’s pretty inconceivable that Trump would allow anyone working for him to operate with even a modicum of independence. And if a principled Romney gets a bit too feisty, well, Trump can always tell him he’s fired!

That would, in Trump’s mind, be the ultimate power he could wield over another, the capacity to control and manipulate them — and the ultimate insult he could offer a man of Romney’s accomplishments. Trump, self-styled hero and winner of his own narrative, would love that.

Personally, I would like to see Romney in the administration because it MIGHT betoken a moderating Donald Trump and could well introduce some useful prudence into the president’s councils. But I doubt a President Trump would pay any of that much heed while I suspect he would enjoy making Romney toe the line — yet another demonstration of the power a great man like himself gets to wield.

If I were Romney, I’d walk away. Principles should trump self-interest and, besides, accepting the proffered post would just amount to surrender to the ultimate alphaness of the biggest silverback in the troop. That’s what silverbacks want, the acquiescence and compliance of all those around them. Better, Governor, to seek your opportunities to participate in our national life elsewhere. Time may not be on your side here, but principle and self-respect surely are.

About Stuart W. Mirsky

Stuart W. Mirsky, a former New York City official who last served as Assistant Commissioner for Operations in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before retiring in 2002, wrote a column, "The Rockaway Irregular," for The Wave, a south Queens based weekly, for more than a decade (until Hurricane Sandy changed the equation). He is an original founder of the Rockaway Republicans, one of the most active Republican groups in southern Queens, and author of a number of books, including The King of Vinland's Saga, an historical novel of the Norse in 11th century North America, A Raft on the River, a memoir of Holocaust survival, and Choice and Action, a work of contemporary philosophy addressing the implications of relativism and nihilism for our moral beliefs.

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