Donald Trump's surprising meeting with nemesis Mitt Romney

An unlikely alliance? Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. Photos / AP
An unlikely alliance? Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. Photos / AP

"Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud ... he's playing the American public for suckers."

That's what former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said about Trump back in March, in an extraordinary tirade against his own party's leading contender for the White House. Trump responded with a few nasty insults of his own.

Now, out of nowhere, the two bitter rivals appear to be ending their very public feud.

Romney and Trump are meeting on Sunday (US time), and according to NBC News, the President-elect is thinking about giving his nemesis the most important job in his administration - Secretary of State, which is the equivalent of our foreign minister.

At first glance, it makes absolutely no sense. But if Trump does give the position to Romney, it could actually be a stroke of genius.

ALLIANCE OF CONVENIENCE

The two Republican power players weren't always enemies. When Romney was running for president in 2012, he sought and received Trump's enthusiastic endorsement.

"It's my honour, real honour, to endorse Mitt Romney," Trump said at the time, with Romney and his wife beaming alongside him. "He's not going to continue to allow bad things to happen to this country.

"I have gotten to know him and he's a terrific guy. I don't know if he really comes out like he really is in person. He's a warm, smart, tough cookie and that's what this country needs. We need somebody that's tough."

Trump has yet to announce his Secretary of State. Photo / AP
Trump has yet to announce his Secretary of State. Photo / AP

Romney heaped similarly lavish praise on Trump, hailing his "extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works and to create jobs".

Romney went on to lose that year's presidential election to Barack Obama. In the aftermath, Trump criticised his campaign, ironically accusing the defeated Republican nominee of being too "mean-spirited" towards illegal immigrants.

'PLAYING THE PUBLIC FOR SUCKERS'

Romney, left, blasted Trump pre-election. Photo / AP
Romney, left, blasted Trump pre-election. Photo / AP

Romney spent much of this year actively trying to stop Mr Trump from becoming president. In March, he staged an extraordinary public intervention, excoriating Mr Trump and splitting his own party down the middle.

"Let me put it plainly. If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished," Mr Romney said.

"I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channelled that anger, and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose, and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good.

"Mr Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

"His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president.

"Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers - he gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat."

Trump responded in kind, calling Romney a "disaster" and throwing in a lewd joke for good measure. He claimed Romney had "begged" for his endorsement four years earlier.

"I could have said Mitt, drop to your knees. He would have dropped to his knees," Trump said.

"Mitt was a disaster as a candidate. He let us down. We should have won ... He's a choke artist, he choked ... He got killed. He got decimated in the election."

He also mocked Romney for deciding not to run for president in 2016.

"I'll tell you the real reason he chickened out. It was me," he said.

When Trump sealed the Republican nomination, Romney led attempts to recruit another conservative candidate to run against him as an independent in the general election. That effort ultimately failed to produce a viable contender.

President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania walk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House last week. Photo / AP
President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania walk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House last week. Photo / AP

THE OLIVE BRANCH

Given their recent history, it's a surprise that Trump is even meeting with Romney, let alone considering him for an important role in the new administration. That doesn't make it a bad move.

President Barack Obama did something similar after winning the 2008 election, offering the secretary of state job to Hillary Clinton, with whom he'd fought furiously for the Democratic nomination just months earlier. The classy gesture helped heal the divisions in Obama's party.

Trump is facing far deeper divisions on the Republican side today, and his approval rating is already underwater, defying decades of tradition for newly elected presidents. By offering such a significant olive branch to the faction of the party that rejected him, Trump could unify conservatives behind his presidency.


There's another benefit as well - Romney may actually be a good fit for the job.

Republicans believe his views on foreign policy have been vindicated in the four years since he lost to Obama.

For example, during the 2012 campaign, the president mocked Romney's assertion that Russia was America's "No 1 geopolitical foe", saying "the 1980s called and asked for their foreign policy back". During Obama's second term, Russia annexed Crimea and interfered in the Syrian civil war, bombing rebel groups backed by the United States.

Of course, Trump and Romney appear to have very different views about America's relationship with Russia, and that is far from their only area of disagreement. But if he believes Romney is the best candidate for the job, the President-elect may surprise everyone by putting aside those differences - along with the pair's bitter history.

- news.com.au

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