TRUMP ADVISERS OUT OF LINE ON ROMNEY
I can take Mitt Romney, or I can leave him.
There are good arguments to be made both for and against his possible nomination to be secretary of state.
But this isn’t about Mitt Romney. It’s about the astounding public manipulation Donald Trump’s most senior advisers are engaging in, trying to influence Romney’s selection.
On one side, in favor of Romney, you have Reince Priebus and Mike Pence.
On the other side, in opposition to Romney, are Newt Gingrich and Kellyanne Conway.
Those in favor of Mitt Romney have pretty much played it by the book. Those in opposition seem to be staging a palace coup before they even move into the palace.
And they are setting a horrible precedent for Trump staff function going forward.
It seems clear that there is internal disagreement about Romney. Priebus and Pence – the incoming chief of staff and vice president, respectively – seem enthused about him. Gingrich and Conway – with no official portfolio in the looming administration – clearly hate him.
That’s normal, and probably healthy.
The purpose of a staff of vigorous and opinionated people is to present diverging opinions to – in this case – the president elect. The internal discussion and even disagreement give the boss options and understanding, and they backstop his eventual decision.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreement.
But you don’t air your dirty laundry, or try to pressure your boss, in public.
If you’re Kellyanne Conway and you oppose Mitt Romney, you make that case to Donald Trump behind closed doors – not on “Meet the Press.” You convince him, you don’t pressure him. You serve him, not manipulate him.
And if you are Newt Gingrich, you don’t try to publicly browbeat Donald Trump into bypassing Romney, you counsel him in private.
That’s the way staff works – no matter the party, no matter the era, no matter the situation.
Everybody knows that. And maybe nobody knows it better than Newt Gingrich who, as speaker of the House, was absolutely savage to subordinates who questioned him in public.
The fact that Conway and Gingrich would pull this on Trump says something potentially bad about their understanding of Trump’s leadership style. First, it shows that they don’t respect him. It also shows that they think he can be influenced in an extremely important decision by public pressure. They apparently believe that the way to get what they want is not to make a convincing argument to him, but to gin up public sentiment to pressure him.
It’s an unhealthy trump card.
And when it’s played this early, it makes you fear it’s going to be played often.
Which sets up four or eight years of public fights among advisers.
With two months to go before the man is even sworn in, it seems his closest advisers are not only in disagreement, but have resorted to an unseemly and divisive strategy to prevail in the disagreement.
Trying to pressure their boss publicly like this not only embarrasses the boss, it also hits directly at the two people he has selected to be his closest confidantes – his vice president and chief of staff. It’s as if a staff civil war has commenced before we’re even halfway through the transition.
Publicly putting the screws to the boss in order to lobby against a cabinet candidate is low class, disrespectful and unprofessional. And if it’s successful, there will only be more of it.
Which gets back to Donald Trump’s abilities as a leader and staff manager.
We’ve heard all about how he’s a businessman and all corporate and everything, but if he allows this sort of functional insubordination and intrigue from those around him, how good a leader is he? And if the nonsense works, and derails the Mitt Romney nomination – and also hands a defeat to the incoming vice president and chief of staff – what would that say about the internal function of the Trump leadership group?
If Pence and Priebus do it right and lose, and Conway and Gingrich do it wrong and win, what kind of precedent does that set for countless other disagreements bound to arise over the course of the Trump Administration?
Without regard to party or politics, from a leadership and organization standpoint, this is astounding and idiotic.
This is not how you serve a president or a president elect.
Which I hope is a primary reason no permanent place has yet been made for either Conway or Gingrich in the looming administration.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2016