Let's face it: The Secretary of State selection is the much-anticipated denouement of Trump's 'Apprentice'-style cabinet rollout. Sure, we've had some big picks along the way thus far (read about the latest additions here and here), but this one is by far the buzziest. Will he go with a loyalist, an outspoken critic, or a dark horse? Evidently, he's going to keep us guessing and speculating for one more week, in advance of the much-anticipated season finale:
If CBS News correspondent Major Garrett's sources are to be believed, Mitt Romney really is the leader in the clubhouse for the job. I've been skeptical that Trump would be willing to forgive a guy who was so aggressively opposed to him throughout the entire campaign -- high profile Trump allies have been taking potshots at him for weeks -- but Garrett is hearing that this isn't the Romney-humiliation head-fake some have suggested it might be:
Mitt Romney is now the strongest remaining candidate for President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state, CBS News’ Major Garrett reports. No final decision has been made yet, but Romney, in comparison with Gen. David Petraeus (ret) and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is in the strongest position to date. Petraeus, sources told Garrett, is out of the running. Gen. John Kelly’s nomination to run the Department of Homeland Security played a large role: Mr. Trump will not have four generals in the upper echelons of the Trump administration — the other two are Gen. James Mattis (ret), who was named defense secretary, and Lt.-Gen. Michael Flynn (ret), who will be national security adviser. Giuliani is still on the short list, but he is not considered as likely as he once was to get the job.
I think Allahpundit is right that Gen. Kelly's nomination, in addition to Gen. Mattis, officially sealed Petraeus' fate -- and that the latter figure would have faced a major confirmation hurdle because of his classified material issues. As for Romney, NBC's Matt Lauer put the question directly to Trump himself on the Today show, and the president-elect at least sounded like the CBS report quoted above may have some validity. Scroll ahead to the (2:50) mark for the relevant exchange:
"I've spoken to him a lot. We've come a long way together...[my decision] is not about revenge, it's about what's good for the country, and I'm able to put this stuff behind us. And I hit him very hard [during the campaign] also."
Notably conciliatory language from Trump, which could be telling. Or not. We'll all find out next week. Stay tuned, America. I'll leave you with what National Review's John Fund is hearing, for what it's worth:
Secretary of State pick down to 2 likely choices 1) Mitt Romney or 2) Team of Rep. Dana Rohrabahcher as Secy, with John Bolton as undersec.— John Fund (@johnfund) December 7, 2016