Trump has turned the fight to be his secretary of state into something you might expect on The Bachelorette. With two frontrunners (Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani) and a dark horse (Bob Corker), Trump and his team have been teasing out developments over the last ten days. Will Trump make nice with Romney or will he force Romney to make a humiliating public apology first? Will the debate within Trump’s team be eclipsed by the supposed behind-the-scenes fight between outsiders who hate Romney and GOP insiders who desperately want to add one of their own to the cabinet? Will anyone care that neither Romney nor Giuliani have zero meaningful foreign policy experience?
Even for Trump, the drama here seems canned. Take campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, whose new role seems to be “go on TV and act as a surrogate for Trump’s base.” Last week, she broke with tradition and weighed in on the transition publicly:
Then she hit the Sunday shows and did more of the same, telling CNN’s Dana Bash that Trump’s supporters would feel “betrayed” if he picked Romney. She added, “I’m all for party unity, but I’m not sure we have to pay for that with the secretary of state position.” She said the same thing, more or less, to ABC’s Martha Raddatz. And on Monday, Trump’s on-again, off-again BFF Joe “Morning Joe” Scarborough reported that Trump was “furious” with Conway over her comments and that, per a source, “Kellyanne went rogue at Donald Trump’s expense at the worst possible time.”
The question of whether or not Conway “went rogue” is very much an open one. Asked by Raddatz if Trump “wanted her” to tweet about his base’s feelings about Romney, Conway refused to answer. But it is telling that no one bothered to pull Conway from the Sunday shows. When it comes to explaining Trump’s motivations ineptitude is always a fair guess, but the drama here is so phony and familiar that the most plausible option is that all of this is for the ratings, so to speak.
None of this has anything to do with American foreign policy—it’s drama for drama’s sake, which is something we better get used to. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t noteworthy. Whoever Trump choses, Conway has set it up so that he will either be seen as repudiating his base or rewarding it. The result of the pageant will tell us how much Trump thinks he needs his base.