US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers foreign policy remarks in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The appointment of Mitt Romney as secretary of state would prove those who love Donald Trump right and those who fear him wrong. By making this tough choice, our president-elect would force me, and maybe millions of others like me who voted for Romney in 2010 and for Clinton in 2016, to admit that I misjudged our Republican candidate. I wouldn’t be the first person to acknowledge this since his victory, but I am not a politician, so all I have to gain from my pivot is peace of mind.
If he were to say “you’re hired!” to Governor Romney, Trump would prove that he is authoritative but not authoritarian, that he has a strong ego but is not egotistical, that he is a non-conformer but also a reformer.
True, by including Nikki Haley, who once opposed him, in his cabinet, Trump has already made this statement. Still, giving his most coveted spot to his toughest critic because he thinks this is the best man for the job sends a clear message to the world: the next president of the United States will choose not what is best for him, but what is best for his country.
Because I grew up with totalitarianism, I was afraid that Trump was an authoritarian.
I published several essays in which I compared him to Creon in Sophocles’ Antigone.
But the hubris of the ruler of Thebes would have never allowed him to accept the advice of others, or to change his position, or to forgive an insult, or to elevate an opponent. Creon, like Fidel Castro, would have executed his critic, not offered him the most important position in his cabinet.
By choosing Romney, Trump would once again defy the efforts of pundits and experts – and yes, even of professors like me – to stereotype, categorize, label and box him up.
It is Trump’s humanity that has endeared him to his followers. Asserting his will, his uniqueness and his individuality, he protests the dehumanizing forces of our time.
As I get to know him better, he is beginning to remind me of the family members I grew up with. In my Eastern European warm, loving but contentious and explosive family, siblings fought, argued, swore at each other in Yiddish and Romanian but then kissed and made up and worked to support each other as a family. It’s how they survived the trials of fascism, communism and the challenges of starting life in America with two suitcases and a thousand dreams. Maybe this is why Trump gets along so well with his son-in-law who may come from this kind of background.
More and more, to my literary mind, Trump resembles Fyodor Dostoevsky’s heroes, who are impulsive, hot tempered and rebellious, refusing to conform to the hypocrisies of 19th century Russian progressives who ultimately led their country into the revolution Dostoevsky foresaw.
His spokesman in Notes from The Underground rails against the liberal pundits and social reformers of his time who think they can reduce all human choices to predictable formulas: “Why, you gentlemen have derived your list of human advantages from averages of statistical data and from scientific-economic formulas... But now here’s what’s astonishing, a man happens to be different than a piano key.
All these statisticians, sages, and lovers of humanity enumerate man’s advantages, but ultimately leave his humanity out.
...Who knows perhaps the only goal on earth to which mankind is striving is this incessant process of attaining, in life itself, and not in the thing to be attained, which must always be expressed as a formula, as positive as twice two makes four. ...I agree that two twice two makes four is a splendid thing, but if you give everything its due, twice two makes five is also a very charming little thing.”
Appointing Romney as secretary of state defies the conventional rules of the political game. To many, this action defies logic as well. But wouldn’t this act of defiance be a “very charming little thing” indeed? Maybe there is a reason why the Russian and Romanian immigrants I know like Donald Trump so much.The author is chair of the English department at Touro College, Los Angeles and author of
Subterranean Towers: A Father-Daughter Story.