Toby Harnden of The Daily Mail has some juicy details about frenemies-of-convenience The Donald and Mittens. Now you’ll never hear the Daily Mail go ’round repeating gossip, so you better listen close the first time.
Did you ever have an acquaintance in your circle of friends who you didn’t really like all that much, but everyone else seemed to make a huge fuss over them, so you decided to ignore your misgivings and hang out with them? Was that acquaintance a little bit loud and mean, talking trash about everyone behind their backs and being argumentative and boorish? Was there a time when you were just too emotionally exhausted to risk pissing that person off, thereby inviting his or her tireless personal invective and attempts at revenge for perceived slights, so you just kept your mouth shut and tried to keep them at arm’s length? Something tells me that Donald Trump is that kind of friend: Hypersensitive to insult, convinced of his own self-importance, untrustworthy, quick to brag about his alleged accomplishments, never hesitant to be a bully, and just generally a toxic and exhausting drag of a human being to associate with.
The Romney campaign was quick to woo The Donald when he was perceived to be a Useful Idiot, but apparently quickly regretted the decision. They may not have been aware of the old tale about the camel and the tent. A kindly Arab gentleman was traveling across a desert on camel-back, and, as often happens in these stories, this camel was a talking camel. Each night the Arab fellow would set up a tent and retire within for the night, safe and warm. The camel had to shiver in the cool desert air all night, and eventually he filed a complaint. “Surely,” said the camel, in his most ingratiating voice, “if I were to stick my poor cold nose inside the flap of the tent, where it was warm, it would not be a hardship to you.” The kindly Arab gentleman felt it would be churlish to refuse such a small request. That night, the camel stuck his nose inside the tent flap and sighed in pleasure at the warmth. The next night, the camel suggested that perhaps it wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience if he were allowed to stick his neck and head in the tent. The Arab fellow felt that this, too, was not too much to ask. There was still some room in the tent, and it was very cold at night. To cut a long story short, eventually the camel wheedles his way completely inside the tent, and the tender-hearted Arab gentleman finds himself shivering outside the tent each night, the camel having been given an inch while taking a mile, and feeling not even a single twinge of conscience that he has, in essence, taken over the Arab’s tent.
When the Romney campaign opened the door a crack to let Donald Trump, a well-known conservative mouthpiece and cheerleader, feel important and included, he proceeded to quickly kick them out of their own tent and lord about the place like he owned it, making the Romney campaign all about The Donald at all times, pursuing his own agendas, and driving Romney staffers crazy. Don’t ever let camels inside your tent. Pack an extra warm blanket for them if you must, but throw it out the tent flap in their general direction.
You should not assume that Romney embraced Trump out of the kindness of his heart. Trump was allowed into the fold because snubbing someone who never shuts up–and is known to doggedly cling to thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories long past the time sane people are embarrassed to be associated with them–would be risking Trump’s vitriol. If nothing else, Mitt Romney is not a risk-taker or a bold leader who can assert himself with his base and be respected.
Ben Jacobs at The Daily Download expressed some puzzlement about the arrangement:
The real question is why Romney stooped so low as to court Trump in the first place. Donald Trump may be a rich developer and reality television star but he is also universally acknowledged to be a buffoon. Romney got Trump’s endorsement at a time when his primary campaign was still on unsteady ground—only two days after beating back Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary. At the time, Gingrich was considered a favorite for Trump’s endorsement and it helped swing enough momentum in the Republican primary for Romney to finally put Gingrich away. (Although it took two months for Romney to best Rick Santorum).
Trump’s endorsement proved an albatross for Romney. Even though it provided a momentary boost in the GOP primary, the former Massachusetts governor paid a price for Trump’s backing until Election Day–as the media swarm every time The Donald clears his throat. Every time Trump made a crass play for publicity or a crude comment, it reflected badly on Romney (and was great copy for journalists). It didn’t cost him the election (after all, Trump’s far too an insignificant figure to influence many voters) but for a candidate already in a hard-fought election, Trump was just one more irritation that Romney didn’t need.
Early in 2011, Trump had toyed with the idea of running for President himself, but his main plank was devoted entirely to Birther nonsense. Trump was–and still is–absolutely convinced that Obama is not an American citizen, and that he thus should be disqualified from holding office. Long after most sensible people had left Birther conspiracies behind in favor of chuckling over binders, Big Bird and bayonets, Trump refused to let the Birther dream die…and, perhaps unsurprisingly, a portion of the GOP’s low-information FOX-poisoned voter base–mostly blue-collar working class Republicans–cheered him on.
McKay Coppins from Buzzfeed had more to share:
“He played very well with blue-collar-type Republicans, and the [Romney] campaign saw that,” said one source in Trump’s camp. “If you have no education, and you work with your hands, you like him. It’s like, ‘Wow, if I was rich, that’s how I would live!’ The girls, the cars, the fancy suits. His ostentatiousness is appealing to them.”
When the campaign decided to go for it, they went all out. Staffers and surrogates lobbied their contacts in Trump’s office, and senior campaign strategist Stuart Stevens called a person close to the Celebrity Apprentice star and asked what they could do to win him over. The friend’s advice: “Flattery goes a long way with Mr. Trump.”
Other GOP hopefuls like Michele “Crazy Eyes” Bachmann, Herman “999” Cain and Rick “Oops!” Perry had already genuflected to The Donald and kissed his feet, but Romney–as the Republican slowly emerging by default as the most desirable candidate in a field sorely lacking any more appealing superstar conservatives–had dawdled. Eventually, however, even Romney had make the pilgrimage to sneak into Trump Towers, sheepishly avoiding paparazzi, to suck up to Trump. Trump was considered to be a valuable cheerleader, and Newt Gingrich was doing unexpectedly well with the conservative base…could The Donald’s support benefit Romney?
Reportedly–though no one can know for sure what happened behind closed doors when Trump and Romney finally met–the two men engaged in a mutual admiration session and once Romney emerged, Trump professed himself charmed (and willing to throw his then-favorite candidate, Rick Perry, to the wolves). Unfortunately, keeping the demanding and self-important Trump docile and useful was a full-time job, and Romney staffers quickly tired of it.
As Buzzfeed reports:
The task of keeping him happy [...] fell mainly to campaign press secretary Andrea Saul. Trump’s entourage called campaign headquarters constantly, eagerly passing along strategy ideas from their boss, and the calls were always patched through to Saul’s office. Her desk became littered with Trump aides’ business cards, and Post-It notes reminding her to call them back.
The day of Trump’s official endorsement came [in February]. As part of their negotiations, the Romney campaign had agreed to announce the endorsement with a press conference held at Trump’s Las Vegas hotel. The Donald was having the time of his life, roaming around the lobby and holding not one, but three separate press gaggles. He bragged about the lengths to which the campaign had gone to court him, and he made a point of plugging his hotel. “You can see why it’s number one in Nevada!” he declared.
Campaign aides could be seen rolling their eyes, but they were under strict orders to keep him happy. At one point, Trump looked out over the press section — comprised mostly of a few local reporters, and the campaign’s typical traveling press — and squinted at Saul as he fished for compliments. “Andrea, have you ever had this many reporters at an endorsement?” he asked. “Never,” she responded, dutifully.
Romney awkwardly posed for photos at the Trump endorsement press conferences, but appeared slightly pained and embarrassed throughout. Worse, Trump’s endorsement appeared to have no noticeable positive effect: Trump’s Tea Party Birther faithful weren’t interested in the likes of Millionaire Mormon Mitt. As a result, Trump’s support became a liability rather than the hoped-for shot of campaign adrenaline Romneyites hoped for…but the White House couldn’t be more chuffed.
David Plouffe gleefully underscored Romney’s ties to Trump, over and over, noting that when Trump said, “jump,” Romney dutifully asked, “how high?” The Romney campaign was saved from some small amount of mortification when Hurricane Isaac forced the RNC to cancel the first day of festivities. Originally Trump had demanded a speaking spot, but was cajoled into only making a five-minute video–in which he lambasted Obama and bellowed “You’re fired!” on cue–instead. Trump’s video was one of the casualties of the Isaac-truncated RNC schedule, and one imagines that Romney wasn’t too gutted about that.
Trump further embarrassed Romney with his self-serving $5 million dollar offer to Obama, asking him to produce his college transcripts, which Trump clearly believes would have some information that would expose Obama as a foreigner. Obama and his staff didn’t deign to reply, even as Trump screeched “PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEE!” louder and louder. Meanwhile, Romney and his staff also kept schtum, offering no opinion or criticism, and declining to attempt to get Trump to be less of a baboon’s arse in public.
Buzzfeed noted that, “Romney was extremely reluctant to publicly cut ties with Trump. Some in the campaign [...] thought Trump might turn his powers of provocation on Romney if they snubbed him — drawing the ire of that elusive “base.” So Trump barreled along toward Election Day, ostensibly supporting Romney but ultimately unwilling to do what was necessary to get him elected (in this case, laying low and keeping his mouth shut). He used Romney’s candidacy as a vehicle to rail against the President he hated, and when he was feeling generous, he occasionally paid lip service to the Republican nominee. Trump even got an invite to Romney’s election night victory party at the Boston Convention Center.”
The Daily Mail reports:
[The] sacrifices Romney made early on to win [Trump's] support were never repaid with loyalty or enthusiastic support. As returns began to trickle in Tuesday night [and] it quickly became clear that [...] the night wasn’t going to work out, Trump skipped town early. According to airport records, Trump’s private helicopter departed Logan Airport in Boston at 11:19 p.m. headed for New Jersey — a full hour and a half before Romney delivered his concession speech. On his way out of town, Trump filled his Twitter feed with outraged hysteria at the election’s outcome, peppering his Tweets with words like “revolution” and “sham” and “disgusting injustice.” [...] One name that didn’t make it into this election-night Twitter meltdown: Romney.
A spokesman for Trump said that the Romney-Trump bromance was probably finally over: “Trump doesn’t like to be associated with failure,” the source responded. “Trump’s a winner. My guess is today he’s pretty disappointed.”
With fair-weather friends like these…