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Despite Criticism Of Candidate Trump, Romney Leads For Secretary Of State

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's ask why Mitt Romney wants a job in the Trump administration. Romney had dinner with the president-elect on Tuesday night. It was part of a process as President-elect Trump considers about four possible candidates for secretary of state. Romney, of course, fiercely criticized Trump during the presidential campaign, so the mere mention of his name drew criticism from Trump supporters - and also some cynical remarks from people who recalled how opposed to Trump he had once been. We called up Katie Packer. She was deputy campaign manager for Romney's 2012 presidential bid and this year ran an anti-Trump super PAC.

Do you know who reached out to whom between Mr. Trump and Mr. Romney?

KATIE PACKER: I don't know the answer to that initially. But I do know that following the election that Governor Romney did reach out to him to congratulate him.

INSKEEP: What did you think, as someone who had so strongly opposed Donald Trump, when you saw the images of Mitt Romney having dinner with Trump?

PACKER: I - it struck me as sort of representative of who Mitt Romney is. He's somebody that's a patriot. He's somebody with a very, very strong belief in this country. And he strongly opposed Trump, but then the people spoke. So I think his belief now is that we all have to come together to move the country forward and to do what's in the best interest of the country. So it wasn't surprising to me at all.

INSKEEP: What do you see as patriotic about that, simply that he's trying to be supportive of the president or that he has a specific patriotic service that he could render in the government?

PACKER: I think that he doesn't know if he has a specific service that could be offered. But I think that it's not unlike Mitt Romney to offer his service. I don't see Mitt Romney as angling to become the secretary of state. That's not really who he is. He doesn't really need all this that bad. But he is somebody that was raised by a family that really believes in public service. And he has a faith that has a strong belief in public service and that if you have something to offer that you're obligated to offer it.

INSKEEP: It sounds like you don't much appreciate the commentary, some of the more cynical takes on what Romney is doing - oh, he just wants to be part of things. He just wants a job.

PACKER: No. I mean, I think it's silly, the notion that he just wants a job. Would he find a job like that interesting? I think he would. He's a very smart guy. He's somebody that wanted to be president of the United States, so he obviously has an interest in world affairs. But, you know, I don't think that he needs it in the way that some people that are, you know, politicians just desperately need it.

INSKEEP: What kind of influence would he have over Donald Trump if he were to become secretary of state?

PACKER: You know, that's a really interesting question. Mitt is somebody that is a very, very thoughtful person. He spends a lot of time reading and doing his homework. A lot of those things are things that people say are not Donald Trump's strong suits. I don't know Donald Trump well personally. I've met him on a few occasions, but I don't know him well. But it strikes me that Mitt would be a very stable, sage influence on the president-elect.

INSKEEP: In the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney was asked - what is the gravest national security threat facing the country? - and he said Russia, which is a very different view, I would think, than President-elect Trump who has been quite friendly to Russia in various ways.

PACKER: My hunch is that Donald Trump is maybe changing many of his views with the benefit of these national security briefings that he's been getting. I do think that it can be very difficult, when you're running for office, to have a very three-dimensional opinion of world affairs because you don't have the same kind of information that you have when you are the president or the president-elect.

INSKEEP: So you're hoping that actually many of the things that Trump said, at least in foreign policy, he won't actually do?

PACKER: I hope that he will seek counsel from a wide variety of sources now that he's the president-elect. I don't think that all of his comments and statements during the campaign were very well-thought-out and seemed to have all the information. So I hope that moving forward that he'll be more thoughtful in his approach.

INSKEEP: What would you say to core Trump supporters who have been arguing this guy wasn't loyal during the campaign, he wouldn't be loyal in the administration?

PACKER: Well, I think that it's a very naive approach to governance to believe that you can only surround yourself with people that are loyalists. I think that that's a dangerous way to govern. It leads to a very imperial kind of approach. I think that some of our strongest leaders have brought in people who are willing to, you know, really say it like it is. You know, and some of the people around Trump haven't demonstrated an ability to challenge him in any way. I'm not advocating or dismissing Mitt Romney as secretary of state, but I think that whoever Trump surrounds himself with in the Cabinet, he would be wise to have people that are willing to challenge his thinking.

INSKEEP: Totally opposite question now - what would you say to Never-Trump people who might argue that Mitt Romney going into the Cabinet just enables and assists a dangerous person?

PACKER: I would say that - as Americans, that it's our obligation now to come together as a country and try to do good for America. We can't do that by keeping good quality people out of government. And if Mitt Romney is somebody that can help and can be a force for good, then we should encourage that. We shouldn't paint that as a negative thing. That's something that's good for our country, and it's far too lacking in our country these days.

INSKEEP: Katie Packer was deputy campaign manager for Governor Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.

Thanks for taking the time.

PACKER: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.