A day in the life of Reince Priebus, reluctant GOP peacemaker.
When Donald Trump wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination on May 3 by winning Indiana and forcing Ted Cruz from the race, it fell to Reince Priebus to formally surrender on behalf of a shellshocked party Establishment. This being 2016 and the Age of Trump, Priebus, the long-serving chairman of the Republican National Committee, did so in a tweet: “@realDonaldTrump will be presumtive [sic] @GOP nominee, we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton.” Depending on your point of view, the misspelling was either an homage to Trump’s haphazard Twitter style or the latest example of a Republican Party that can’t seem to get anything right.Three days later, Priebus climbed onto a stage in a hotel ballroom on Capitol Hill to sit for a public interview with Politico’s Mike Allen. “This is off the record, right?” he joked, looking a bit nauseous. To Republicans still not resigned to Trump, Priebus was already a symbol of capitulation. John Kasich had just dropped out and criticized Priebus’s anointment of Trump as “completely inappropriate.” Trump, on the other hand, who had once threatened party leaders when it looked as if they might block him at a “rigged” convention, now cast himself as the magnanimous liege, bestowing forgiveness and nicknames. “I call Reince Mr. Switzerland,” he told me during a May 17 interview at his 26th-floor Trump Tower office. “He’s doing a great job as peacemaker.”
In the weeks before Trump prevailed, the political media made a sport of trying to get Priebus to concede that his party was falling to pieces, while Priebus insisted against all evidence that things were going great. Commentators on both the left and right likened him to “Baghdad Bob,” the Saddam Hussein spokesman who maintained during the U.S. invasion of Iraq that victory was imminent, even as U.S. bombs rained down around him. An April 20 interview on CNN perfectly captured Priebus’s anguish. “People assume, oh, you must be miserable. You’ve got a horrible job. But I don’t see it that way,” he offered. “I’m not pouring Baileys in my cereal.” His disavowal mainly suggested that he had contemplated pouring liquor into his cereal bowl. When he sat down onstage, Allen, noting Trump’s victory, presented him with a large bottle of Baileys. “Oh, excellent,” said Priebus. “Now, where’s the Lucky Charms?”