Kellyanne Conway, center, accompanied by her husband, George, speaks with members of the media as they arrive for a dinner at Union Station in Washington, the day before Trump’s inauguration, on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
I always knew he was a smart cookie. And sure enough, he did what anyone with career savvy would do: Turned down a big job offer with the Trump administration and ran for the hills.
I’m talking, of course, about George Conway, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Though the Big Law cognoscenti know he’s a big wheel—he’s a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, for goodness sake!—most Americans probably regard him as the arm-candy (and husband) of Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s famously infamous adviser.
Now, however, George Conway is introducing himself to the rest of America and telling everyone he’s his own man. Not only did he refuse Trump’s offer but, two days later, he criticized Trump on Twitter, essentially saying, “Glad I’m not part of that legal hellhole.”
First, let’s look at the way he turned down the job. After the usual platitudes about being “profoundly grateful” for the selection, he writes in his statement:
“I have reluctantly concluded, however, that, for me and my family, this is not the right time for me to leave the private sector and take on a new role in the federal government.”
Catch that “family” excuse! You usually hear that “family” stuff from women when they opt out of high-pressured jobs—but rarely from men (unless they’re getting fired). And you certainly don’t expect that from a hard-driving Wachtell partner. Is Conway saying that he’s carrying most of the responsibilities at home because Kellyanne is too busy with her White House career? (George Conway did not respond to my call for comment.)
And what’s that jazz about not being “the right time for me to leave the private sector”? Is he suggesting that he can’t afford to go into government? Granted, the Conways have a fairly large family (four kids), but Wachtell’s profit per partner is close to a whopping $6 million! C’mon, he can afford college for a dozen kids on that pay—not to mention the millions he’s probably squirreled away!
What’s obvious is that Conway doesn’t want the DOJ job. And who could blame him? After all, he’s got a swell career and he’s making an ungodly sum of money (did I mention that $6 million PPP already?). And though it’s normally a nice capstone to get a high government post after a successful private sector gig, a lot of folks seem to be running away from the honor in this administration.
Conway knows that joining team Trump can be disastrous—and he’s not afraid to voice it. He showed his disdain for the administration when Trump recently complained on Twitter about how “the original travel ban” had been “watered down” into a “politically correct version.” Conway jumped on his case, tweeting:
“These tweets may make some ppl [sic] feel better, but they certainly won’t help OSG get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad.”
Conway is essentially saying that Trump is stupid or a nut job. To underscore that point, he ends it with a Trumpism: “Sad.” He might as well have added: “Loser.” “Disaster.” “Failing pile of garbage.”
Of course, Conway did try to temper that tweet with other tweets later that declared his allegiance to Trump. “I still VERY, VERY STRONGLY support POTUS, his Admin, policies, the executive order [...] and of course, my wonderful wife.” (We’ll get to his “wonderful wife” later.)
But then he continued to bang out a series of other tweets—suggesting that the lawyers in the administration can’t or won’t put a clamp on Trump’s big mouth. (Paging White House counsel Don McGahn!) At one point, he tweets about how “every sensible lawyer” would “agree with me (as some have already told me).”
Considering that Conway’s Twitter account had been dormant for almost two years until now, it’s clear that he wants to send a message: He’s no Trumpster tool. And he’s patting himself on the back for exercising the good judgment not to get onto that sinking ship.
Which brings us to Kellyanne. As The New York Times notes, Conway’s criticism of Trump’s tweet was curiously timed: It came out just a few hours after his wife blasted the media for its “obsession” with Trump’s tweets on the “Today” show.
Not only did he contradict his wife, but he seems to have thrown her under the bus by directly criticizing her boss. It’s just a hunch, but I’d bet that life at the White House isn’t that fun for Kellyanne right now. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Conway is trying to get his wife fired.
And, you know what, maybe that’s Conway strategy: to get his wife the hell out of there. Maybe he’s doing Kellyanne a favor by putting her in such an uncomfortable, awkward position that she’ll have to quit—or be forced out.
It’s just his way of saying, “Honey, time to come home.”