RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel made history at our breakfast

The Monitor Breakfast's first 'third generation' guest, Ronna (Romney) McDaniel was open about her conflict with ‘Uncle Mitt’ and about being a woman and mother in politics.

Matt Orlando/The Christian Science Monitor
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks at a Monitor Breakfast at the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel in Washington, DC, on Nov. 21, 2019.

Dear Reader,

When Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, joined our breakfast table this week, she made Monitor history.

Did you know, I asked her, that you are the first “third generation” guest to appear at a Monitor Breakfast? Ms. McDaniel’s grandfather was George Romney, the late Michigan governor, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is her uncle. Over the years, both spoke at our breakfast multiple times.

“I didn’t know that!” Ms. McDaniel said proudly.

In fact, her grandfather was our third guest, appearing on Jan. 13, 1967. On Thursday, Ms. McDaniel was our 3,937th.

We do love the tradition that our breakfast represents. But we’re also all about the news, and gaining insight into what’s happening right now. With Ms. McDaniel, that included impeachment, the 2020 elections, and the “family feud” between her and Uncle Mitt - who are, shall we say, on opposite sides of the Donald Trump question.

I wrote about that last bit in my post-breakfast article. Ms. McDaniel was President Trump’s pick to run the RNC and fully supports him, while Senator Romney is about as close to a GOP “Never Trumper” as there is in the U.S. Senate.

Ms. McDaniel was a good sport when we peppered her with questions about her famous uncle. They don’t exactly hang out much, but then, they’re both busy. And she made clear there are no hard feelings. The Romneys are a political family, and strong opinions are inevitable.

Her most poignant comment of the hour might have been this: “I feel for Kellyanne sometimes – the family stuff’s tough.”

She was joking/not joking about Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Trump, whose husband, George Conway, is vocally anti-Trump.

Ms. McDaniel also spoke of the struggles some women have breaking into politics, and how hard it was for her to raise money at first. And she didn’t hide the fact that she’s a mom. Her husband and two teenagers live in Michigan, and Ms. McDaniel goes back and forth. Kids, in fact, can be an asset in politics, she said.

“I’d take my kids to knock doors. I think it builds character and also is a little bit of punishment for them,” she quipped. “People are also nicer to you when you take your children.”

The C-SPAN video of our breakfast can be viewed here.

In a city crackling with tension, Ms. McDaniel’s easygoing manner was a breath of fresh air. And we do hope her Uncle Mitt will join us again sometime. After all, we’re eager to hear the other side.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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