The Heritage Foundation has served as a sort of job bank for President Trump, sorting and placing policy staffers for key jobs inside the Republican administration. But now it seems the conservative think tank is trying to scalp talent from Trump.
The Washington Post broke news Wednesday that the Heritage board of directors was considering Marc Short, a senior Trump White House Official, to become its next president. Asked by Wolf Blitzer on CNN whether a career change was in order, Short gave a telling non-answer.
"Wolf, I'm very fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to work in the Trump White House and I'm very happy where I am," Short said. And then, perhaps knowing that his boss was watching, he added: "I am not going to negotiate on the networks about what I might or might not do next."
But in Washington, you don't say that you won't negotiate on television unless you're actually negotiating in private. A conservative operative close to the organization offered his translation: "Yes, I'm absolutely considering taking the job at Heritage."
Three other candidates are up for consideration according to the Washington Post but none have said anything publicly about the position. If Short took the job, he would occupy the office vacated by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and he would compete for influence with intellectual leaders like Arthur Brooks over at AEI.
For now, Short won't say—at least on television. But his supporters are more than vocal.
One senior Republican strategist who used to work for Short texted that he was "a natural leader" who would be "an excellent pick for an organization like the Heritage Foundation." On top of being "greatly respected among leading policy minds," the source noted how Short makes the rounds on cable television and could "sell policy ideas to almost anyone."
Not everyone is so jazzed about Short possibly taking the helm at Heritage though.
Other current and former Heritage employees complained that Short was a political operator with little real policy experience. Some suggested that Short is only competitive for the position because of his longstanding connection with Vice President Pence. And one senior policy researcher responded with credulity, texting, "Oh, Lord."
If Short walks away from Pennsylvania Ave., if the strategist goes to Heritage, Trump might be saying the same thing. He would lose one of his best strategists.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.