Steve has already leveled what is probably the most salient criticism of Mitt Romney’s anti-Trump op-ed in the Washington Post. As Steve showed, Romney inadvertently made a case against his own style of Republicanism.
I want to focus on this passage in Romney’s piece:
Furthermore, I will act as I would with any president, in or out of my party: I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not. I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.
It should go without saying that a Senator will support policies he agrees with and oppose ones he doesn’t like. It should also go without saying that a Senator will not “comment on every tweet or fault” of a president, and certainly not a president of the same political party. The people of Utah didn’t elect Romney to provide punditry. It shocks me that Romney would even think this role might be on the table.
Romney’s pledge to speak out against “significant statements or actions that are divisive” is pathetic. Any statement or action of a conservative-leaning Republican president is going to be “divisive.”
Apparently, Romney wants Trump to be a punching bag. That didn’t work so well when Romney was the GOP standard-bearer.
Romney’s pledge to speak out against any racist statements or actions of Trump sounds commendable. But he seems to assume that Trump is inclined to make such statements and take such actions.
What is Romney’s basis for this assumption? Saying that some of the people who attended a rally protesting the taking down of a statute of Robert E. Lee are good people isn’t racist. Harshly criticizing political adversaries who happen to be African-American isn’t racist — not when we’re talking about a president who is nasty towards critics regardless of race.
Romney, of all people, should be particularly loath to buy into the liberal media’s nauseating practice of stretching to find racism and sexism where there’s no sound reason for inferring either. He was a victim of this practice. Or has Romney forgotten that he was accused of sexism for saying that, as governor of Massachusetts, he had “binders full of women” candidates’ resumes he considered in filling top jobs in his administration?
I find myself agreeing with Romney’s niece. Ronna McDaniel, chair of the National Republican Committee Committee, tweeted this about her uncle’s op-ed:
POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as [his] first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive.
Why did Romney do it? Why such an unusual step?
One possibility is that he’s still sore about being passed up by Trump for Secretary of State. Recall that during the transition period, Romney, who had attacked Trump without mercy during the campaign, went to New York to seek the top job at State. Trump had Romney come to Trump Tower for dinner, but then passed over him in favor of Rex Tilleson.
This had to be humiliating. But Romney had mainly himself to blame for trying to worm his way into the administration of a man he had declared unfit for the presidency.
There was speculation that Trump orchestrated this dance as revenge for Romney’s attacks on him. Now, Romney may be seeking revenge for the revenge.
Or perhaps Romney wants to position himself as the man to pick up the pieces if Trump comes crashing down before the 2020 election (as Romney probably believes might happen). If so, I question whether Romney is going about it very shrewdly. In a scenario where Trump isn’t the Republican nominee in 2020, the Party better nominate someone who has a chance of holding the Trump and non-Trump factions of the GOP together.
Romney isn’t that guy and can’t become that guy by calling out Trump for imagined racism, sexism, etc. (Why not leave that job to Dana Milbank?) And by 2024, when, conceivably, Trumpism may fully have blown over, Romney will be 77 years old.
My guess is that Romney’s motivation is similar to what John McCain’s was. He hates Trump (not without cause) and sees the role of leading Republican critic of Trump as a good way to cap off his career.
In any case, it’s the only leading role available to him. And Romney didn’t come to Washington to be a bit player.