If Mitt Romney voted his conscience yesterday when he favored convicting President Trump for “abuse of power,” then I respect his vote. An impeachment trial isn’t a team sport, or shouldn’t be.
But I don’t believe Romney voted his conscience. I’m not sure he has one.
Who is Mitt Romney? He was a center-right governor of Massachusetts. Then, he was a hard-right candidate for the Republican nomination.
He was “pro-choice” on abortion. Then he was pro-life. He had a story explaining his conversion. It didn’t seem very plausible, but at the time I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, I supported him for president in 2008 and 2012.
Romney was staunchly anti-Trump. Then, he lobbied to be Trump’s Secretary of State. As I interpret the ensuing dance, Trump strung Romney along and then selected someone else to head the State Department.
Since that snub, Romney has returned with a vengeance to being anti-Trump. Yesterday’s vote, in my opinion, was the latest acting out of this incarnation of Romney.
In this post, I wrote about how two strong conservatives — John Bolton and Jeff Sessions — have been demonized by some Trump supporters after getting on the wrong side of the president. Romney is not like Bolton and Sessions.
Unlike Romney, Bolton and Sessions don’t waver in their conservatism. They don’t reinvent themselves to fit current exigencies. They aren’t opportunists.
It’s possible that Bolton’s book is, in part, an act of revenge. But his difficulties with Trump stem from policy disagreements, and these policy disagreements stem from core Bolton beliefs. Among them are the belief that Russian aggression needs to be opposed steadfastly and the belief that military aid to countries that need it shouldn’t be conditioned on the president’s political priorities.
Romney’s difficulties with Trump stem from personal matters — gratuitous insults by Trump followed by the humiliation of being teased with the prospect of a big job offer that never came. I don’t blame Romney for being upset with Trump. I blame him for letting his personal pique drive his vote on the grave matter of removing a president from office.
If Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were able to see what is obvious — that Trump’s misconduct isn’t impeachable — I’m confident that Romney was capable of seeing it too. For personal reasons, he just didn’t want to.