It’s amazing to behold, but for a mild-mannered guy Mitt Romney sure made a splash with a Washington Post op-ed he published just one day before he took the oath of office as the newly-elected senator from the state of Utah. Amazing not so much because Romney is a GOP mainstay who openly and harshly criticized a sitting Republican president for lacking the character and temperament for the office—these are, after all, arguments we’ve heard a million times before—but because when it comes to firing broadsides against a president for undermining the institutions of the republic, Romney has nary uttered a peep on the subject. Until now.
In case it never occurred to him, there were plenty of opportunities over the last several years for Romney to point out the manifest character flaws of the man he tried to replace as president back in 2012, namely one Barack Hussein Obama. Granted, Obama didn’t suffer from the personal peccadillos that the current occupant of the White House has in tremendous supply—there were no infidelities, no porn stars, no suggestions he was anything but a loving husband and father, and his Twitter feed was about as rote and boring as any focus-tested social media fluff. As the chief executive and foremost law enforcement officer of the country, however, Obama demonstrated all the character of a mob boss ruthlessly protecting and expanding his turf.
Did Donald Trump ever deeply the IRS to harass groups of citizens who opposed him politically, denying them their First Amendment right to petition the government for a redress of their grievances? No, but the Obama administration did. Did Trump wreck the stability of Libya and leave the ambassador there to die along with three other brave Americans, and then lie to the country—and the dead men’s families—about why it happened? No, but the Obama administration did. And did Trump ever use his authority over the intelligence community to spy on the campaign of a rival, in an abuse of power so vast in scope and shocking in its brazenness that it should be the greatest political scandal of all time?
No, but Barack Obama did—along with numerous other scandals that would have been fodder for news story after news story, if the mainstream media weren’t so desperate to protect Obama’s legacy. Yet in the six years since Mitt Romney ran against Obama, he has barely uttered a word on any of these things. While bashing Trump as a divisive figure, he fails to mention how it was a stated strategy of Obama’s to pit various groups against one another in order to achieve an electoral advantage. And while castigating Trump for undermining our alliances, he forgets how Obama undermined Israel by giving carte blance to Iran for their nuclear program and allowing Vladimir Putin to run roughshod through Syria and Ukraine.
Had Romney something, anything, to say about these events as they were unfolding, I would take his criticism of Donald Trump more seriously. As it stands, though, I‘m left to believe that Mitt Romney—like so many in the #NeverTrump crowd—are far more concerned with Trump’s personal style and the threat he represents to the established political order in Washington than he is about the wholesale corruption of the rule of law that occurred under his predecessor.
But even setting all that aside, what could Romney possibly hope to accomplish with this column? Is he trying to establish himself as an independent man as he re-enters Washington politics? That would be moral preening at best, vanity at worst. Or is he simply trying to signal the media that he’s not one of those conservatives, hoping to raise his visibility as a guest on cable news shows and perhaps positioning himself for a primary run against Trump? If that’s the case, it’s highly unlikely he’ll succeed.
As Romney’s op-ed makes clear, he thinks that Trump has not assumed the mantle of the presidency—implying, of course, that voters made a big mistake by electing him. In that regard, he’s also implying that Hillary Clinton was perhaps correct in characterizing Trump’s voters as a basket of deplorables. How else to explain their support of a man who doesn’t measure up to his exacting standards? If Romney really believes that, he’s going to have a tough time convincing those same voters that he’s a better choice for 2020.
Sorry to disappoint you, Mitt. Again.