Wednesday, January 02, 2019


Even in his famous anti-Trump speech in March 2016, Mitt Romney hedged his bet:
Now, not every policy that Donald Trump has floated is bad, of course. He wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He wants to bring jobs home from China and Japan.
Romney concluded that Trump was "a phony" and "a fraud" and that even Trump's orthodox Republican policies were unlikely to be executed in a serious manner. But what concerned Romney most was his certainty that a victory in the primaries for Trump (who still hasn't quite wrapped up the nomination) would lead to a far more unspeakable horror -- a Hillary Clinton presidency:
... polls are ... saying that he will lose to Hillary Clinton. Think about that. On Hillary Clinton’s watch, the State Department, when she was guiding it and part of the Obama administration, that State Department watched as America’s interests were diminished at every corner of the world.

She compromised our national secrets. She dissembled to the families of the slain. And she jettisoned her most profound beliefs to gain presidential power. For the last three decades, the Clintons have lived at the intersection of money and politics, trading their political influence to enrich their personal finances.

They embody the term, “crony capitalism.” It disgusts the American people and causes them to lose faith in our political process. A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president.


Of course, a Trump nomination enables her victory.
So, sure, Romney was anti-Trump in early 2016 -- but only because he despised Democrats, and because he was pro-GOP orthodoxy. By the summer of 2018, when he was running for Senate in Utah, Romney was no longer quite certain that Trump's deviations from the GOP mainstream were all that bad, as The Salt Lake Tribune noted:
On the edge of a mountaintop in Utah, it’s getting complicated for Mitt Romney.

With the sun setting over his shoulder, the former Republican presidential nominee and would-be senator tells his audience, gathered on the patio of a resort, that President Donald Trump will win a second term. Romney also says that annual $1 trillion deficits under Trump are “highly stimulative.” And ignoring Trump’s new trade tariffs, Romney says there’s nothing already on the horizon that will push the U.S. into a recession....

Two years ago, Romney attacked Trump’s very same policies on trade, spending and national security. Today, like other candidates across the country this election season, Romney is taking an approach that suggests there’s no room for an outspoken Trump critic in Republican Party.
A couple of weeks after that story appeared, Romney published an op-ed in the Tribune in which he said that, yes, he liked some things Trump had done, didn't like others, and didn't appreciate Trump's governing style:
I will support the president’s policies when I believe they are in the best interest of Utah and the nation. I have noted, the first year of his administration has exceeded my expectations; he made our corporate tax code globally competitive, worked to reduce unnecessary regulations and restored multiple use on Utah public land. In addition, I am pleased that he backed away from imposing a 35 percent tariff on all foreign goods.

But I have openly expressed my disagreement with certain of the administration decisions such as the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); I want more markets open for Utah and American goods. I also oppose broad-based tariffs, such as those proposed on steel and aluminum, particularly when they are imposed on our allies. I agree, however, with narrower penalties levied on companies or nations that employ unfair trade practices, such as China.

I have and will continue to speak out when the president says or does something which is divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions. I do not make this a daily commentary; I express contrary views only when I believe it is a matter of substantial significance.
That "divisive, racist, sexist" sentence appears almost verbatim in the Washington Post op-ed Romney published yesterday ("But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions"). Apart from that, the new op-ed is more of the same -- Trump does some good things but a lot of bad things, and Romney doesn't want to denounce all the bad things, just some of them.
When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.

... 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.
Romney is sticking to a position so indefensible that even most mainstream media pundits have abandoned it: that Trump's presidency isn't a crisis and that it's still possible for him to be a good president and a decent person, at which point Romney will readily embrace him. His bet remains hedged.

But if Romney thinks this puts him in a good position for 2020 in the event of Trump doesn't run again, I think he's mistaken. I continue to believe that GOP voters will never abandon Trump no matter what he does, which means that only a Republican perceived as pro-Trump -- Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, a lean and hungry opportunist like Tom Cotton, or maybe a media mountebank like Laura Ingraham -- will be able to take the nomination if Trump falls. No one will beat Trump in the 2020 primaries if he runs -- certainly not Romney. And no one who seemed in any way aligned with the evil Democrats and Deep Staters who brought about Trump's downfall will stand a chance if Trump is gone. Romney may be acting in a calculated way, but if so, he's calculating wrong.

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