Happy New Year to all. Apparently this year is going to go by absurd name “2019,” which just doesn’t sound like a year, to me, but I will have to get used to it.
One prominent Republican decided to make New Year’s Day his personal Independence Day as well. Sen.-elect Mitt Romney of Utah published an op-ed in the Washington Post and made clear that he will not be silent about his disagreements with President Donald Trump. Here’s a paragraph from the op-ed:
To reassume our leadership in world politics, we must repair failings in our politics at home. That project begins, of course, with the highest office once again acting to inspire and unite us. It includes political parties promoting policies that strengthen us rather than promote tribalism by exploiting fear and resentment. Our leaders must defend our vital institutions despite their inevitable failings: a free press, the rule of law, strong churches, and responsible corporations and unions.
It’s a dignified statement and contains no personal attacks, but clearly indicates that, unlike many Republicans in both houses of Congress, Romney plans to express his differences with the incumbent president of his own party. During most of the past three years (including the election year of 2016), few Republican members of Congress or candidates have taken on Trump, except for those who had decided to retire from politics or were deathly ill.
If Romney does speak and act independently, it might make a difference; I don’t claim to know. But his op-ed was a welcome personal declaration of independence. Perhaps it will start a trend.
In the op-ed, Romney didn’t dwell on Trump’s personal conduct. He seems mostly focused on foreign policy, and is troubled with the way Trump has disrespected some of our allies and multilateral alliances. For example, he wrote:
America is strongest when our arms are linked with other nations. We want a unified and strong Europe, not a disintegrating union. We want stable relationships with the nations of Asia that strengthen our mutual security and prosperity.
The closest he came to mentioning Trump’s personal conduct was oblique, writing in this paragraph:
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’s not that oblique, but no names or specific racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive tweets are mentioned.
It will be interesting to see how Trump and Romney’s soon-to-be Senate Republican colleagues respond.
Late morning addendum:
When I wrote the piece above immediately after seeing Romney’s op-ed, it didn’t occur to me that he might be positioning himself to challenge Trump for the 2020 presidential nomination. The New York Times wondered if that was part of the plan, but added:
At the outset of the year before his re-election, however, Mr. Trump does not appear vulnerable to an intraparty threat. He remains broadly popular among Republicans and even more so among the party’s most engaged voters, those most likely to vote in a primary.
But the president is also facing sprawling investigations that touch on nearly every aspect of his life and, with Democrats in charge of the House, is about to face a level of congressional scrutiny and oversight he averted in his first two years in office.
Even later morning addendum:
President Trump replied by tweet. Nothing surprising in the choice of medium.
But somewhat surprising is the tone. Instead of condemning, attacking or insulting Romney, the presidential tweet bordered on conciliatory (unless you judge him by normal human standards, in which bringing up Romney’s 2012 defeat might be considered a tad rude). But still, compared to his usual tone, it’s a note this POTUS’ trumpet seldom plays.
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!
Hardly eloquent. And calling it “conciliatory” as I just did is a stretch. But instead of condemning Romney to eternal damnation, he suggests a search for common ground.