Mitt Romney made New Year’s Day a personal Independence Day

Mitt Romney
REUTERS/Ed Kosmicki
Mitt Romney will turn 72 in March and on Thursday will begin a six-year Senate term, which may give him freedom to express himself that others, worried about a longer political future, feel they cannot.

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.

Romney, the last previous Republican presidential nominee before Trump, will turn 72 in March and on Thursday will begin a six-year Senate term, which may give him freedom to express himself that others, worried about a longer political future, feel they cannot. I don’t claim to know, and I note that Romney previously showed a willingness to audition for an appointment to the Trump Cabinet.

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.

The full Romney op-ed is here.


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.

Tweeted he:

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.

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Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/02/2019 - 09:37 am.

    Mitt Romney is about as “establishment” a Republican as one could find, I’d guess, and – making an allowance for personal integrity – if he’s willing to put some of his thoughts to paper in the very “establishment” Washington Post that contravene the direction of much of our recent foreign policy, it suggests to me that maybe, just maybe, the Current Occupant of the Oval Office has – finally – made himself politically vulnerable. Perhaps at least some of the people who like to think of themselves as “conservative” will join Mr. Romney, thus diminishing the Current Occupant’s Svengali-like influence over his “base.” I can only hope…

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/02/2019 - 10:02 am.

    In the past few decades that GOP has gone for winning (power) over principles. I suspect that they will abandon Trump if and only if they think that he is becoming a loser.
    BTW — while the WaPo may be ‘establishment’ in the sense of being a mainstream publication, it is on the left wing of the establishment. Publishing in the WaPo would be an appeal for cross-party support.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/02/2019 - 10:07 am.

    Unfortunately, the only people Trump is listening to are the Fox empire of experts and Fox has positioned Romney as a has-been loser.

    Until there is a firm and public group of 21 or 22 Republican Senators that say “no more–no further” Trump will not be restrained. No impeachment required–merely adult supervision. That threat of actual ability to remove Trump would be the control that is required. But until then, it’s all for naught.

    Besides, in more important news, Kanye has re-affirmed his support for Trump and promised to wear his MAGA hat at each of his concert and is talking about running post-Trump in 2024.

    Two stable geniuses. What the heck is that Romney rattling on about…

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/02/2019 - 11:43 am.

      Circle the wagons !!!

      The GOP chair just tweeted:

      …POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive….

      Who is the GOP chair ?

      Ronna Romney McDaniel–niece of Mitt Romney

      • Submitted by ian wade on 01/02/2019 - 01:47 pm.

        “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.”

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/02/2019 - 04:14 pm.

        “[W]hat the Democrats and media want . . .”

        Perhaps the media want this. By highlighting a well-mannered Republican they can make a claim that they really aren’t biased.

        Democrats, however, see the Trumpification of the Republican Party as their easiest path to victory. “Go away, Mitt!”

  4. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 01/02/2019 - 10:09 am.

    As the Right is fond of saying, Romney just served up a Nothingburger. It’s hardly “independent” to beg for jobs and endorsements from the President, then support 90% of his agenda. I’ll continue to wait for a true, brave independent.

    • Submitted by Claire Ackerman on 01/04/2019 - 06:15 pm.

      Exactly. Romney is a chameleon. He was sucking up to Trump after the election in hoping for a job. He has railed against “Obamacare” which was modeled on Romneycare. He must think it’s politically expedient now to come out against Trump. I don’t disagree with his latest statement but I doubt his true convictions.

  5. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 01/02/2019 - 10:12 am.

    It only matters if Romney actually votes in a way that puts a meaningful check on Trump’s actions. Otherwise, it’s just the same old tut-tutting we’ve heard from various Republicans over the last three years.

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 01/02/2019 - 10:51 am.

    Time will tell whether the freshman senator (elect) from Utah is able to offer any significant resiatance to his party’s leader. He may find that the op-ed pages are his only outlet…

  7. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 01/02/2019 - 11:12 am.

    Romney’s position isn’t about challenging Trump in 2020; it’s about positioning himself to be the guy if Trump doesn’t make it to 2020.

  8. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/02/2019 - 12:43 pm.

    Well, la-dee-dah. Stung by Trump’s failure to offer him a suitable position in his administration (and after all that grovelling he did!), Senator-elect Romney has decided he’s going to be independent of the White House. Observers are responding with suitably large yawns.

    Reading between the lines, it’s clear that Romney’s only objection to Trump is stylistic. He’s saying the quiet parts out loud. It’s not that he objects to the Trump immigration policy, or the ruinous tax cut (“Here are the bees, here is the honey, this is the one that will make you the money”). No, all of that seems to be fine. It’s just that Trump is not acting like a gentleman when he does it.

    Trump’s greatest accomplishment may be the reverse of what anyone intended. He is the id of the modern Republican Party. Ever since the Nixon presidency, the GOP has been tilting itself in this direction. Until now, they were savvy (?) enough to realize that you shouldn’t be so blatant about it. Trump’s success in “saying what we’re thinking” is putting paid to the idea that he represents some kind of aberration for the Republican Party.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/02/2019 - 04:58 pm.

      “… He is the id of the modern Republican Party…” That is a fantastic line and bit of insight. I fully intend to steal it for some future use…

  9. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 01/02/2019 - 01:38 pm.

    You tell em Mitt!

    Trump needs to cooperate with resistance!

  10. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/02/2019 - 02:04 pm.

    Agree with RBH, just a little bit more of the same, until it turns to actions, we got a bad situation.
    Per WAPO: “Is there anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders?” Per Falwell Jr. “No”
    Reminds me of Throeau’s Civil Disobedience: “”and as they rarely make distinctions, there are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it , as God” .

  11. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 01/02/2019 - 04:42 pm.

    Trump calls for Romney to be a team player. As if Trump has any idea what teamwork is.

  12. Submitted by joe smith on 01/02/2019 - 06:35 pm.

    Another Globalist that doesn’t like Trump. Nothing new with that.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 01/03/2019 - 09:07 am.

      A successful businessman who doesn’t like a guy who failed at every business venture he was involved in and would have been far more successful putting his inheritance into mutual funds.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/03/2019 - 01:20 pm.

        Mitt is to George as Donald is to Fred.
        Neither was a particularly successful business man.
        The main difference is that Mitt was a successful governor.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/03/2019 - 09:22 am.

      You’re absolutely right, Mr. Smith. Americans are fed up with these rootless cosmopolitans.

      What’s next? A globalist like Romney in the Senate is just the first step. Soon, we could see political power being assumed by a businessman with real estate holdings all over the world, making most of his money by licensing his name to foreign ventures, manufacturing tacky tchotchkes in China, marrying foreign fashion models, and . . . um . . .

      Sorry, I’l come in again.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 01/03/2019 - 01:04 pm.

        Much less concerned about any successful businessman in public office than career politicians that come into office with a $100,000 net worth and leave millionaires. Interesting how career politicians, on both sides of the isle, can become multimillionaires with a salary of 100,000k a year, living in DC.
        Globalists believe a job in China is as good as a job in Chisholm, MN, I do not. You and many others seem to be upset that we have a President that puts America first. Would you like the USA putting Germany first, how about Cuba??

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/03/2019 - 01:22 pm.

          No, we have a president who puts himself first.
          ‘American First’ is an empty slogan.

          • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 01/04/2019 - 11:10 pm.

            I would say redoing NAFTA (even though the new deal isn’t much better) is putting America first. They lied to us all with NAFTA. They claimed auto jobs in Mexico would see pay go up to be nearly equal to the US. 25 years later it’s still 3 bucks an hour and change. Trump taking on China is also good for America. It’s just too bad he doesn’t get really tough on them for all the problems they’ve caused.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/03/2019 - 01:45 pm.

          So Trump isn’t a globalist, what with his far-flung business interests? And you honestly think he gives a rat’s hindquarters for anyone other than himself?

          He is a successful business man only in the loses sense of the word. Most of his money comes from licensing his name. He is no different from the Kardashians, except that the Kardashians make no pretense at being anything other than celebrities who are famous for being famous. Trump doesn’t even have that level of honesty.

          It’s a sad world when the Kardashians have mroe integrity than the President of the United States.

          • Submitted by joe smith on 01/03/2019 - 04:13 pm.

            Globalist has to do with thinking a job in China is th3 same as one in America. It is shipping millions of American jobs offshore believing it is better the world grows than Minnesota grows. It is thinking that a 35% corporate tax is fair because the USA has dominated the world of manufacturing, investing, entrepreneurship and invention long enough. As I stated, you may believe that, I don’t.
            It has nothing to do with building a hotel in Germany.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/03/2019 - 05:43 pm.

              “It is shipping millions of American jobs offshore believing it is better the world grows than Minnesota grows.”

              How about shipping manufacturing of your personal branded clothing to China, because you believe it is better to increase your profit margins?

            • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/03/2019 - 07:57 pm.

              Is a globalist someone who manufactures Trump brand neck ties in China?

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/03/2019 - 03:59 pm.

          Not to get into the middle of a great feud, But your comments about Cuba, etc brings up an old analogy: Word is we did not set up fire departments to stop our house form burning down, but to stop our neighbors house from burning down if ours caught on fire! If we don’t take care and look after our friends and neighbors the way we look after ourselves, we put our house at risk of getting burnt down as well as theirs!

  13. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/03/2019 - 08:05 am.

    Mitt Romney accelerated the spiral of the Trump GOP with his editorial.

    New rumors from the GOP–unilateral top-down cancelling of all primaries for 2020 to prevent internal GOP challenges of Trump.

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 01/03/2019 - 09:56 am.

      Since we all know that the destruction of the Republic is the ultimate goal of Republicans (how ironic), this does not come as a surprise. I have no doubt that if Trump somehow survives his corruption and makes it to the next election, the election will be contested should he lose.

  14. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 01/03/2019 - 10:58 am.

    Mitt Romney ran for the Senate seat from Utah with this very message, so it’s nothing new to those who voted for him in his state.

    What’s new? That any Republican with at least six years of national prominence ahead of him (no retirement ahead, no defeat at the polls to diminish his standing) has declared that it’s okay to disagree publicly with Donald Trump.

    That’s important, and I hope it’s a precedent more GOP elected officials will follow. Republicans have looked and sounded like rather dull-witted sheep these past two years, going along with even the most outrageous Trump words and actions without challenging him. We must return to a political scene where there is dialog and debate. Not by Tweet, but with complete sentences and some attempt at constructing a rational argument. Romney is simply reasserting Republican values and reminding people that the GOP is not a one-man party.

    Romney will be listened to, and by Trump’s base. That’s why the
    GOP is frightened enough to try to lock in a 2020 Trump presidential nomination now. Talk about an oligarchical move!

    And: Mitt Romney was not only just elected Utah’s new Senator, with an honest voting process. He has proven his stripes by a former election to the governorship of Massachussets! Trump is simply not able to match that electoral success (he lost the popular vote in 2016, his only try at public office).

    Go get him, Mitt!

  15. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 01/03/2019 - 05:47 pm.

    Let us all support “the rule of law, strong churches” as the Senator-elect wishes.

  16. Submitted by Steve Roth on 01/04/2019 - 11:28 am.

    Bravo to anyone in the GOP who isn’t afraid to speak – even obliquely and timidly – the truth, and not be afraid of Trump’s dwindling “base” On that note, remember when Cheney called Iraqis still loyal to Saddam “dead-enders”? By 2020, that nickname will be apt for the remaining Trump’s supporters, still yelling “no collusion” and siding with Putin and supporting – really ignoring – policies so damaging to so many of them.

    More impressive will be when more GOPers aren’t silent about policy idiocy, both foreign and domestic, and put country ahead of party. Don’t hold your breath – look how silent they are about the wall/slats/fence/columns that’s not only a fiscal monstrosity that won’t work, but Mexico was supposed to pay for.

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