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  • Steve Hamelman

Got Mitt?


Not too many years have passed since Democrats were shouting down the gaffes of Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s candidate for President of the United States.


The most boneheaded of those gaffes was his remark that 47 per cent of the nation was comprised of non-taxpaying, Democrat-leaning, government-mooching victims. In other words, liberal deadbeats who would probably sacrifice their welfare checks to support Romney’s opponent.


That opponent was Barack Obama, seeking his second term in office. Romney was the Republican fall guy, the Utah-based conservative whose policies and personality were no match for Obama, whose progressive agenda had not yet completely stalled despite many obstructions thrown up by Republican senators and congressmen.


How many years has it been since Romney’s defeat? Seven, to be precise. But it feels more like seventy.


One good way to gauge the radical transformation of the body politic during that span is to imagine how Romney’s “victim” remark would go over today, if it came out of the mouth of the current President. Republican leaders would support such aspersions with (1) studied silence or convoluted excuses, while the base would follow with (2) cheers and waves of the red hat.


To be sure, since Trump’s triumph over Hillary, all Republicans have had plenty of practice spinning put-downs much worse than Romney’s.


Seven years. That’s how fast and far we’ve fallen.


Romney Redux

But there’s a limit to how much even Republicans can take when it comes to Trump. The tipping-point may be his abysmal foreign policy.


The President’s recent decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, thereby giving Turkey the opening to attack the Kurds (American allies who deserve much better) and ISIS a chance to regroup in the Middle East and beyond, has unnerved many of them.


Leading the criticism of Trump’s mishandling of the U.S. military presence, as well as of his deals with foreign heads-of-state to monitor Democratic foes, is Mitt Romney.


Here we have the Republican senator from Utah, where Trump bested Hillary by 18 percentage points in 2016, defying Trump on more than one count—doing so despite facing the same sort of backlash that has prevented the vast majority of other Republican senators—a craven crew, whom history will judge harshly—from uttering a peep.


The issue isn’t whether or not Trump did the wrong (or right) thing in bringing the troops home. That’s something that can be debated on both sides. No, the issue is that in the minds of most Republicans it was the wrong thing.


And Mitt Romney stepped forth and stood up and said so.


Mum’s No Longer the Word

In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Romney’s former advisor Mike Murphy details with a refreshing lack of partisanship the reasons behind Romney’s pushback against Trump and the courage that defines that stance. He also does a good job analyzing a deteriorating political situation where Republicans are being forced to reconsider their decisions to stay mum while Trump’s transgressions mount.


It seems, then, that “things are moving” in a new direction. Romney, a person who commands considerable respect in the party (and among Democrats too), has broken ranks, in terms of Trump at least, with Republican deniers, rationalizers, careerists, and cowards.


More’s the pity that outside their jobs, these legislators are probably decent people. Look what they’ve been giving up—their pride, their self-respect—for Trump for the better part of three years. Someday, they will wish they hadn’t traded their integrity for a man of his stripe.

Romney, meanwhile, stays clean. In so doing, he has gained among many Democrats an admiration similar to that enjoyed by the late John McCain. Even more, Romney’s criticism of Trump gives Democrats hope that civil discourse is not defunct on Capitol Hill, that decency is not entirely absent among the GOP, and that American values have not been utterly demolished during Trump’s roughshod reign.


Wishful Thinking

Please do not misconstrue this praise of Senator Romney. Such praise, albeit bordering on gratitude, does not in any way imply endorsement of Mitt Romney over any single one of the five or six viable Democratic candidates seeking the nomination.


It means, instead, that, truth be told, I’m nostalgic for the likes of a Mitt Romney to be running against the eventual Democratic nominee in November 2020.


Trump has so fouled the air and the water that the thought of him winning again (the possibility of which all Democrats must acknowledge lest we go into the next election as we went into the previous one, smugly thinking Hillary was certain to prevail)—the thought of that has led me to indulge momentarily in an obvious fantasy.


Better Romney than Trump!


But neither Romney nor any other Republican (such as Mark Sanford of South Carolina) will challenge and overcome the incumbent. To make sure outliers stay put, several states have cancelled their Republican primaries in deference to their dear leader.


Nevertheless, the Senate Republicans include at least one man of character and common sense. These days, we take what we can get.


Postscript

Mitt Romney’s genteel, firm, and deliberate style is about as different from Donald Trump’s bludgeoning, demeaning, and unprincipled manner as you can find in the 50 states.


A week or two after his “47 per cent” slip-up, Romney retracted his statement. One might even say he apologized for it.


When’s the last time Donald Trump apologized for one of his crimes or misdemeanors? Or for one of his off-the-cuff slurs?


Never, of course.


Which is why it’s good to see Mitt Romney stepping up at such a decisive moment for all Americans, and for the rest of the world too.

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