On the eve of his swearing-in as a US Senator, on the op-ed page of the WaPo, Mitt Romney parties like it’s 2012. (This explains my snarky headline.) He lays down a marker as Trump’s foe:
To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.
Well, he’s right about that, and nobody has ever questioned Mitt Romney’s decency. So what’s he got to offer his party and his country, besides that decency? More:
The world needs American leadership, and it is in America’s interest to provide it. A world led by authoritarian regimes is a world — and an America — with less prosperity, less freedom, less peace.
Oh? Read on:
We have seen our vulnerability – and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny – prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder – violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
Ha ha! I’m kidding. Those last two paragraphs are from George W. Bush’s second inaugural address. The best Mitt Romney in 2018 can do is to recycle Republican Party boilerplate. These vanilla mandarins learn nothing. Trump has certainly damaged US leadership in some serious ways, but is returning to the liberal-internationalist status quo what we want, or need? No.
More Romney (seriously):
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.
We must repair our fiscal foundation, setting a course to a balanced budget. We must attract the best talent to America’s service and the best innovators to America’s economy.
All those against a free press, the rule of law, strong churches, responsible corporations and unions, repaired fiscal foundations, talent, and innovation — raise your hands. Yeah, I thought so. This oratory is enough to raise David Broder from the dead.
I can’t let this last one pass:
America is strongest when our arms are linked with other nations. We want a unified and strong Europe, not a disintegrating union.
So now he’s rallying behind the EU? Truly, Mitt Romney is yesterday’s Republican.
Honestly, who could possibly rally behind that mealy-mouthed message, or the man delivering it? I say this as a conservative who is sick and tired of Donald Trump’s big mouth, corruption, instability, and incompetence. But if it means going back to the Republican Party as it existed before Trump, no sale. Trump has no vision, and no political skills to get meaningful things done. But Romney’s op-ed — which reads like a sermon in the religion of High Jebbery — reminds us why Trump knocked the rest of the 2016 Republican field.