Don’t Count on Romney
David Ignatius must be kidding:
Who might deliver us from this national train wreck? Who could restore a sense of balance to the Senate trial so that, whatever its outcome, it doesn’t feed Trump’s false narrative of victimization and populist rage? There’s one obvious answer: Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and custodian of what remains of his party’s moral and political balance.
Counting on Mitt Romney for political courage and moral leadership is always a bad bet. Romney has a very safe seat in Utah, so in theory he could afford to take risks, but taking political risks is exactly what Romney never does. He is a consummate opportunist, and he has spent the last decade and a half pandering to anyone and everyone to advance his political career. Romney is not the politician you’re looking for if you want someone who will take a principled stand on, well, anything. If he is the “custodian” of the GOP’s “moral and political balance,” they are truly lost.
History is knocking on Romney’s door. This is his moment to step away from a president who holds him in contempt and to speak for principle — by insisting that the Senate conduct an actual trial and weigh the House’s allegations that Trump abused power and obstructed Congress.
It should tell us a lot about Romney that he has not done much of anything to “step away” from Trump before now. Despite a half-hearted op-ed that expressed his willingness to dissent from the administration’s line, he has been a reliable yes vote for the president’s agenda. Support the war on Yemen? Romney was all for it. Send more weapons to the Saudis and the UAE? Romney was on board. One of the weirder things about the Trump era is the desperate retconning of Romney into someone with principles. In order to take a principled stand, it helps if the politician in question has principles. Romney doesn’t, and it is strange that so many journalists and columnists keep pretending otherwise. Romney was in so many respects Trump’s forerunner as the shameless panderer and political contortionist who told Republican voters whatever they wanted to hear in order to get their support. Romney does not “speak for principle” because he has no principles to speak of.
Ignatius even urges Romney to consult Profiles in Courage. If I didn’t know better, I would think the entire column was an elaborate troll of one of the least principled and least courageous politicians of my lifetime. Romney has never stood up to his party on principle, and I would be shocked if he ever did. I can’t imagine what would ever motivate him to do it, but this isn’t it. Ignatius says that this is “Romney’s moment.” If that is the case, Romney is going to let it pass without doing much of anything.