“It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
Okay, I didn’t say that. Though I could have. Wish I had.
No, it was said last week in a Washington Post op-ed by no other than the incoming junior Senator from Utah, Mitt Romney. Yes, that Mitt Romney. The one who was the 2012 Republican nominee for President.
Romney did go on to say that he agrees with Trump on a lot of the policy decisions he has made. And he’s on solid ground there. Because if you peel away all of the nonsense that comes out of the president’s mouth, he has pushed policies that have been promoted by Republicans for years.
But as Romney points out, there is more to being president that pushing policies. He says, “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 I’ve said in this column before, the president has a responsibility to show “qualities of character.” I said this one does not. I was excoriated by some for that assessment of the incumbent president. I suspect Romney will be as well. But he’s right.
You see, his words and actions DO mater. All of you who push them off by saying, “But he’s protecting US interests, and bringing jobs to the country, and stopping illegal immigration, so I’m okay with the way he acts,” fail to see the point. Those things (which I would also argue are not true) don’t matter at all on the world stage.
His words and actions ripple throughout the world and are changing the view the world has of him and of the USA (read the Pew Research Center numbers Romney quotes). And it comes at a dangerous time.
Romney makes a strong point about the implications of this; several former Soviet states are rethinking democracy and some Asian nations are leaning toward China. If this happened during ANY other President’s tenure, they would be pummeled by the critics and congress.
Yet for the last two years the Republican controlled congress just sat back and let the president say whatever he wanted. He blindsidedthem (think Syria), he belittled them if they didn’t support him (think Mia), he called them names like a 3rd grader would(“Little Bob Corker, Lyin’ Ted”) and they just sat there and let it happen.
So, will Romney be the next Jeff Flake? Will he stand up against the politics of hate and divisiveness? Will he demand that the president tell the truth? Will he insist that the battle of anti-immigration ends? Will he demand the president act with—not as a—character?
He says he will. Now, say I’m skeptical, but I’m not holding my breath that the virtuous claims he is making in his Op-Ed are anything more than the first steps up onto the 2020 presidential soapbox. He’s climbed up there before and as we’ve seen with other candidates from both parties, the view from there looks so good that it’s hard to walk away from (but please, Mitt, Hilary, Joe, do us all a favor and let someone with a better chance of reconciling our nation lead us going forward).
Nonetheless, I appreciate that Mitt had the courage to throw down the gauntlet the way he did. And while his motives are suspect, at least he’s opened the door for other Republicans to step forward and demand more truth and honesty from the president. And to tell him to stop acting like a schoolyard bully.
Like the First Lady says when promoting her “Be Best” initiative to fight online bullying, “Be kind to each other.” She might want to give that talk to someone very close to her.
I’m just sayin.’
* Some of the other names the incumbent president has called others: Horseface, Pocahontas, The Indian, Sleepy Joe, Little Michael Bloomberg, the Dick, Sleepin’ Bob Casey, Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey, Jeff Flakey, Puppet Jones, Lamb the Sham, That dog, Cheatin’ Obama, Little Marco, Sleazy Adam Schiff, Head Clown Chuck Schumer, Mr. Magoo, Low-IQ Maxine, Rocket Man, Sloppy Steve, Sloppy Carl Bernstein, Tom “marbels in his mouth” Brokaw, Dope Frank Bruni, The Dumbest man on Television, Mr. Kurd, Little George, Little Katy, Little Jeff Zucker, Angry Democrat Thugs, No Talent Samantha Bee, Mr. Kellyanne, Miss Piggy.