Well, that didn’t take long. Many speculated that Mitt Romney would eventually become a harsh Trump critic at some point in his new Senate career. Romney is not even sworn in yet as the new Junior Senator from Utah and he’s already lashing out at the President, saying his temperament “has not risen to the mantle” of the Presidency.
Here are some excerpts from Romney’s piece which appeared on Tuesday in the Washington Post:
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.
If this is the case, according to Romney, why stay quiet so long? There is, of course, speculation that someone like Romney may try to primary Trump in 2020 and wrestle the nomination away from him. I don’t think Romney has it in him, quite frankly. However, he might support someone else doing it, that part I could envision.
Romney also lamented what he saw as America’s standing in the world, with regard to Trump’s actions:
Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world. In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed the American president would “do the right thing in world affairs.” One year later, that number had fallen to 16 percent.
Republicans often made hay about America’s standing in the world under President Obama related to one of his advisors saying that the United States was now “leading from behind.” Here, we see Romney criticizing Trump for the way he has handled foreign policy, but he offers few specifics on what parts of Trump’s policies he has an issue with.
In fact, the entire op-ed from Romney is filled more with platitudes about Donald Trump’s “character” rather than substantive criticism. Romney actually praises Trump’s handling of the economy and says he shares several policy goals on that front, such as the tax reform passed in 2017.
Romney concludes saying he will basically continue to criticize Trump when he sees necessary:
Furthermore, 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.
Sorry, Mitt, but you’ll be asked about every Trump tweet since you just signed up to take the place of Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Bob Corker, both frequent Trump critics and both retiring Republican Senators. Romney just punched his card to fill that void and this op-ed was his opening salvo inviting journalists to ask him about every single matter concerning Trump’s actions and policies.
I can’t see Romney trying to unseat Trump in 2020, the process would be messy and likely help elect a Democratic president instead. I think Romney will be quite comfortable in the role of “Official Republican Criticizer” to fill the vacuum left by Flake, Corker, and to a lesser extent, the late John McCain.
Maybe I’m miscalculating a bit. Maybe Mitt would be better suited as a Vice Presidential option for a Democratic presidential candidate. That’s probably too far-fetched, but his criticism sounds like he could be running in the 2020 Democratic primary, he’d fit right in, might even squeak out 1% support in primary polls based on name recognition alone.