Just two days before his swearing in, freshman Sen. Mitt Romney made another desperate attempt at maintaining relevance with a potshot publicity stunt aimed at President Donald Trump.
In an Op-Ed published Tuesday with The Washington Post titled “The president shapes the public character of the nation. Trump’s character falls short,” Romney argued that the president had brought the office to historic lows this past December with his rhetoric on our European allies and his unwillingness to compromise with Democrats during budget negotiations.
Despite concessions regarding the overwhelmingly positive policies and appointments of the Trump administration, the piece lacked subtlety or nuance. It was an audacious hit-piece written with a sanctimonious smugness unbecoming of a two-time presidential loser and career flip-flopper.
Unsurprisingly, the left-wing mainstream media bit hard. Overnight they fell for a man whom just eight years ago they had tarred as homophobic capitalist scum.
Immediately, they sought to characterize Romney as the Republican Party’s last bastion of virtue and character — the last conservative to stand by his convictions and do battle with Trump for the soul of the party.
Conservatives were not so easily won over. The Op-Ed touched off a wave of disappointment and anger. Right-wing pundits of every variety went to work putting Romney on blast, questioning his motives and identifying the piece as a black mark on what many consider to be a spotless career.
Margot Cleveland at The Federalist railed against Romney on Thursday in a piece of her own titled “Mitt Romney’s Self-Serving Attack On Trump Stains His Own Character.”
The problem with the characterizations of both sides however is that they assume Romney was ever a man of conservative values or outstanding character to begin with.
Romney has made a career of disguising self-service as public service and pursuing the path of least resistance and highest likability. He is a man of ever-changing values and his Op-Ed is a master class in his best talent — recognizing and doing what is expedient.
Bay State Beginnings
It was 1994 when Mitt Romney would first stoke the flames of his political ambitions.
Ever the opportunist, Romney saw Senator Ted Kennedy’s fifth re-election bid as greatly weakened by the falling popularity of the 103rd Congress and dedicated himself to the Republican party for a chance at U.S. Senate. The lifelong Independent with a history of voting Democrat struggled to distance himself from Kennedy ideologically and Massachusetts, finding Romney inconsistent in his values, opted for Kennedy.
Romney would split time between Massachusetts and a vacation home in Utah following the defeat. That is, until 2002 when Romney was once again met with a political landscape rife with opportunity.
This time he would play the role of the vulture.
Unable to stem the tides of ever-increasing deficits and rocked by personal scandal, Republican Governor Jane Swift was deemed by the party to be far too vulnerable for re-election.
When exploratory polls pointed to a blowout primary victory for Romney, Swift announced she would not be seeking re-election. Within hours Romney announced his candidacy.
Given Massachusetts’ history of electing Republican governors to check an overpoweringly progressive legislature, it would come as no surprise when Romney managed to squeak out his first political victory.
But the title of Republican wore weak on Governor Romney. Despite hawkish fiscal policy turning the state deficit into a surplus, countless liberal policies would come out of Beacon Hill in the Romney Era.
His legacy would be defined by numerous state fee increases, heavy firearm regulation and a health care reform act that would ironically come to be seen as the model for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Governor Romney may as well have been a centrist Democrat.
So how and why would a successful Republican In Name Only from progressive Massachusetts fashion himself as a paragon of traditional conservative values?
The politically savvy would attribute the transformation to one thing: presidential ambitions.
If it was not the realization that he could gain traction on the national platform, then what lead Romney to fall utterly silent on issues like abortion and gun rights after 2004 — the same year he made waves among Republicans nationwide as a featured speaker at the RNC — only to declare himself unabashedly pro-gun and pro-life on national television throughout 2007?
Whatever it was that lead Romney to these new-found values, they served him well. At least well enough to provide him with enough national appeal to springboard him into presidential politics.
Yet, Romney would prove in 2008, and again in 2012, that he was hardly willing to fight in defense of those ever-changing values. No amount of pandering to the base, hiding from his track record or taking the highroad to avoid looking unlikable could save him:
He would be nobody’s president.
An Incredibly Characteristic Comeback
Following 2012, anyone you asked would have told you that Mitt Romney would only be featured as a footnote in American political history. This would have been fitting.
But talented opportunists have a habit of clawing their way back into the spotlight; particularly by attacking others.
Coincidentally, Mitt Romney’s resurgence heavily relied on the publicity that comes with doing the easiest thing to do in the current political climate — targeting President Trump.
Romney began to do so aggressively during the 2016 primaries when he implied that principled conservatives would do as he told them and vote not for their preferred candidate, but the one that could beat Trump in their state so as to prevent his nomination.
And from cozying up to Trump just months later for a chance at secretary of state to re-establishing residency in Utah for an easy Senate bid to his recent Op-Ed, Romney has somehow managed to make himself appear more and more desperate for another moment in the sun with each passing day.
Ironically, however, his insistence on frequently calling out President Trump as a “fake” bears credence only to the common wisdom that those with the dirtiest hands do the most finger pointing.
It is true, President Trump was not the man most ardent conservatives initially chose, but he has proven himself to be a man of stronger convictions, deeper loyalties and surer values in just two years than Romney has in his entire political career.
The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.
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