Utah’s newest senator has attacked the leader of his party and the president of the United States. In a op-ed published in the Washington Post Sen. Mitt Romney attacked Trump’s character and fitness to lead, describing the president as “thoughtless” and asserting that his leadership “has not risen to the mantle of the office.” Characteristically, Trump fired back with a Tweet; less characteristically it was carefully blast that both counter-punched Romney’s claims but also appealed to Republican unity. In writing the op-ed Romney maybe seeking to keep the door for a 2020 presidential bid open and solidify himself as the leader of the conservative opposition to Trump.
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focuses on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!
What It Means:
This is a very layered Tweet which deserves some unpacking. “Here we go [again] with Romney” is a reference to the fact that Trump and Romney have sparred in the past. The 2012 Republican Presidential nominee was part of the “Never Trump” movement during the 2016 presidential election. Trump offered to bury the hatchet after Romney won the Republican primary in Utah this past summer (as was reported by AMI Newswire) in a Tweet. However, Trump appears to leave open the possibility throughout the Tweet that he is still willing to patch things up with Romney. The “Flake” that Trump is referring to is none other than former Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who was one of the president’s most persistent Republican critics after he decided not to seek reelection. When Trump says “I won big, and he didn’t” he is referring to Trump’s presidential victory and Romney’s 2012 presidential election loss. However, Trump closes the tweet appealing for Republican unity.
What People Are Saying:
While some Democrats and mainstream news outlets praised Romney for attacking Trump, by in large the left ignored the op-ed which mostly attacked Trump’s personality and not many specific policies. While a few conservatives agreed with Romney, most Republicans across the political spectrum rallied to defend Trump.
Like other Big Government Republicans who never liked Reagan, Mitt Romney wants to signal how virtuous he is in comparison to the President. Well, I’m most concerned and pleased with the actual conservative reform agenda @realDonaldTrump has achieved.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 2, 2019
Ronna McDaniel, the RNC Chairwoman who is Mitt Romney’s niece, attacked the op-ed as well. Noted conservative activist Ben Shapiro called the op-ed counter-productive in his own op-ed on the topic. Shapiro’s article in the National Review is interesting because the California-based conservative is often seen as part of the “Never Trump” movement.
More recently an op-ed attacked Romney in Breitbart for criticizing Trump’s language but, not responding to other political outrages such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Minnesota) reference to Trump as a particular type of fornicator. Belatedly, Romney responded to that as well.
Rep. Tlaib took the politics of Washington deeper down the drain. Elected leaders should elevate, not degrade, our public discourse.
— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) January 5, 2019
Romney was once such a powerful figure in Republican circles close to the president that Trump seriously considered nominating him for Secretary of State. The fact that Trump pulled some of his punches against Romney suggests that the Utah senator may still have some pull.
Some speculate that the op-ed was Romney’s first public effort to offer himself as a Republican alternative to Trump in 2020. The response to his article – especially as Democrats take control of the House and take direct aim at Trump – suggests many Republicans are more interested in defending the president right now.
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