Is Mitt Romney Drawing a Line in the Sand?

The op-ed by Senator-elect Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who will be sworn in on January 3, was published by the Washington Post at 8:00 p.m. on New Year’s Day. Twitter lit up at the frank and blunt assessment of leadership under Donald Trump.

Incoming tweets from the White House in three … two … one.

The 71-year-old newly elected senator did not hold back many punches. He began with an overview of the past month:

The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down.

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 this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

By sharing that assessment, Mr. Romney appears to be a Republican willing to point out the obvious. He continued:

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.

Again, stating the obvious — but Mr. Romney is at the beginning of a six-year senate term. Criticism of the president by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), even though he had endorsed Trump and voted with him 90 percent of the time, caused his defeat to a pro-Trump candidate who went on to lose the seat to a Democrat for the first time in 40 years.

John McCain, the Republican backbone of the senate, passed away in August. Others including Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) are retiring due to their criticism of the president that turned his supporters in their home states against them.

Ironically, the Washington Times had an article on New Year’s Day by reporter Kevin Freking with the Associated Press noting the departures of Flake and Corker that asked if anyone would step forward:

President Donald Trump’s most prominent GOP critics on Capitol Hill are days away from completing their Senate careers, raising the question of who – if anyone – will take their place as willing to publicly criticize a president who remains popular with nearly 9 in 10 Republican voters.

It obviously was published before the Romney piece hit the airwaves later in the day.

Romney’s op-ed was not totally critical of the president and gave credit to the president for some policies:

It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.

Will the gentleman from Utah be the new conscience of the Senate?

Cover photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

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