Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Romney op-ed

Well, now.

The newly elected Utah Senator's unloading in the Washington Post is pretty much impossible to ignore isn't it?

It's nearly exactly the LITD take on the Very Stable Genius (with a quibble here and there; Mike Pompeo is a definite improvement over Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State). Coming as it does on the heels of General Mattis's resignation letter, it suggests a gathering of sentiment at high levels.

Still, in the age of Trump we've had ample opportunity to learn a particular lesson over and over again, namely, that two things not so very congruent can both be true. And the other thing that's true here is that Romney's column is ill-advised.

For starters, it sets up immediate speculation that it's the opening salvo in a 2020 presidential primary bid - which it may well be. The problem is that Mitt Romney is the exact wrong person to be a presidential-primary lightning rod at this juncture. He, along with the recently departed John McCain,  is the poster boy for conducting the most tepid campaign one could possibly mount.

Now, here's where other factors enter the picture.

Damn right, he's a poster boy for tepid campaigns, say the drooling, zombie-eyed, slavishly devoted cult followers of the Very Stable Genius. We've had it with the idea that there's something honorable about losing.

And about that narrowly defined point they are exactly right. My own personal top three moments of disgust and outrage with Romney's 2012 race were

  1. "He's not a bad guy; he's just in over his head."
  2. Declaring that he'd support cost of living increases to the minimum wage
  3. Declaring that the notion of anthropogenic climate change had validity and was an issue needing addressing
Regarding the first, there would have been two ways to go about stating that Barack Obama was a bad guy - which he was. One would be to engage in juvenile snark and the coining of cringe-inducing nicknames. Of course, Mitt Romney would never have thought of that (which is a good thing). For such antics we'd have to wait for 2016 and Trump. The other would have been to lay Obama's radical socialist past on the table - and not just Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, but the entire lineage: Frank Marshall Davis, Frances Fox Piven, Heather Booth, Greg Galluzzo, Rashid Khalidi. That case could have and should have been made.

Regarding the second, I can't say I've heard Trump weigh in one way or another, but given his we've-got-to-take-care-of-everybody starting point for discussing health care, I don't know that there would be a clear distinction between Romney and Trump should the subject surface in any kind of debate setting.

Regarding the third, Trump would own Romney, and rightly so.

But there's the matter, as I say at the outset, of Romney being correct about Trump's character and lack of depth. It's the glaring reality that won't go away.

If there's any reason besides sending a political signal for Romney to have penned this - and it's hard to see one - it's still a very odd way to start a stint as Senator, given the issues that are going to be on Washington's plate in the next two years. There's going to be much work to be done on a number of fronts, including, surely, more judicial appointments.

If there is any way in which this might - might - be seen as a positive development, it would be as one more indicator that, outside Trump's base, support for him as president and as the Republican Party standard-bearer is shallow and conditional.

One thing we can say for sure is that it makes one hell of a tone-setter for the year 2019. There's not going to be any easing into the tumult. It's not some gentle lapping at the shore. It's a tidal wave. Have your life vest handy.

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