The deeply embedded, Bush-loving, Trump-hating establishment wing of the Republican party may have found – or re-discovered – their man. Yes, this GOP swampocracy, as desperate to regain its shattered mojo as the Democrats after an election one year ago that amounted to a repudiation of both, is ready to jump back on the bandwagon of their familiar pied piper.
The problem is, he’s the man who, in the eyes of most Republicans, represents the embodiment of their almost decade-long despair and desperation, a plutocrat in an age of populism, a globalist in an age of nationalism. But most of all, a vivid reminder of the bad old days when Barack Obama was able to not just win the presidency once, but double down on his fundamental transformation of America.
But never mind that. After Trump’s victory broke up that old gang of theirs, the NeverTrumpers are now emerging from the woodwork at the very thought of a comeback by…Mitt Romney?
HONOR AND INTEGRITY?
Romney has not yet announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Utah, a convenient new “home state” for the former Governor of Massachusetts given its overwhelmingly Mormon population – not that he’s a carpetbagger. And he likely won’t run unless 83-year-old Senate fixture Orrin Hatch, first elected in the same year as Jimmy Carter, decides not to seek an eighth Senate term in 2018.
But Romney has done nothing to either deny his interest in the position nor to discourage efforts to recruit him as a candidate.
Trumpist-in-Chief Steve Bannon stirred the pot Tuesday night at a political rally in support of Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, attacking Romney for his lack of “honor and integrity,” a direct response to Romney’s virtue-signaling tweet a day earlier, in which he condemned Judge Moore, stating “no vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.”
Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 4, 2017
But Bannon was hardly done: “By the way, Mitt, while we’re on the subject of honor and integrity, you avoided service, brother…Mitt, here’s how it is, brother: The college deferments, we can debate that — but you hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam.” Judge Moore is a Vietnam veteran.
THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE
Romney, like George W. Bush, remained virtually silent about Barack Obama during the years following his lopsided defeat at the hands of the 44th president in 2012, only to emerge during the 2016 Republican primaries with a vicious, gratuitous attack on Donald Trump (perhaps because Trump said Romney “choked” in 2012).
Once elected, Trump lured Romney to two meetings and photo-ops following the election and floated his name as a possible Secretary of State, only to discard him in the end. More than one journalist reported that Romney had been forced to “kiss the ring” and had been “played” by Trump. Romney’s meager consolation prize was his niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel, being named Chairman of the Republican National Committee, a body thought to have little independent power in the age of Trump.
Romney ally George W. Bush, on the other hand, said little about Trump during the presidential campaign, instead waiting for Trump to get elected to unleash a vengeful attack on the first Republican president since he himself left the office so drained of support that Obama and the Democrats were able to gain full control of the federal government.
But then, we should hardly be surprised. Neither President Bush voted for Trump, and we now know that George H.W. Bush actually pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton. That should tell you all you need to know about the crumbling Bush dynasty, which seems to lack any semblance of self-awareness about its legacy of failure and betrayal. Bush 41 gave us Bill Clinton. Bush 43 gave us Barack Obama. And now, the blue blood family would love to dump Trump. They are embittered that the vulgarian in the White House not only rebuilt the majorities both Bushes squandered, but in the process, crushed their globalist, neoconservative worldview and their dynasty, as he did the Clintons, all in one fell swoop.
But none of that has stopped the reemerging NeverTrump movement conservatives – including a critical mass of former Bush officials deeply entrenched in the DC swamp – from starting to hoist the flag for the loser of the 2012 election. They apparently are grateful that, like John McCain in 2008, Romney lost badly but gracefully, the watermark of establishment Republicans.
FUNCTION IN DISASTER, FINISH IN STYLE
As Trump visited Utah this week and heaped praise on Sen. Hatch, encouraging him to run again, the President gave an obligatory nod to Romney, calling him “a good man,” but behind the scenes, all signs point to a very different story: “…privately, Trump has signaled support for an effort to submarine Romney. Trump has vowed to try to block Romney, whom he views as a potential thorn in his side in the Senate, according to a White House official and an outside adviser who have discussed the possible bid with the president.”
A thorn in Trump’s side. Ah, just what’s needed to sooth the savage NeverTrump beasts like the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, who recently said Trump is bringing out “the inner socialist” in him, and Rich Lowry and his fellow purveyors of National Review’s entire issue devoted to “Against Trump” in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign. Lowry tried to support Romney through the back door of posturing that he now supports Trump: “Romney would be a more reliable vote for the lion’s share of the Trump agenda than Roy Moore, who isn’t going to be a reliable vote on anything.”
Sure. Those of you who believe Mitt Romney will be a more reliable supporter of Trump than Roy Moore, raise your hands. Nobody?
This demonstrates how NeverTrumpers are still fighting the last war, and a losing one at that, and like the Democrats, continuing to view the political world through the conventional lens that was tossed out the window in the 2016 election.
Like the Bushes and the rest of the GOP establishment, Mitt Romney seems blissfully unaware of his own vanishing relevance, and now runs the risk of becoming the Republicans’ version of Hillary Clinton: a politician who doesn’t know when to leave the stage.
As a famous headmistress at an elite boarding school once exhorted the young students in her charge, “function in disaster and finish in style.”
Whether he decides on a Senate run or not, Mitt Romney has done neither.