To the extent that Mitt Romney, handsome rich guy, is a sympathetic figure, it is because his attempts to prostrate himself before the left fail so consistently. The “binders full of women” comment, perverted as it was by the media, was also a total capitulation to the idea that there ought to be more quotas and affirmative action in hiring. But even then – even then! – they still painted him and Paul Ryan as racists who wanted to kill grandma and crawl through your window at night to steal your birth control. The lesson Republican voters took away was: what’s the point in nominating some nice guy? So they stopped.
I will brook no argument that anyone has a stronger negative opinion about Mitt Romney than me. It is no secret. From the moment Romney told me in the only interview we’ve ever done, in 2006, that he never considered himself pro-choice – despite also being the same man who ran to Ted Kennedy’s left on the issue – I’ve thought of him as the definition of the chameleon-like politician who aspires to patrician statesmanship. His technocratic approach to politics rankles, his hubris is without charm, and his outward niceties do nothing to disguise his clumsily savage approach to politics. He lost in 2008 when every other candidate hated him, and won in 2012 by nuking anyone more likable than him from orbit with a metric ton of cash. Hugh Hewitt wrote an entire chunk in his book, “A Mormon in the White House”, just dedicated to rebutting me.
That he would run for Senate struck me as a way to salvage his political career after a loss, but also to potentially chart a path back to leadership. Maybe not the White House, but if Romney could remake himself – as so many American politicians have – into a leader within the body, who’s to say he couldn’t have a fourth act? The unsubtle secondary reason, of course, is in case of disaster, break glass – where a Mueller Report that eradicates the Trump presidency provides Romney that long dreamed of opportunity to save Republican hopes. Arise! Your man on a horse is here.
Alas! His hopes dashed, Romney is now relegated to a body he clearly finds frustrating. Yesterday John Cornyn was asked about Romney’s decision to vote to convict on the first article – he split his vote, he is Mitt Romney after all – and he responded that Romney “keeps his own counsel” as a Senator. But that’s because he doesn’t really want to be a Senator. A Senator who wanted to lead and believed deeply that Trump deserved conviction would have worked tirelessly to convince his fellow Republican Senators to join him in this vote. Instead, Romney waited until after the decisions made by all his fellow Republicans were announced to take his stand – ineffective as the protesters outside. Except to the extent it is helpful to the campaigns of Democratic candidates running against Cory Gardner and Susan Collins.
(Perhaps my favorite plot point of the whole thing was Romney’s decision to give not one, but three “exclusive” branded interviews – to The Atlantic, Deseret News, and Chris Wallace at Fox. Oh, Mitt.)
As for Trump, the past month must seem like a glee-filled dream. He has soundly defeated his political adversaries in their attempt to remove him from office. He has killed terrorists at will and not gotten sucked into another war. He closed trade deals, crushed a State of the Union, and watched his strongest potential general election opponent crumble. He enjoys the economic winds at his back, a Republican Party at their highest popularity in 15 years, and his highest personal rating since he was inaugurated. And at the end of the day, the one Republican out of the 250 in Congress who broke with him is the one he most enjoys having as a political foil.
What did the man do to get so lucky?