Donald Lambro: Romney arrives in Washington with a broadside of Trump
When newly elected GOP senators take their seats in the U.S. Senate this week, they are not expected to lay out their differences with the president of their own party.
But incoming Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah did just that Tuesday in a stinging rebuke of President Trump on the op-ed page of The Washington Post along a broad range of political issues and presidential behavior.
Like him or dislike him, Romney is a man of impeccable integrity, dignity and character, and his column, headlined “How a president shapes the public character,” spelled out just about everything he finds offensive about Trump.
He began with two of the highest-ranking people that he most admired in the administration who resigned over irreconcilable differences with the president.
“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.”
Romney admits that 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.” Romney says that Trump’s initial 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 last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
This is not to say that Romney dislikes everything that the president has done. “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 mainstream Republican positions, he writes, but a presidency must also shape “the public character of the nation,” and here he gives Trump a failing grade. “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 that national discourse with comity and mutual respect.”
Past presidents have called on “the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”
Trump, on the other hand, has made much of his friendship with Russian dictator and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, who has been helping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad bomb his own people. And he describes his relationship with Communist North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who threatens his neighbors in South Korea and Japan, as a “love” affair.
“Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world,” Romney says. “In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed that the American president would ‘do the right thing in world affairs.’ One year later, that number has fallen to 16 percent.”
He also expresses deep concern over our government’s soaring debt, something you no longer hear much about from the White House over the past two years.
At the same time, Romney expresses much concern over the president’s growing quarrels with our European alliances. “We want a unified and strong Europe, not a disintegrating union.”
Romney remains optimistic about America’s future, believing that “noble instincts live in the hearts of Americans. The people of this great land will eschew the politics of anger and fear if they are summoned to the responsibility by leaders in homes, in churches, in schools, in businesses, in government ... the ideal that is the essence of America.”
Donald Lambro has been covering Washington politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.