I have to admit that I was not particularly impressed with Mitt Romney when he was running for president in 2012. He’d done a great job on the Salt Lake Winter Olympics in 2002 and run a credible campaign for president in 2008, but his core values seemed elusive. Many of the positions he took in the 2012 election were substantially at odds with his track record as Governor of Massachusetts. It was hard to look beyond the attractive exterior and get a glimpse into his soul.
Romney has been in the Senate for less than a year, but I think we are starting to see what he’s made of. On January 1 of this year, Romney wrote an op-ed saying a president “should unite us and inspire us to follow ‘our better angels.’” He observed that Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
When most of his Republican colleagues were incorrectly claiming that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report completely cleared the President of wrongdoing, Romney did not join the chorus. Responding to the Mueller Report on April 19, Romney said, “I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office in the land, including the President.”
When Republican Senators were either hiding under their desks to avoid comment or praising the President for inviting China and Ukraine to investigate a political opponent, Romney was having none of it. On October 4, he tweeted, “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
On October 17, Romney described Trump’s sellout of the Syrian Kurds as “a bloodstain in the annals of American history.” He said a supposed ceasefire, which was being trumpeted as a victory by Trump, “does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally, adding insult to dishonor….The administration speaks cavalierly, even flippantly, even as our ally has suffered death and casualty. Their homes have been burned and their families have been torn apart.”
In response to administration claims that Trump did not fold to Turkish strongman Erdogan in the October 6 phone call that greenlighted the Turkish assault on the Kurds, Romney had some telling words. “Are we so weak and inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?”
It is clear that Romney grasps the danger of an American President unable to stare down the despotic leader of a much weaker country. If Erdogan said he was going to attack anyway, he could have simply been told his forces would meet a lot of American steel at the Syrian border. He could have been told the U.S. valued the great sacrifices the Kurds made to eliminate the Islamic State threat to America and that the U.S. stands by its friends. Erdogan would have been the one backing down. Can anyone picture Ronald Reagan turning tail in these circumstances?
When the leader of a great nation displays weakness on the international stage, it only emboldens strongmen around the world. We can expect some of those strongmen to test our President’s courage in coming months because of that perceived weakness. Let’s keep a keen eye on North Korea’s murderous despot, Kim Jong-un, because he’s likely to pose the next challenge.
It has been interesting watching the unveiling of Mitt Romney’s inner being. He seems to grasp the need for checks and balances–the idea that members of the Senate have a responsibility to exercise independent judgment on behalf of our great nation. Too many of them have become enablers, afraid to speak out when the President does wrong. My hope is that Romney can instill some honor, independence and patriotism in his Republican colleagues.