Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, waits to participate in a mock swearing-in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, as the 116th Congress begins. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A strange thing happened over the past few days. Mitt Romney, because he voted to convict the President of abuse of power, was suddenly transformed by our mainstream media into a stalwart statesman, long in virtue and longer in consistent, principled stand taking. These are, of course, the same media personalities that savaged him in 2012, accusing him of being a racist, cancer-causing, venture capitalist who hates poor people.
But honestly, that was expected. What wasn’t quite as expected was the sheer amount of gaslighting which then took place within conservative circles about Romney’s record.
Take this from Erick Erickson, for example.
“For those who believe Romney did this for hate, vendetta, personal grievance, ulterior motives, or other nonsense, such conclusions actually say way more about those who have arrived at those conclusions than about Romney.” https://t.co/qjeiiuv4vv
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 6, 2020
I’m sorry, what? Did Romney’s previous history as a politician just go poof the moment he “took a stand” to convict Trump? But let’s talk about that previous history.
The Federalist put together a great piece chronicling the many transformations of Mitt Romney, all of which coincidently fed into a blatant amount of opportunism on his part. Here’s an excerpt from it, which is definitely worth the click and full read.
He’s generally toed the line on the military, failing to distinguish himself as either a hawk or a dove. He sure likes his family, but he voted to shut down Catholic adoption in Massachusetts a full 13 years beforePresident Barack Obama followed suit. He’s generally pro-business but no outspoken champion, and he actively opposed an Arizona law that protected religious business owners from having to violate their consciences. On abortion, he went after nuns for opposing it in Massachusetts (once again, before Obama made that policy popular), but voted against federal funding for abortion when he came to D.C. He’s gone back and forth on guns as well, and was actually against Ronald Reagan before he was for him.
See? This is hard work. When he launched his Senate bid two years ago this month, Romney touted his experience from the Winter Olympics, called Utah beautiful, lauded its character, expressed an open-armed embrace of immigrants, and made a promise: “If you give me this opportunity, I will owe the Senate seat to no one but the people of Utah.”
But the games were a long time ago. So long, the children conceived in its village would be able to enlist in the Marines if they survived Roe v. Wade. Later in his campaign for Senate, Romney claimed to be “more of a hawk on immigration” than Trump, though he’s since voted against funding for the border wall. Finally, it doesn’t really seem like he’s representing the people of Utah, who voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 18 points. Asking just shy of two dozen Senate staffers, reporters, and observers around town what they thought of the question, on background, the answers ranged from bewildered to hysterical to depressing.
The idea that Romney was ever principled or that he’s suddenly become so now is nonsense. Further, to pronounce such as true, we have to believe that every other single Republican in the House and Senate, including such Trump-skeptical Senators as Collins and Murkowski, are all wrong and only Romney figured it out.
No, the simpler answer is the correct one. Romney felt Trump did something wrong (fair enough, plenty of Republicans who voted to acquit also think that) but was unwilling to take the media lumps that would come from reaching the correct legal conclusion that it was not impeachable.
I can hear the rebuttal now. “But voting against the GOP will earn Romney scorn from his own party! So how is that egotistical or opportunistic on his part?”
Here’s the answer. Romney is not going to run for President so party support is not his concern. He’s too old. In fact, he may not even run for Senate again, as I believe he’ll be in his late 70s by the time 2024 rolls around. He’s a very rich man who no doubt enjoys time with his family, and I’ve got nothing negative to say about that aspect.
But, when it comes to the next 5 years in the Senate, Romney clearly wants to take the “elder statesman” role from the now passed John McCain. You get that by constantly bucking your own party on the biggest issues (or acting like you will until the last moment) and basking in the media plaudits that come with that. If that means embracing the same media that tried to destroy him previously, Romney is fine with that. In fact, he seems to enjoy the newfound respect that started when he wrote his anti-Trump op-ed after winning his Senate race (a race where he accepted Trump’s endorsement just months prior).
With that said, this isn’t really just idle speculation on my part. Prior to his vote to convict, Romney lined up no less than three separate interviews, placing an embargo on them until he announced his vote, which he waited until the last minute to do. That produced the maximum media exposure for his decision. He then sent a scolding letter to his GOP colleagues, further placing himself at the center of the issue. These are the not actions of a man just humbly making a principled decision. Romney clearly loves this and is reveling in it.
I’ll end with this. If you like Romney’s impeachment vote, fine. I think he’s wrong but he’s just one vote in the Senate. But don’t be so intellectually dishonest as to gaslight the conservative movement by pretending Romney has ever been anything other than an opportunistic politician willing to say or do just about anything to garner the spotlight. Because history clearly shows he’s exactly that.