Mitt Romney savages Donald Trump’s leadership in Washington Post op-ed
- The president ‘has not risen to the mantle of the office’, writes the incoming Utah senator
- Romney did applaud Trump’s aggression toward Beijing over China’s trade practices
This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Quint Forgey on politico.com on January 1, 2019.
US President Donald Trump “has not risen to the mantle” of his office, and his “words and actions have caused dismay around the world,” Mitt Romney wrote Tuesday in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
The scathing rebuke of Trump’s leadership from the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee comes just two days before Romney is set to be sworn in as Utah’s junior senator.
The op-ed – titled “The president shapes the public character of the nation. Trump’s character falls short” – also suggests Romney will not shy away from criticising the president in ways that cost lawmakers such as outgoing Republican senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake considerable political clout within Trump’s Republican Party.
"It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination,” Romney wrote.
"After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not.”
Romney did applaud Trump for several of the administration’s actions over the past two years, including the 2017 Republican tax law, the criminal justice reform bill Trump signed into law last month, Trump’s aggression toward Beijing over China’s trade practices and the White House’s push to confirm conservative jurists to the federal judiciary.
“But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency,” Romney wrote, adding: “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.”
Romney also asserted that Trump’s presidency “made a deep descent” in December following the announced departures of White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defence Secretary James Mattis – both retired four-star Marine generals long viewed as stabilising forces within the administration.
Romney also cited “the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience” as other low points of the past month, appearing to jab at State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News personality Heather Nauert’s nomination to become US ambassador to the United Nations, as well as Deputy Defence Secretary and former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan’s selection to take Mattis’ place as Pentagon chief.
And while Trump’s appointments of other now-departed administration officials including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former attorney general Jeff Sessions, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn and former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster “were encouraging”, Romney wrote, “on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
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The tone of Tuesday’s op-ed, as well as its timing, are likely to assuage certain congressional lawmakers of both parties who hoped Romney would adopt the role of a Republican elder statesman on Capitol Hill during his freshman term in the Senate – especially following the death of former senator John McCain in August and the exodus of many of the president's Republican critics after November’s midterm elections.
“I will act as I would with any president, in or out of my party: I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not,” Romney wrote.
“I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”