Editorial: Mitt Romney, once tough on Trump, has disappointingly changed his tune
During the 2016 presidential Republican primary, Mitt Romney called out Donald Trump as a bully, con man and misogynist, someone incapable of leading the most powerful country on Earth.
He was right.
That’s why it’s troubling that Romney, now running to replace the retiring Orrin Hatch in the U.S. Senate, has changed his tune regarding Trump. In recent weeks, he has gone on record saying he supports much of what the president has done in office so far. And on Friday, during his annual summit for political and business leaders in Park City, Romney credited Trump with stimulating the economy, predicting he’ll will win reelection handily in 2020.
His praise has hardly been counterbalanced by tough critiques. The harshest thing Romney has said about Trump recently is that, despite what he sees as solid policies coming from the White House, he wouldn’t want his grandchildren to view the president as a role model.
Deference to Trump is not a particularly surprising characteristic for a Republican Senate candidate. But it’s disappointing coming from Romney because his stature in the GOP and status as a former presidential nominee make him uniquely suited to stand up to him.
The idea that Romney had proven willing in the past to put country over party and be a check on Trump is one reason The Park Record encouraged him in a January editorial to run for Hatch’s seat. However, offering only milquetoast criticisms of the president’s personal style while applauding his agenda falls well short of that standard.
Romney’s apparent softening on Trump comes amid a primary campaign against a vocal supporter of the president, state Rep. Mike Kennedy. The circumstances undoubtedly make it more uncomfortable to lob criticisms at the Oval Office.
However, polls indicate Romney, long thought to be a shoo-in for Hatch’s seat, has a commanding lead in the primary. And he’s almost certain to beat Democrat Jenny Wilson in the general election in November. So it’s tough to see how taking a hard line on the president would weaken Romney’s electoral chances.
And that raises doubts about whether Romney would be willing to challenge Trump once he’s in office. His current disposition, frustrating from a candidate, would be unacceptable from a senator who two years ago said Trump “has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president, and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”
A political figure who believes that about his president is obligated above all to call out, in no uncertain terms, behavior he sees unbecoming of the office and the citizens its occupant is beholden to. Unless Romney’s views about the president have changed — and if so, he needs to publicly explain why and when — it’s time he starts acting like it.