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Di Leo: Mitt Romney and the Misguided Op-Ed



Mitt Romney blue tie

By John F. Di Leo - 

Mitt Romney is 71 years old. Let’s lead with that.

One of the big things America is talking about today is Mitt Romney’s op-ed in the Washington Post this week, a hit piece against President Trump, in his last public act before being sworn in as a United States Senator on Thursday.

The op-ed isn’t nearly as bad as many assume.  Like most political writings these days, it’s talked about primarily by people who haven’t read it.  When you actually do read it, you may ask “what’s the big deal?”  But the writer should know that, going in, and should make sure to craft it so that the narrative can be somewhat controlled.

In this piece, Romney attacks Donald Trump’s character, appointments, and actions, particularly in recent times, giving the impression that the president is getting worse at the job, not better.

While there is much about the Trump administration to find fault with – there is also much to celebrate, and Romney did that as well, confirming that many of the president’s efforts and accomplishments are the traditional conservative positions that the Republican party has long championed.

The flaw in the column is that – despite the slams at the president – he doesn’t attack our political enemies at all.  He could have… but he chose not to.

He listed many of our problems; he neglected to state that the problems exist because of Democrat party actions.   He talked about how difficult it is to accomplish some of our honorable goals; he neglected to state that the reason they’re difficult is that the Left stands firmly in the way of such accomplishments.


He couldn’t have run out of space; the column is mercifully short. 

Perhaps he just isn’t quite partisan enough to think of mentioning the opposition party, which would certainly be believable if he were a newcomer to politics (as President Trump is)… but this is no Johnny-come-lately to politics we’re talking about.  Mitt Romney is the son of a governor and presidential candidate… and, like his father George, Mitt Romney has been both a governor and a presidential candidate himself, and is now a U.S. Senator.  He’s a lifelong Republican; at least some degree of natural partisanship must be in his blood.

Perhaps it’s partially because Mitt Romney is of that older subset of the GOP known as “the country club set.”  That’s the wing that supported Dwight Eisenhower over Bob Taft, Nelson Rockefeller over Barry Goldwater, George HW Bush over Ronald Reagan.   That wing of the party has always been nicer to the tax-and-spend party than the conservative wing, but even they usually make a point of calling out the Democrats as the opposition party.  Failing to even mention that the Democrats are the primary problem has never been a shortcoming even of the country club set.

What’s odd about this op-ed, therefore, is that it goes against type, even for a liberal Republican (which Mitt Romney has always denied being, by the way; he usually claims to be reasonably conservative).  The choice to use such a bully pulpit as an inaugural op-ed in the Washington Post as strictly a hit piece against the president seems to have been quite conscious, and to be a statement that he believes Donald Trump to be a greater enemy, a greater roadblock, a greater danger, than the opposition party.  He doesn’t say that in writing – the lack of mention of the opposition party at all is evidence of my thesis – but it’s what he appears to be implying.

And such a choice is destructive, not only to the GOP, which desperately needs unity (Democrats can stay unified even when their standardbearer is plausibly accused of rape and larceny), but also to his own personal ambitions.

Now, back to his age.

Mitt Romney is 71.  As such, his career and his options are very different than they might have been if he were a newly elected senator at 31, or 51, or even 61.   If this is to be his last term in public life, does he want it to be effective or ineffective, divisive or unifying, friendly or unfriendly?  And if he still harbors ambitions to the White House, does he want to shoot himself in the foot at this point?

At this point, there are still paths to the White House for Mitt Romney, but they are short-term paths, dependent on a perfect storm of occurrences.

Donald Trump is 72, about the same age as Mitt Romney.  If he is reelected, Romney’s aspirations to the White House are likely over.

But if Mitt Romney still hopes to someday make it to the White House, he was in an excellent position if something should happen in the meantime.

What if Donald Trump were to decide to be a one-termer, and pull out of the race for 2020?  What if Donald Trump were to get ill and have to resign for health reasons, or (Heaven forbid) to die in office, as several older former presidents have?   What if Mike Pence were to resign from the vice presidency, or choose not to run again?   What if Mike Pence were to succeed to the presidency due to the death, assassination, sickness or impeachment of President Trump?

Not that anyone should hope for such things, but… politicians normally plan for contingencies, setting themselves up to be logical choices if an opening should arise.

Mitt Romney – on paper – would have been a logical consideration for such an opening, in either the presidency or the vice presidency, if anything were to happen.

He’s a past governor of a Northeast state, and a current Senator from a western state… and he’s the most recent Republican nominee for the Presidency, who, despite losing, came plenty close.

If an opening were to appear, Mitt Romney could have, and should have, been at the top of the list for a potential vice president if Mike Pence were to move up, or for presidential nominee if the incumbent couldn’t or wouldn’t run again.  He was – briefly – the most logical man on the bench.

And… having run a national campaign just six years ago… Mitt Romney would be easily able to put the infrastructure back in place for a successful 2020 national run if needed.  Not many can say that. 

But Senator Romney chose to shoot himself in the foot, with this unusual op-ed a day before his swearing-in.  This will be further proof to the pro-Trump loyalists, and also to the Reaganites in general who remember President Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment , that Mitt Romney “isn’t really one of us” after all, and shouldn’t be considered for such an opening, no matter how good his resume looks on paper.

Mitt Romney consciously chose to write a statement, not about himself, not about his country, not about the opposition party – but about his party’s leader, the president.


Of course, he could have abandoned his presidential ambitions by now, but it’s doubtful (a man desiring retirement from politics doesn’t seek a U.S. Senate seat).

More likely, the people he hangs out with – both political and personal – have convinced him that Trump’s unpopularity is so widespread that he can’t hurt himself by taking such an approach.   The echo chambers of the nation’s elites are the only places surrounded by a wall thicker than China’s and higher than the one that Donald Trump wants to erect along our border.  No matter what the polls say, the crowd that Mitt Romney travels in simply doesn’t believe that he’d offend anyone by carrying water for the Democrats on this issue.

It’s conceivable he might think that this sets him up as a logical anti-Trump candidate in the 2020 primaries, but he has to know enough about American history to see how futile that choice would be.

This doesn’t really hurt Donald Trump.  One more opponent in the Senate won’t kill him.

But it hurts Romney.  Conservatives who might have given him the benefit of the doubt before will do so no longer.  He will be anathema to the right.  It was more a self-destructive move than anything else, and it shows that he doesn’t even realize it.  His allegiance to the gentlemanly rules of Ivy League college debating clubs and the boardrooms of international nonprofits has cost him his judgment.

Mitt Romney may serve in the Senate for six years; he may even serve there for twelve or more.  He’s in good health, and people like to re-elect their senators.  But he’s not likely to move on beyond the Senate, and it’s his own fault.  He could have parlayed his election to the Senate – his second act in politics – into a perfect position from which to swoop in and save the day if something happened with either the president or the vice president, but now he has cost himself that potential long-shot path

Senator Romney’s volley may indeed turn out to be the first page of his political obituary, before he even takes office… an entirely avoidable, self-inflicted wound, caused by blindness to the reality of today’s American political climate.

Copyright 2019 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based Customs broker and trade compliance trainer, actor and writer.  His columns are regularly found in Illinois Review.

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  1. Well, Chase, I certainly did my share of beating up Donald Trump for his violation of the 11th commandment during the 2016 primaries. But in my defense, he was an outsider; he wasn’t really a longtime Republican then.
    Today, he’s the incumbent leader of our party, so I do believe he merits the 11th commandment protections today (just the same as I believed that Rubio, Bush, Cruz and his other opponents merited 11th commandment protections back then).
    And it’s not just because such things hurt Trump – I don’t know that they do; to an extent, they support his reputation as an outsider. But it’s that they hurt our party, they hurt the downballot folks.
    So even if Romney thinks what he thinks about Trump, what he’s doing with such an op-ed is hurting every other Republican candidate on the ballot.
    And he should know better!

  2. But it hurts Romney. Conservatives who might have given him the benefit of the doubt before will do so no longer.
    I never liked Mittens, he always reeked of the stench of an elitist, that being said I respected and admired his business prowess, even tough he always came across as classless, dainty, and effeminate wussy.
    But as a precinct committeeman I carried water for him in his run for the Presidency. But no longer. He stands revealed, every bit as repugnant as I had assumed and what virtue you might have ascribed to him long since stripped away.

  3. Well, I agree with John Di Leo on this.
    It just goes to show that even a broken clock will give you the right time, twice a day.
    But where are the other RINO party officials and state legislators in their denunciations of this Mormon fool?
    Just keep mum on this, Illinois RINOs – and you and your Chamber of Commerce pals will soon find yourselves with a State Legislative mini-micro Super Minority.
    Doubt this? Just go have a chat with Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren over at the GOP retirement home.

  4. You summed up my views very well.
    He also comes across as a poor loser. He lost the Presidency, even virtually disappearing during the last six weeks of the campaign. and Trump won it.
    Sounds a lot like sour grapes.

  5. People like the cultist Romney and the Bushes hate America and especially Americans. They may like what America does for them but they hate the people that live here and it is pretty much their sole purpose in life to undercut Americans as much as possible.

  6. I can’t agree, Chase. I don’t believe that Romney, the Bushes, or other such moderate / country club set Republicans “hate America” or its people… I think it’s more that they don’t understand it. They never really learned about the Founders’ vision, so they don’t understand the concept of limited government. Their ivy Leagues schools haven’t placed an emphasis on American history and the Founding era in at least a century.
    And even though they mean well, in their “noblesse oblige” worldview, their view of separate classes is still feudal, although they’d never admit it to themselves.
    They largely represent the British overlords our Founders overthrew.

  7. I don’t believe they “mean well” and they never learned the Founders’ vision. They are well educated sons of people who have been in government forever. They actually mean to replace the American people with a people who will make their globalist friends wealthy.
    Why would George W. Bush accuse those opposing his amnesty proposal of wanting what is not good for America? He hates them and wants to replace them. Heck, he still hates them for denying him Harriet Miers.
    Why would Jeb consider amnesty an act of love? For who? Certainly not the people who’s wages will be reduced if they are still employed.
    They agree more with the Clintons and the Obamas (who no sane person would accuse of not hating America) than they do with, say, rank and file Republicans, conservatives, Trump, or the House Freedom Caucus among others.

  8. You are correct in the sense they they don’t hate the America that they want is fundamentally different than the America I want.
    They are not HATERS in the broadest sense, except that they do hate Trump.
    Your last two paragraphs sum it up well. As I said I am different and they have and continue to help destroy the America I have known and loved.

  9. One really needs to dig into the Scherff heritage of the Bush family (CIA code name The Shrubs) and their connections to the Bohemian Grove, etc.
    Those that cannot or will not pay attention can stick the 1000 points of light and the new world order position in their ear! (UN speech by Poppy Bush 9/11/91

  10. Bushie junior called the patriots known as the Minutemen a bunch of vigilantes. They were great patriots who were doing the duty the elitist known as George W Bush would not do, despite his swearing an oath to do so. All because his el cheapo elitist family had him half raised by a Latino.
    It comes as no surprise baby Bush nominated Roberts to the supreme court and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to nominate Alito after his liberal chickie Meiers bailed.
    I am so darn glad Trump saved us from yet another elitist Bush. Lazy Jeb would have been insufferable.