Mitt Romney is the leader the #Resistance deserves

A few years ago he was roundly considered just as vile as Trump — and for mostly the same reasons

Mitt Romney.

What are the odds that Michelle Obama is a fan of Juicy Fruit, I wonder? Obviously there is a strong Chicago connection with Wrigley, but it seems to me there is a non-zero chance that she prefers something in the Dentyne Ice line of sugar-free chewing gums. Is our current president likely to have that sort of thing on hand, or is he strictly a Bubblicious Choco Choco Chip man?

These questions are relevant but not urgent. We probably won't know the answer to them for another six years or so, when Teen Vogue and Buzzfeed report on the 19 cutest things about the time that Donald Trump gave Queen Michelle a stick of some at present indeterminable variety of flavored non-swallowable candy at the funeral of Jimmy Carter. By then this sort of aww-shucks media friendship will be an unremarkable part of Trump's rehabilitation, along with his passive-aggressive comments about the leadership qualities of President Josh Hawley after he bans hardcore pornography by executive order.

Those of us who (barely) remember the heady days when George W. Bush was Hitler but dumber are moderately amused by what a lovable teddy bear he has become in his post-presidency. Bush was always a charming guy — that was exactly the problem, as far as his opponents were concerned. Which is why the transformation of Willard Romney, him of the "binders full of women" and the infamous 47 percent remarks, into #Resistance hero is even more entertaining. When Mitt says that he would theoretically consider voting to remove Trump from office, we are not only supposed to be shocked at his courage, the almost indescribable sacrifice to his own political fortunes this selfless patriot is making at the altar of principle. We are also supposed to forget that only a few years ago he was roundly considered just as vile as Trump — and for mostly the same reasons.

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How did this hippie-baiting schoolyard bully whose decision to place a dog crate atop the family car showed indisputable evidence of his character defects, this out-of-touch reactionary who stole his Russia-baiting foreign policy from the far right at the height of the Cold War, this divisive purveyor of fake news often criticized by members of his own party for his mean-spiritedness, become a media darling? By not being the current leader of the Republican Party, or of what remains of the so-called conservative movement. Romney represents every bit as much as George W. Bush a consensus that has been abandoned, an ideology with no adherents — or at least no adherents who don't write a column for one of our few remaining national newspapers. He is about as threatening to the mainstream liberal establishment as the Duke of Edinburgh. He is relevant precisely because he is irrelevant. The former Bain Capital exec (who even has his own erstwhile secret Twitter account for moaning at conservative pundits) is the hero the #Resistance crowd deserves.

This is why we are now expected to swoon at Romney's kindergarten teacher-in-chief routine ("Berating another person, or calling them names, or demeaning a class of people, not telling the truth — those are not private things") in Atlantic profiles and exclusive sitdowns with that website that does articles in the form of PowerPoints. The actual content of what he says — a lot of gas about "character" — does not matter, nor does the fact that his actual views on a wide range of relevant questions are either the same as Trump's (e.g., lowering taxes for the rich, Bret Kavanaugh's suitability for the Supreme Court) or much scarier (the absolute moral necessity of fighting multiple unwinnable wars indefinitely in the Middle East). Since he has been in the Senate, Romney has voted in favor of Trump's legislative agenda roughly 80 percent of the time, 11 percent more frequently than Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has enthusiastically defended Trump against critics both within and outside the GOP. F.H. Bradley once defined metaphysics as the finding of bad reasons for things we believe upon instinct. Being a Republican opponent of Trump generally means finding principled-sounding reasons for criticizing things someone does without, in many cases, actually disagreeing with them in order to win praise from people who called you a monster less than a decade ago.

Trump won in 2016 in large part because he recognized that he had nothing to gain and everything to lose by becoming either the media-approved GOP standard-bearer (there is always one in every debate cycle) or the favorite of the party's own establishment (who tends to be the same person as the former). Don't think this means he won't change his mind once it is the only way for him to get attention years from now. One day Trump could be a welcome reminder of a time when there was civility in American politics.

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Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has also appeared in First Things, The Spectator of London, The Catholic Herald, National Review, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the Rev. Montague Summers. He is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.