Mitt Romney tells it like it is
President Trump gained a reputation for telling it like it is, for speaking harsh truths that everyone thinks but no one has the courage to say. As a presidential candidate, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) gained a reputation for playing it safe, for telling audiences what they want to hear.
On Wednesday, Romney did the unthinkable. He told the truth about a man who never tells it on purpose. He voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power.
In his first year as a senator, Romney gave us hints of heterodoxy. He said in October, "It's not that I don't care about people's opinions but, at this stage of my life, I care about what I think is right." He also tweeted it was "wrong and appalling" for the president to ask foreign governments for dirt on Joe Biden, prompting Trump to call Romney "a pompous 'ass.'" Trump thinks it's wrong to call him wrong.
Did the president commit an impeachable act?
"Yes, he did," Romney said on Wednesday before casting his vote to impeach Trump. He continued:
The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust. What he did was not 'perfect.' No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine. ... What the president did was wrong, grievously wrong. [Romney]
Romney, not Trump, says what everybody is thinking.
Romney predicted he would be "vehemently denounced." His prediction was as accurate as his conviction. The Republican National Committee said, "Reminder, Mitt Romney's actions today are wildly out of step with his own constituents. President Donald Trump is more popular in Utah than Mitt Romney." RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Romney's niece, tweeted: "This is not the first time I have disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last." Donald Trump Jr. tweeted Romney "should be expelled" from the GOP — and then tweeted the hashtag #ExpelMitt four times. Will Wilkinson called it "Romney Derangement Syndrome."
Romney was one of many Republicans who criticized Trump during the 2016 campaign. Unlike Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), he meant what he said. In March 2016, Romney gave a speech warning Republicans not to nominate Trump for president. He was blunt.
"He inherited his business. He didn't create it. ... A business genius he is not."
"He is very, very not smart."
"Donald Trump lacks the temperament to be president."
"Dishonesty is Donald Trump's hallmark."
"Think of Donald Trump's personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics."
"Haven't we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct? We have. And it always injures our families and our country."
"Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. ... He's playing the members of the American public for suckers."
Romney quoted John Adams: "Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."
Romney was trying to prevent Republican self-destruction and democratic self-destruction. The former has already happened, and the latter has begun.
Adams also said, "The most abandoned minds are ingenious in contriving excuses for their crimes." One thinks of the president, every House Republican, and every Senate Republican except one.
At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz implored Republicans to vote their conscience. That is what Romney did, and what has made him a heretic in his party.
Romney voted to convict the president. His fellow Republicans voted to convict themselves.