When a Loser Must Denounce a Winner
Millions of Americans are fed up with the establishment of both parties. And the Republican base is fed up with nominees like Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney, all of whom lost to younger, more energetic and appealing Democrats. So naturally, the solution to that frustration, which led to the rise of Donald Trump is to … roll out Mitt Romney to denounce him. That’s exactly what the last GOP presidential loser did Thursday.
I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channeled that anger, and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose, and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good.
Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.
Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.
The thing is, Romney is absolutely right about everything you just read, as well as his further and more detailed points about Trump’s terrible business record, misguided and ignorant foreign policy prescriptions, and unstable temperament.
On the latter, Romney declared:
I am far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament to be president. After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter’s questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his extramarital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.
Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good. …
Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics. …
Now imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Will you welcome that? 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.
Watch how he responds to my speech today. Will he talk about our policy differences or will he attack me with every imaginable low road insult? This may tell you what you need to know about his temperament, his stability and his suitability to be president.
Again, Romney is right all the way down the line. But the most important takeaway is that the messenger is deeply flawed, which will only reinforce in the minds of Trump supporters that they should stand by their man.
That said, Romney’s speech isn’t for Trump supporters. It’s for rational but undecided voters, and it’s also to stem the tide of elected Republicans conceding the nomination to Trump without continuing to fight.
Romney lost in 2012 because he implemented ObamaCare in Massachusetts before there was ObamaCare. He was a moderate technocrat who spoke conservatism as a second language. That doesn’t mean he would’ve been a bad president; on the contrary, his generally non-ideological philosophy and his history of turning around both companies and the Salt Lake City Olympics perhaps uniquely qualified him to serve at that moment in American history. But he lost an election in which, as Trump said, he “should have beaten Barack Obama easily.”
Even Trump’s endorsement couldn’t save Romney in 2012 — an endorsement, by the way, that Romney actively sought.
Then again, if Romney had been this assertive in denouncing Obama four years ago, we’d be talking about his re-election campaign right now.
2008 nominee John McCain also released a statement, saying, “I share the concerns about Donald Trump that my friend and former Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, described in his speech today.”
Romney mentioned McCain in his speech, indicating coordination of the message: “There is dark irony in [Trump’s] boasts of his sexual exploits during the Vietnam War while John McCain, whom he has mocked, was imprisoned and tortured.”
Going forward, Romney’s advice is simple: “[T]he rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign. If the other candidates can find common ground, I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism. Given the current delegate selection process, this means that I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida, for John Kasich in Ohio, and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state.”
Translation: Aim for a brokered convention. If Trump loses in such a way, however, it would surely drive away Trump supporters, and Trump himself would no doubt launch a third-party run after not having been “treated fairly.”
So we have many in the establishment signaling they would be just fine with a Washington dealmaker like Trump — Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee and others come to mind, but also conservatives like Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. And we have conservatives like Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and a growing list of others who vow not to support Trump. Many among the conservative intelligentsia (for lack of a better word) also have declared Trump unacceptable. Meanwhile, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich show no signs of exiting the race, even amidst growing calls on the Right for a Cruz/Rubio unity ticket.
Now we have the two previous Republican nominees denouncing the current Republican frontrunner. Are we witnessing the collapse of the Grand Old Party? And is there any way to win a gimme election this year with such a fractured party?