Mitt Romney, Right and Wrong

Two things always strike me when I think about Mitt Romney.  One, I wasn’t totally crazy about him being the Republican nominee for president in 2012, because I never thought that he was conservative in the native sense–that when he tried to make his appeals to those of us on the ideological right, he spoke the words well enough but it wasn’t his natural inclination.  That really wasn’t surprising, considering that he had been a Republican governor in a solidly Democrat state, and he wouldn’t have gotten elected there had he not been more of a down-the-middle moderate.  To take on Barack Obama and win, I thought that the GOP would have been better of nominating someone who had the fire of conservatism burning inside of him–but that year, the pickings were pretty slim (probably because all the other A-listers were too afraid to take on the Obama machine and lose), and in the end Romney was the one who seemed best up to the challenge.

The second thing I remember is also the thing that made me happy to vote for him, in spite of my misgivings:  Of all the men who have run for president, Mitt Romney was probably the most decent.  In his personal life, he set an exemplary example.  A faithful husband and father, he also gave generously of his time and his fortune, and used them both to make the world he lived in a better place.  He was the kind of man who not only would fund the construction of a neighborhood playground out of his own pocket, he’d also show up to help build it.  Moreover, Romney too his faith’s admonition to love thy neighbor personally, taking his own time to help people in need and not rely on a charity or some government agency to do it for him.

Of course, that didn’t stop the Democrats from painting him as a monster straight from central casting.  In the course of a rough-and-tumble election, by the time they were through with him, Mitt Romney was a murdering robber baron who humiliated a gay student in high school and hated   the family dog so much he strapped the poor beast to the roof of the car, Aunt Edna style, while taking the family on vacation.  In spite of everything, however, Romney remained a gentleman, as befitted his character.  That’s why it was so heartbreaking when he lost to Obama, a man who could only pretend to possess the same moral fiber that Romney did.

So when Romney has something to say about the current political climate, I tend to pay attention.  Today, he took to Facebook to comment on the recent terror in Charlottesville, and how President Trump handled the aftermath:

I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president’s Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn’t mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.

The leaders of our branches of military service have spoken immediately and forcefully, repudiating the implications of the president’s words. Why? In part because the morale and commitment of our forces–made up and sustained by men and women of all races–could be in the balance. Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America’s ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?

In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence?

The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis–who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat–and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.

This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.

There’s a lot to ponder here, and Romney makes some points that I hadn’t considered before.  Is it possible that Trump’s words could diminish the views of America by her allies, and as a result threaten our national security?  Possibly–and the potent fact underlying that possibility is the unique position of the presidency, which is seen as not only a bastion of great power but also moral leadership.  In not being unequivocal in his initial denouncement of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, I agree that Trump wounded not only himself, but the office he holds.  Words matter, and I still find it unbelievable that nobody in the White House–least of all the president himself–understood the gravity of the moment well enough to know that.

Where I take issue with Romney, though, is in this:

State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis–who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat–and the counter-protestors.

The counter-protestors have a name:  Antifa.  And their manifesto is quite clear.  Some of them desire anarchy, while others are dyed-in-the-wool Communists–but what they have in common is a desire to crush any opposition to their own views and their agenda.  They use violence to punish and to terrorize anybody they view as an enemy–and that enemy could just as easily be an innocent bystander as it could be some KKK sympathizer.  To them, a “Nazi” is anyone who doesn’t agree with their point of view.  And once labeled as such, they have no reservations about dealing out what they see as appropriate punishment.  In short, Antifa has no regard for law and order, and only disdain for Constitutional rights.  Perhaps Donald Trump’s timing in criticizing them was bad, even offensive–but it doesn’t make him wrong.

Also, in granting Antifa a moral stature that they don’t deserve, Romney is inadvertently encouraging their cause.  This, in turn, will only serve to encourage their methods.  It guarantees more violence, which will keep escalating until they also kill someone.  And in doing so, they will feel entirely justified.

Good men and women should stand against all political violence, and make clear that it will not be tolerated.  I’m afraid, however, that Mitt Romney may have muddled that message.

I Hope This Isn’t True About Trump

If there was something I hope to God is fake news, it’s this.

Roger Stone told Alex Jones in an episode of Infowars:

“Donald Trump was interviewing Mitt Romney for Secretary of State in order to torture him,” Stone claimed on the program. “To toy with him. And given the history, that’s completely understandable. Mitt Romney crossed a line. He didn’t just oppose Trump, which is his democratic right, he called him a phony and a fraud. And a con man. And that’s not the kind of man you want as Secretary of State.”

Now, of course, it’s Infowars, the fount of fake news, and it’s Roger Stone, the turbo pump of prevarication, speaking. If there was anything that is more likely to be fake, it’s this.

But Trump has a mean streak. It’s not out of character for him to do something like this, so it has a kernel of truth, the ring of possibility in it.

We do know that Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs tweeted that Trump called Romney to tell him he’s not getting SecState.

The whole world is now reporting that Trump has decided to pick Rex Tillerson for that job, which is troublesome. It’s not that Tillerson himself is a problem, but the appearance of a quid pro quo with Vladimir Putin is just horrible optics for a new administration.

If Stone, a decades-long friend of Trump, is right (and I have to admit he’s been right about a few things, as gross as it is to write that), this would prove a very dark side of the Trump administration. A side where political opponents are not just defeated, but humiliated, made to kneel before Zod, suffer, writhe, and skulk away nursing their violated souls.

If that’s the Donald Trump who will be in the White House, the ghost of Richard Nixon is smiling right now.

This is Not About Donald Trump. The Russian Issue Should Be Taken Seriously and Investigated

Just four years ago, the Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney, was roundly mocked by the political left for suggesting Russia was a threat to the United States. Even then the Russians were beginning systematic attempts at undermining western democracies.

Four years later, the Republicans should not reject the position they once defended just because partisans on the left have flipped their position.

This campaign season it was abundantly obvious and well documented that the Russians were trying to use social media accounts, etc. to undermine American faith in our system of elections. As I and others have documented, numerous accounts that were once “Ebola in America” accounts and similar accounts suddenly became Trump accounts. Many of these accounts had the odd habit of being most active during business hours in Moscow.

There is ample evidence the Russians hacked the DNC and they most likely hacked the RNC as well. There is ample evidence that Wikileaks operates as a de facto arm of Russian propaganda services.

This is not about Donald Trump. This is about the Russians. Both parties need to treat this seriously. I would caution Democrats that they will risk losing bipartisan support if they try to make this a partisan issue. If Democrats continue claiming the Russians handed the White House to Trump with no evidence, they will only see Republicans walk away.

If, however, both parties are willing to recognize the Russians are attempting to subvert our democracy and we have no knowledge as to their success or lack thereof, we should be able to keep a nonpartisan national security issue at that level.

Congress does need to investigate this. Frankly, Republicans should be just as worried as the Democrats. If the RNC was hacked and if Trump does stand up to the Russians, the GOP will experience what the Democrats experienced.

Both sides have a vested interest in investigating this issue outside of partisanship and should do so promptly.

Romney’s Dilemma

“Who’s the sucker now, Mitt?” taunted liberal opinion writer Renée Graham.

Mitt Romney might be getting the comeuppance so many “loyalists” (Kellyanne Conway’s term) of President-elect Donald Trump have craved. Or he may end up with the nod to be Secretary of State under Trump.

You should read the invective Graham lobbed Trump’s way.

Vindictive and petty, Trump is a man who keeps score. His world is balanced only when he avenges a perceived slight, often with what he considers reciprocal humiliation. Those targeted are as varied as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rosie O’Donnell, Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, and a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado. He is a feral child who squawks and attacks when he feels wronged — though what Trump considers unfair is usually plain truth.

This actually is false. Trump keeps score mostly against the media. The press has been his longtime nemesis and frenemy. Politicians are simply tools, thick-skinned targets, quickly forgiven, in Trump’s world. Romney has the added benefit of being a business scion with international and financial connections.

I do not see Romney’s past excoriation of Trump to be a barrier for Trump–or for Romney, for that matter–in serving together. I do see a potential conflict with Trump’s penchant for doing his own “deals” with foreign leaders, and his leanings toward Russia.

If Romney were to be offered, and accept, a position at State, he would likely be subject to President Trump’s constant credit-taking for success, and kicked to the curb when things failed. He’d also have to carry water for Trump when he invariably says or tweets something stupid about a foreign situation or leader.

I think that Romney is enough of a statesman to do the job for America and ignore the catcalls. I am not sure that Romney is considered loyal enough to pass Trump’s inner circle.

The dilemma Romney faces is whether it would have been better had he simply never engaged versus endure the inevitable taunting (should he not be invited to join the Trump administration) or to suffer continuing humiliation as Trump’s vassal to the world.

From a purely personal perspective, Graham may be right when she wrote “Mitt Romney should have said no.”

Romney is actually a better man than that. Just possibly, Trump is a better man than the liberals think, and this would be a great time to prove it.

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I Think We Are Getting Played By This Romney for Secretary of State News

The weekend after the election, Donald Trump met with Mitt Romney and all seemed fine and right with the world. Reports began circulating that Trump intended to offer Romney the job of Secretary of State. Nothing much else happened.

Then, all of a sudden, loud voices arose as news stories started trickling out that the Trump team was divided on Romney. Suddenly, the Trump base got very, very loud against Romney. He would be a betrayal.

But really?

We have seen in the past week that Trump voters who were adamant that he would throw Clinton in jail, and were insistent on that even after the election, suddenly are declaring how brave and bold Trump is to magnanimously let Clinton free.

If Trump rejects Romney now, his base will say, “See! He listens to us.”

If Trump nominates Romney now, his base will say, “See! He is his own man and is trying to unite the establishment with us.”

Either way, Trump comes out smelling like a rose. He either forces the media to walk about its stories about how he will be staff led and staff dictated to by showing them he will make his own mind up, or he causes more reports about how he is beholden to his base and this is Trump’s party now.

It really is masterful. You just have to admire the way Trump can play the media in any direction he wants and the media goes for it willingly.

“Look! Squirrel. A tweet!”

The only person who comes out of this a loser is Mitt Romney. He either becomes Secretary of State and gets to be the scapegoat when things head to the crapper, or he gets rejected and ridiculed by Trump’s supporters.

Trump’s Transition Is The Muppet Show And It’s Absolutely Brilliant

We’ve seen this show before. In fact, it’s so familiar, I can’t believe the media still falls for this gag. President-elect Donald Trump floats the idea of Mitt Romney for Secretary of State, and the press goes student body left.

Then Kellyanne Conway tells the media how upset she is that her boss would betray his “loyalists” with his chief critic in such a high profile role.

Then MSNBC gets wind through “sources at the top” of how Trump is “furious” with Conway for her comments. Then Conway denied the reports in a statement: “It is all false. And it is sexist.”

I don’t think a better reality script could have been developed by Mark Burnett. (Oh, don’t you know that reality shows are micro-produced and basically scripted, although the “actors” can say what they want.*)

This entire sequence has the air of a set-piece, designed to throw the media off balance, keep the public guessing as to what Trump will do, and incite interest, trust, and belief in Trump’s team.

While the media is reporting that this is a circus, Trump goes on with his business. “Look, over there! A recount!”

“Wait! Over here, three million illegal votes!”

Now Trump is going to meet with Mitt Romney again. And Bob Corker. On Monday, Trump met with no less than four corporate chairmen/CEOs, an energy public policy wonk, Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta, and Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County.

Those of us who have been following Trump for 16-plus months get it, because we’ve seen this plot unfold before. It’s not a circus. It’s the Muppet Show, and the media is being controlled like Jim Hensen and Frank Oz controlled Kermit and Miss Piggy. He moves his hand, they open their mouths, and they speak his words.

Does anyone really think that Kellyanne Conway has gone rogue? Does anyone really believe that Stephen Bannon is twisting knives over Mitt Romney? Seriously? Bannon really was the sharpest tool in the shed at Harvard Business School, and he knows how to manipulate the media, almost as well as Trump himself.

Like all things in the Trump-universe, this is a hall of mirrors, where only a few people are inside on the entire illusion. The rest of us (and the media) get to see what they want us to see. And the media dutifully turn the cameras exactly where Trump directs. It’s a marvelous reality show unfolding right before our eyes.

It’s very possible that Mitt Romney will get the nod for secretary of state. Or retired Gen. David Petraeus. Or Corker, or Rudy Giuliani. Or even California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher?

The link on the tweet above will take you to an email archive which reads: “I have been told that I am under consideration to join President Trump’s team as Secretary of State.” It then implores you to take an online poll through Breitbart of various candidates for the job.

Talk about clickbait! This is the mother of all clickbait!

Just for fun, as of Monday night, the results are as follows:

John Bolton: 25.17%
Mitt Romney: 9.26%
Rudy Giuliani: 36.55%
Dana Rohrabacher: 6.14%
David Petraeus: 19.43%
Other: 3.45%

Keep in mind that this is made up of Breitbart viewers, so the poll is somewhat skewed. Even so, Romney is doing quite respectably among the “loyalists.” I expected him to be around 0.5 percent.

But it’s all a show. I can’t tell you that Trump has made up his mind, but I can tell you that he’s not really listening to the noise around him. He’s probably listening to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Reince Priebus, Stephen Bannon, and most of all Jared Kushner. These are the people who get and keep Trump’s ear.

The rest of his mouthpieces are just doing their assigned tasks. They are reading from a script, albeit a reality show script, so they get to make up their own words as long as the plot advances.

I am continually impressed at Trump’s preternatural ability to freeze the press like Magic Johnson used to freeze defensive guards at the top of the key. It’s really fascinating to watch.

But don’t get too hung up on the drama. Remember: it’s a show. It’s for entertainment, just like The Apprentice. We can only hope that Trump makes the right appointments and nominations so real work can get done while he keeps churning out fresh drama every day.

I keep waiting for him to borrow the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. “I’ve chosen my cabinet. We have top men working on it right now.”


“Top. Men.”

*I am fairly well acquainted with a former reality show contestant who told me the ongoing interviews are grueling. The producers ask questions, and you’re free to not answer, but then they ask you a different way again and again until you say what they want you to say. You might spend seven hours doing one of those 3 minute “private” segments. The shows are micro-produced, and essentially scripted, although the outcome isn’t known. Trump knows the ropes here, he’s done it for years.


Trump Supporters Can Own The Unity

I remember so many times during the campaign when Donald Trump supporters attacked Never Trumpers as irrelevant and unable to stop their inevitable victory, and as traitors who will cost their Dear Leader his election. The fact that these two things were mutually exclusive didn’t deter the attacks.

When President-elect Trump won, many of them were ready to do an Irish jig on our graves, after each and every one of us suffered catastrophic career failure and humiliation. Of course, we were all wrong. Never Trumpers didn’t cost Trump the election, and we have not lost relevancy. And now, there’s a real possibility we are to be quickly accepted back into Trump’s big GOP tent.

Note this Twitter thread:

Sure, the Democrats are imploding and coping with deep psychological wounds as their idealized bubble world melts away.

Upon this foundation, liberals bit a shaky edifice of assumed political superiority. The election of Donald Trump—not merely an earthquake but an extinction-level asteroid event—brought it all crashing down. And you can see that in the behavior of Paul Krugman, a man who has been confronted with, and is struggling mightily to accept, the way the world is. Really, this wake-up call has kind of been a long time coming: there are few columnists on the scene today more intellectually closed and pompous than Krugman, a fellow who once wrote about a particular policy debate, “I…have been right about everything.” Even when you’re right about everything, you don’t write, “I have been right about everything.” Unless you’re Paul Krugman, that is.

In fact, liberals have been wrong about practically everything. And now, Trump’s hard-core supporters are eventually going to have to live with their own bubble world implosion, as Trump has to actually govern in the Real World™. This means that Trump may appoint people like Mitt Romney into key administration positions. It means that Trump has nominated one-time critic Gov. Nikki Haley as U.N. Ambassador.

In order for liberals to be consigned to the ashes they so richly deserve, Trump will have to draw from many different factions of the GOP that don’t necessarily get along. All those ate-up Trumpkins who think Trump is their man need to learn that the man they wanted in the White House because nobody owns him, that they don’t own him either.

Far be it from me to believe that I can influence Trump: He should nominate Mitt Romney if only for the sake of unity, and the fact that Romney is worthy of respect, even by those who hold him in contempt. Trump promised unity while he was campaigning. It’s about time for his grave-dancing supporters to own the unity.

If they can’t do that, then they don’t really want to Make America Great Again. They just want what Democrats want–a perfect bubble world with them in charge.

Trump Cabinet: Haley, Carson, Romney, Oh My!

In a slew of unexpected cabinet appointments and hopefuls that even upend some previous reports, President-elect Donald Trump nominated South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.; is considering Mitt Romney for secretary of state, and Ben Carson for secretary of HUD.

The story here isn’t that Trump is using his supporters, those on the fence, and his sworn enemies in the campaign to their best abilities. Yes, that’s a great sign of what we might expect from Trump as a hands-off, forgive-and-forget leader (not counting the media, which he never forgives or forgets).

But the biggest story is that the media has no clue what Trump is going to do. He floats names, arranges leaks, trial balloons, and spins through various surrogates. The media reports things. Then Trump does what he wants, and many times the media is blindsided.

Haley’s name has floated around since the election, but Carson reportedly declined any post. Romney met with Trump last weekend at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J. golf resort. Only one of the names under consideration has been formally announced. The rest could be more media play, Trump spin, or simply a trial balloon to gauge reaction.

Haley is a lock for the U.N. post:

“Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Trump said in a statement. “She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”

Haley, who has accepted the offer, said she is “honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love.’’

Mitt Romney seems to be tailor-made for the job at State (“straight out of central casting).

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported the president-elect is leaning toward nominating Romney to serve as secretary of State, with Rudy Giuliani another top contender.

Trump considers Romney to be the prototypical choice for the job, according to the report.

Trump tweeted that he’s looking at Ben Carson for HUD.

Carson told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that the offer was on the table. He had previously indicated he didn’t think he was qualified for a senior government position. Trump’s tweet may mean the president-elect doesn’t easily take “no” for an answer.

“I know that I grew up in the inner city,” Carson said. “And have spent a lot of time there. And have dealt with a lot of patients from that area. And recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities. And we have to get beyond the promises and start really doing something.”

Personally, I’d love to see Romney as secretary of state. He’s the anti-Clinton and would fix many of the institutional issues she created and current Secretary of State John Kerry failed to correct. He would also be a needed counterweight to Stephen Bannon in Trump’s closest political circle. Romney is every bit Bannon’s match in intellect and experience, but his polar opposite in ethics and moral worldview.

Having Carson in the mix would also add some “love” to the administration. Maybe Trump could simply call the position “Secretary of Love” and give it to Carson. Haley is just solid.

Now we need to see who Trump will go to for Defense and Treasury, rounding out his cabinet. And since he has indicated that Hillary Clinton will get off the hook for her decades of corruption, maybe there’s even a place for her in the incoming administration.