An assault on one’s pride is never easily forgiven; it makes for a wound whose propensity isn’t to heal but to bleed. And bleed the once wounded, now apparently vindicated Mitt Romney did all over the pages of the Washington Post. But lest you take me literally in thinking that Romney has drained himself of all his renewed political life, he didn’t partake of an actually sanguinary event. Of course, you knew this much, but the current hostility of our politics demands so obvious a disclaimer be made. Rather, he wrote an article in the Post that was more a return thrust than a novel point. Above all, his piece was drenched in acrimony, envy, and spite. Yet one doubts that by penning it he landed the blow that was intended, healed his ego that was injured, or fully sutured his old wounds.
Romney—the former governor of Massachusetts and current senator of Utah—contributed to the paper an op-ed at once prosaically and compendiously entitled, “The president shapes the public character of the nation. Trump’s character falls short”. To those readers of that particular paper, amongst whose editorial staff nary a conservative voice exists, no declaration could be less of a surprise. It may as well have been the Post’s weather section forecasting Duluth, Minnesota in this February month: inhospitably cold. Perhaps, between the weather and Mitt Romney, the newly-arrived weather vane of D.C., the senator was nearly equally as chilly in his repudiation of President Trump.
The article hardly merits our reading (such hit pieces on Trump’s character are as omnipresent as are particles of air) but we’re compelled, if only in passing, to commit to it our attention. We do so less for the sake of its content than for that of its author.
Romney, not so long ago, was the golden boy of the Republican Party. Impeccably coiffed, articulately versed, and unarguably qualified to hold the highest executive office in the land, this poster child of the Republican way failed in his bid to displace President Obama—the literal bete noire of the right. Vanquished, he receded back to the private sector, whence a few years later he re-emerged as a potential candidate to be President Trump’s Secretary of State. Treated one night to a very public repast, Romney ultimately wasn’t offered the job. The fact that he wasn’t stirred up a small scandal, one of numerous tempests in teapots to come. The realization that Trump dangled and then removed from Romney’s grasp this job, if only to make Romney look the more desperate and dependent of the two, still reads as a masterclass in the art of pettiness.
Either way, Romney remained unfulfilled. He was looking not only to throw his hat, but to step up front-and-center into the public ring. Desirous to have a meaningful presence in the federal government as he hadn’t in quite some time, he awaited the retirement of Senator Orrin Hatch—a man on whom much approbation deservedly rests. Hatch was, at the time of his leaving, one of the eldest representatives ever to have served in Congress—giving literal, etymological meaning to the Latin word Senatus, whence our “Senate” or “assembly of elders” derives. Ignoring Trump’s persistence that Hatch remain in his spot and his subsequent annoyance that the aged senator would forgo such a taxing seat, Romney was able to run a successful campaign. He achieved what had become an ever-evasive political victory and became, from this moment until six years hence, the duly-elected representative of Utah.
Predictably, Romney will join with his Republican colleagues in supporting familiar proposals and bills. In his article, he implies this much. Indeed, he admits to being smitten with every Trump agenda item passed thus far. He’ll likely vote along the party line with little to no deviation from the tread. However, that shouldn’t obscure the recognition that he hasn’t a warm inclination toward the de facto leader of the party to which he’s committed. Nor, as stated, does Trump toward him. Romney—genteel, courteous, upstanding, and dignified in all ways—seemed always quietly to reciprocate the president’s distaste. Now, in the pages of the Washington Post, he’s done so openly. Trump’s and Romney’s enmity—once mutual but subtle—has become political and vocal.
More than political, though, it’s also become personal and to an acrid degree. Yet these types of unprovoked, gratuitous attacks—regardless of the personal animus that enflames them—ultimately will avail the Republican Party little. While I’m usually of the opinion that continuous and earnest criticism benefits any man (even a head of state), Romney’s piece didn’t help anyone’s cause—least of all Romney’s. It read as though he were attempting to invite fission into a Party that can’t stand to be divided at this point. The erstwhile personal qualms have no currency in his new position on Capitol Hill. And unless the president were to do something overtly necessitous of public censure (and trust me, that opportunity will inevitably soon arrive), there’s little reason for a Republican congressman to swipe at the Party head from within. Rest assured they’ll come in droves from without.
While Romney needn’t be a lackey to the president, he also shouldn’t be so readily looking to instigate a fight. Let his pen be quiet, as I think it would be used best, until it’s better suited for print. But one’s wounded pride often disallows so high a level of self-restraint and silence. Romney must distinguish the personal from the political and quietly let the former heal.