Come On, Mitt

I’ve been very public in my distaste for Donald Trump, and that distaste hasn’t gone anywhere. Many of his picks for his cabinet have been disappointing and alarming, but one had me see a little bit of hope for at least some stability: Mitt Romney as a potential Secretary of State. I really respected Mitt for how strongly he spoke out about the dangers of Trump, and I was hoping that he might somehow act as a counterbalance to what’s shaping up to be a very extreme slate of leaders.

Except then I read articles like this one, and I do a double take. Here’s Romney’s statement on Trump as of today (the bolding is my own, to make commentary easier later on):

I had a wonderful evening with President-elect Trump. We had another discussion about affairs throughout the world, and these discussions I’ve had with him have been enlightening and interesting and engaging. I’ve enjoyed them very, very much.

I was also very impressed by the remarks he made on his victory night. By the way, it’s not easy winning. I know that myself. He did something I tried to do and was unsuccessful in. He won the general election and he continues with a message of inclusion and bringing people together and his vision is something which obviously connected with the American people in a very powerful way.

The last few weeks he’s been carrying on a transition effort, and I can tell you I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen in the transition effort. The people he’s selected as members of his Cabinet are solid, effective, capable people. Some of them I know very well. Nikki Haley and I go way back. She’s an outspoken, strong, powerful leader. Tom Price is someone who actually came to my office before he had run for Senate and we spent time talking about healthcare. What an expert and solid thinker in that arena and others. Jeff Sessions is someone who I knew through my campaigns, helped me very early on, he has a distinguished record in the Senate. And, of course many others, Betsy DeVos and a long list of people, very impressive individuals.

I happen to think that America’s best days are ahead of us. I think you’re going to see America continue to lead the world in this century. And what I’ve seen through these discussions I’ve had with President-elect Trump, as well as what we’ve seen in his speech the night of his victory, as well as the people he’s selected as part of his transition, all of those things combined give me increasing hope that President-elect Trump is the very man who can lead us to that better future. Thank you.

There are two ways to read this behavior by Romney. The optimist in me wants to say that Romney realizes this country needs every shred of stability it might get in the next four years, and that if he cozies up to Trump the right way, then Romney might be positioned to offer some of that stability. That Romney knows the only way to get anything good done at the moment is to talk the talk, and this is the talk that’s needed, distasteful as it may be.

Then again, the cynic in me would like to say that Romney was only speaking out so strongly against Trump because he was trying to position himself to potentially swoop in at the last second and get the Republican nomination so that he could try to be President once more. When that didn’t pan out, he’s now making a power grab to get a consolation prize, and he’s willing to do or say anything needed to get it.

Both of those narratives are possibilities. I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle, though it might well be one or the other. Still, I can’t help wishing Romney’s statement was a bit less pandering. A few notes of “the way Trump ran his campaign was deplorable” would have been nice, as well as some “Some of his cabinet picks have been questionable, to say the least,” but maybe I’m just dreaming.

I have to remind myself: this is politics. Ugh.

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