Patterico's Pontifications

9/14/2023

Sen. Mitt Romney Bows Out

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:53 am



[guest post by Dana]

Sen. Romney has announced that he won’t be running for a second term in the Senate. In his statement, he namechecks both President Biden and Donald Trump. He also gives his answer to the ongoing question about the age of elected officials… Here is his statement in full:

You know, I enjoy my work in the Senate a good deal. The last few years have been particularly productive, as I was able to help lead and negotiate the bipartisan infrastructure law, a comprehensive China strategy process, religious liberty protections, a compromise gun safety law, the Electoral Count Act reform and emergency COVID relief funding. I was also able to help secure key Utah priorities, including funding for Hill Air Force Base and its program to modernize our nuclear deterrent, as well as funding for wildfire prevention, water infrastructure, rural broadband, removal of uranium tailings from Moab, expansion and restoration of our highway and transit infrastructure, and federal studies to save the Great Salt Lake.

I have spent my last 25 years in public service of one kind or another. At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid-eighties. Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders. They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.

We face critical challenges—mounting national debt, climate change, and the ambitious authoritarians of Russia and China. Neither President Biden nor former President Trump are leading their party to confront them. On the deficits and debt, both men refuse to address entitlements even though they represent two thirds of federal spending. Donald Trump calls global warming a hoax and President Biden offers feel-good solutions that will make no difference to the global climate. On China, President Biden underinvests in the military and President Trump underinvests in our alliances. Political motivations too often impede the solutions that these challenges demand. The next generation of leaders must take America to the next stage of global leadership.

While I’m not running for re-election, I’m not retiring from the fight. I’ll be your United States Senator until January 2025. I will keep working on these and other issues and I will advance our state’s numerous priorities. I look forward to working with you and with folks across our state and nation in that endeavor.

It is a profound honor to serve Utah and the nation, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so.

I’m dismayed that Romney has opted to bow out. And yet, it’s understandable. His presence as a Republican in the Senate brought an unparalleled gravitas, wisdom, and commitment to upholding the Constitution in a body where a vast number of fellow-party members demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice integrity for political expediency and political self-preservation.

The Atlantic has published an excerpt from a soon-to-be-released biography of Romney, written by McKay Coppins, entitled Romney: A Reckoning. It provides a look into what led to his decision to retire. While it discusses the conflicts and struggles Romney faced, as well as his insights gleaned, these particular observations stood out to me:

1.

“A very large portion of my party,” he told me one day, “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.”

2.

Shortly after moving into his Senate office, Romney had hung a large rectangular map on the wall. First printed in 1931 by Rand McNally, the “histomap” attempted to chart the rise and fall of the world’s most powerful civilizations through 4,000 years of human history. When Romney first acquired the map, he saw it as a curiosity. After January 6, he became obsessed with it. He showed the map to visitors, brought it up in conversations and speeches. More than once, he found himself staring at it alone in his office at night. The Egyptian empire had reigned for some 900 years before it was overtaken by the Assyrians. Then the Persians, the Romans, the Mongolians, the Turks—each civilization had its turn, and eventu­ally collapsed in on itself. Maybe the falls were inevitable. But what struck Romney most about the map was how thoroughly it was dominated by tyrants of some kind—pharaohs, emperors, kaisers, kings. “A man gets some people around him and begins to oppress and dominate others,” he said the first time he showed me the map. “It’s a testosterone-related phenomenon, perhaps. I don’t know. But in the history of the world, that’s what happens.” America’s experiment in self-rule “is fighting against human nature.”

3.

Perhaps Romney’s most surprising discovery upon entering the Senate was that his disgust with Trump was not unique among his Republican colleagues. “Almost without exception,” he told me, “they shared my view of the president.” In public, of course, they played their parts as Trump loyalists, often contorting themselves rhetorically to defend the president’s most indefensible behavior. But in private, they ridiculed his ignorance, rolled their eyes at his antics, and made incisive observations about his warped, toddler­like psyche. Romney recalled one senior Republican senator frankly admitting, “He has none of the qualities you would want in a president, and all of the qualities you wouldn’t.”

This dissonance soon wore on Romney’s patience. Every time he publicly criticized Trump, it seemed, some Republican senator would smarmily sidle up to him in private and express solidarity. “I sure wish I could do what you do,” they’d say, or “Gosh, I wish I had the constituency you have,” and then they’d look at him expectantly, as if waiting for Romney to convey profound gratitude. This happened so often that he started keeping a tally; at one point, he told his staff that he’d had more than a dozen similar exchanges. He developed a go-to response for such occasions: “There are worse things than losing an election. Take it from somebody who knows.”

To regain its lost credibility as a political party, Republicans need more Mitt Romneys in the Senate and House. He is the standard-bearer and example of successfully wrestling with one’s conscience and coming out the other side with an even firmer understanding that fulfillment of one’s duty to the Constitution and doing what’s right and honorable supersedes all else.

–Dana

42 Responses to “Sen. Mitt Romney Bows Out”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (4020dd)

  2. Great post, Dana. Romney will go down in history as an honorable man. If those Senators who were criticizing Trump privately had Romney’s stones, we would be rid of the orange pestilence, and we could be having a sane left versus right debate.

    norcal (cf999d)

  3. While I’ve had my issues with Romney, it’s undeniable that he’s a decent human being and his absence in public service will be felt.

    I can’t help to note that the thorough smearing Romney faced during his Presidential run was likely the seminal moment in out political discourse.

    I “nice”, “chill” statemens will largely be extinct in future pesidential politics imo.

    Hence, it why candidates like Tim Scott will have hard time finding traction.

    whembly (5f7596)

  4. He’s make a good running mate for Nikki Haley.

    (Hi, Rip)

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  5. For a single-term junior Senator, Romney is a Giant of the Senate, and that’s with none of Franken’s snark.
    He would have been so much better of a president than Obama.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)

  6. He would have been so much better of a president than Obama.

    His second term in 2016 would have been better too.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  7. Romney is foolish, but in line with his tendency to accept the conventional wisdom. I think the real reason is, as he said it was: His age and not pessimism about the Republican Party. They’ve been talking about this lately.

    I think this is a new idea for him.

    I also think he didn’t think about how long he would serve when he ran 2018, at the age of 72, because he didn’t say then he was running for only one 6-year term.

    Some Senators that limit themselves limit themselves to two terms.

    For a Senator, he would not be too old and he can always quit if he becomes disabled. He can probably manage – and live – to the age of 84 or close.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  8. Romney is foolish, but in line with his tendency to accept the conventional wisdom. I think the real reason is, as he said it was: His age and not pessimism about the Republican Party.

    I also think he didn’t think about how long he would serve when he ran 2018, at the age of 72, because he didn’t say then he was running for only one 6-year term. They’ve been talking about this lately and I think this is a new idea for him.

    Some Senators that limit themselves limit themselves to two terms.

    For a Senator, he would not be too old and he can always quit if he becomes disabled. He can probably manage – and live – to the age of 84 or close.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  9. But what struck Romney most about the map was how thoroughly it was dominated by tyrants of some kind—

    Not always.

    There was the British Empire – perhaps the biggest of them all, and at its height in 1931.

    https://www.statista.com/chart/20342/peak-land-area-of-the-largest-empires

    In 1913, 412 million people lived under the control of the British Empire, 23 percent of the world’s population at that time. It remains the largest empire in human history and at the peak of its power in 1920, it covered an astonishing 13.71 million square miles – that’s close to a quarter of the world’s land area.

    That doesn’t count the areas they temporarily occupied, and possessions they lost.

    At its height, it was described as “the empire on which the sun never sets” but of course the sun finally did set on it.

    About the sun never setting: That means there was never a point during the day during the year when the sun was not shining somewhere.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  10. I like and admire Mitt Romney, whom I once met in person when he was challenging Teddy Kennedy for the Senate in 1994 (uh, damn near 30 years ago; sheesh). I’m glad he replaced the overmatched Jane Swift as Governor of Massachusetts (big surprise to some Massachusetts Democrats that Maura Healey is not the first female governor of the Bay State), and he did a relatively good job there with some significant reservations. I wish he had defeated Barack Obama in 2012 since I think that (1) he would have done a better job as President and (2) we likely would have been spared Donald Trump and Joe Biden. And I appreciate his forthrightness and stalwartness the past six years.

    That said, there was much about Mitt Romney that was incredibly disappointing. Both Philip Klein and Michael Brendan Dougherty make some salient points about his wishy-washyness and his malleability in terms of moral issues. First off, Mr. Klein suggests that Mr. Romney enabled the rise of Mr. Trump:

    Romney’s weak-kneed, consultant-driven 2012 campaign is often cited as one reason why Trump’s pugilistic brand of politics took hold of the party four years later. But Romney should be remembered for facilitating Trump’s rise in a more direct way.

    In February 2012, in his quest to stave off Newt Gingrich ahead of the Nevada caucuses, Romney flew to Las Vegas to accept the endorsement of Trump in person. While this would seem unremarkable now, at the time, Trump was a tabloid figure who had operated on the fringe of the political world, promoting birtherism and other conspiracy theories. Romney’s embrace of him was the first time Trump had been elevated to mainstream presidential politics in a serious way.

    This was also the start of Romney’s evolving relationship of convenience with Trump. In March 2016, as Trump’s nomination looked more likely, Romney gave a well-publicized speech in which he declared Trump “a phony, a fraud” and said that it was his “very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.” Yet when Trump won, he infamously dined with Trump in a failed effort to secure the position of secretary of state. When that didn’t work and he ran for Senate in Utah in 2018, he touted his endorsement from Trump.

    During his time in the U.S. Senate, Romney started to adopt the posture for which he is most recently known: that is, as an independent-minded Republican who was willing to stand up to Trump when few others in his party would. Perhaps Romney was ultimately embarrassed by his political legacy up to that point of soulless pandering. Or perhaps he never intended to serve a second term (which would put him in the Senate until age 83), and thus was finally comfortable enough to be his true self. Either way, Romney should not be remembered as a profile in political courage.

    And then Mr. Dougherty notes that Mr. Romney’s distaste for J.D. Vance is curious, given Mr. Romney’s own troubled history with allowing political ambitions priority over moral imperatives:

    It’s true that Vance changed his position on Donald Trump — Romney has done that himself. Vance talked about it in terms of mutual loyalty. Vance wants to represent those voters, and those voters love Donald Trump. Trump is “the leader of this movement,” Vance told Time magazine in 2021, “and if I actually care about these people and the things I say I care about, I need to just suck it up and support him.” Romney finds this intolerably ambitious.

    But how would Romney talk about his own ambition? Before running for the Senate in Massachusetts, Romney commissioned a poll that proved to his satisfaction that a pro-lifer could not win in the state. He brought this polling with him to meetings with the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in order to persuade them to accept what he was going to do: argue in front of voters that he was more pro-choice than Ted Kennedy. He argued that the issue was personal to him, because it concerned a close relative. When running for governor he sought the endorsement of pro-choice groups, arguing that he would be a good influence on the Republican Party.

    Later as he eyed a presidential nomination, he penned an op-ed about his pro-life epiphany. The New York Times would report, “Critics and even some supporters say there is also little question that he did what he had to do to get elected as governor.”

    I do wonder. How do you make that decision? How can you go over a line as stark as that, and for what?

    Vance’s story of change was in one sense transactional, but it at least carried a hint of personal humiliation. He had to “suck it up.”

    Romney thinks his flip-flops on this issue were all for the greater good — the good of getting a Romney back into contention for the White House. Romney has been able to flip-flop on Donald Trump and make up preposterous contradictory personal stories to explain why he took cynical poll-driven positions on abortion, because Romney’s ambition is about Mitt Romney, God’s gift to America. We’re all just too stupid and wicked to see it.

    There was much that was good about Mitt Romney, but he was far from the perfect Republican, let alone the perfect conservative. For all of George W. Bush’s faults, I frankly prefer his character to that of Mr. Romney, and Mr. Romney would not rank among my favorite two or three dozen Republican Senators of my lifetime. But so that I don’t end up this screed bashing one who is basically a decent and honorable man, let me just end by saying that I appreciate very much that not only did Mitt Romney decide not to stay in the Senate into his ninth decade, but he’s also called out politicians of his generation who won’t follow his example. May his years in retirement bring him great joy.

    JVW (1ad43e)

  11. Romney missed his “I paid for this microphone” moment during the second 2012 debate, when he didn’t respond to the moderator’s siding with Obama by asking her how she knew that answer, and how the President knew she knew.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  12. Romney’s ambition is about Mitt Romney, God’s gift to America. We’re all just too stupid and wicked to see it.

    What an asshat thing to say. NRO has many fine writers, but Michael Brendan Dougherty isn’t one of them.

    norcal (c53917)

  13. As for seeking work in the Trump administration, I do not fault sane people from deciding that someone had to do it. Tillerson, Mattis, Haley, Kelly and DeVos to name a few. Eventually Trump chased most of them out, although DeVos was insulated by Trump’s inattention.

    Maybe Romney should have stayed out of it, but I remember when there was still hope that Trump would not go nuts.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  14. As for seeking work in the Trump administration, I do not fault sane people from deciding that someone had to do it. Tillerson, Mattis, Haley, Kelly and DeVos to name a few.

    Kevin M (ed969f) — 9/14/2023 @ 2:56 pm

    My fear is that, should Trump be elected again, no sane person will work for him.

    On a related note, do you really think Trump would follow the recommendations of The Federalist Society for Supreme Court nominees in his second term? You know, the kind of Justices that stymied him on all matters January 6th? I don’t.

    norcal (c53917)

  15. Kevin M (ed969f) — 9/14/2023 @ 2:56 pm

    Maybe Romney should have stayed out of it, but I remember when there was still hope that Trump would not go nuts.

    And when Trump was considering Romney, Putin tried to take it away from Trump. That’s when Jill Stein of the Green Party (and honored by Putin) was trying to get recounts.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  16. The way I see it, JVW, is that Romney came from a corporate world and followed a poll-tested template for winning elections, which was obviously cynical and he obviously deserved being chided for being a flip-flopper and central-casting candidate. His approach was consultant-driven, and I think that approach hurt him, especially in the presidential race. He came across as plastic and not-so-likable.

    I’m speculating, but after being out of politics a few years and seeing how Trump was conducting himself, Romney basically said “eff it, this’ll be my last run, so I’m going to release the Real Mitt and run for Senator in Utah where I can win without too much effort.”

    It’s too bad this happened so late in his career, but I really like the Real Mitt, and it must have felt liberating for him, despite all the blowback from the Trumpist Right Wing. McKay Coppins was amazed at how much materials Mitt gave him and how much Mitt said to Coppins unfiltered, and I think this was Mitt’s final effort to get it all out.

    I hope he stays in the arena. Maybe he could effect more change from outside the Senate than from within.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)

  17. Regardless of what MBD thinks, I respect Romney because he refused to look the other way when it would have been so easy to do so. Given that so very many did and only a few were strong enough not to, that makes him rather outstanding.

    Dana (4020dd)

  18. What an asshat thing to say.

    He puts it far more starkly and cynically than I would, but the larger point is that Mitt Romney belonged to that Baby Boomer school of thought which led people like he and the Clintons and Donald Trump among others to believe that they were so indispensable to leadership roles that it was ok if they continually trimmed their sails to the prevailing winds and didn’t care much for principles. Now I would strongly agree that Mr. Romney’s sins were more about changing his positions to suit the times, and fortunately not engaging in the more ugly corruption of institutional power in order to serve his own ego in the way that the Clintons, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump did. Then again, perhaps if we had given Mitt Romney the key to the Oval Office he would have found a way to let us down. But I would like to think that he was better than that.

    JVW (1ad43e)

  19. Romney didn’t` understand that the Obama Administration had unlearned, as the week went on, that the attack in Bengazi, was terrorism.

    Hillary Clinton knew better but didn’t interfere. For one thing, I think the person who probably planned it was the same man who had come to the White House on July 20, 1993, begging president Bill Clinton to cover up the murder of Vincent Foster (he had diplomatic immunity, but not from the Saudi government) – and Bill Clinton had said yes. (Foster had tried to blackmail him in order to get money for a lawyer because he thought the firing of the FBI Director was causing the cover-up of the Waco fire to unravel)

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  20. I wish Romney/ Ryan had won.
    He was a good man and we need more like him in public service.

    Time123 (419e37)

  21. As Jon Stewart once said: “a Massachusetts Republican is like a gay Democrat everywhere else in the country.”

    When Romney was serving in MA, he was (like Manchin in WV) probably the best we could hope for. But when it came to Utah and the national stage, we could do SOOOOO much better.

    Thanks for foisting Obama’s 2nd term on us, Mitt!!!

    SaveFarris (1b334c)

  22. I’ve been hard on Romney: Secret Service code name Blue Falcon, but he clearly would have been a better President than either Trump. Biden, or Hillary.
    Romney would be a great person to have as a neighbor and at this point feel like his intentions were good.
    Hopefully he will live a long healthy happy life away from Washington, DC and may God bless these next years

    steveg (dc955f)

  23. Romney finally got the memo when will you? By the way are good neighbor columbia who america gave billions to fight the evil marxist indian tribes is now charging migrants to come to the U.S. Capitalism in action.

    asset (806e40)

  24. Romneycare

    NJRob (c7dad5)

  25. He’s make a good running mate for Nikki Haley.

    (Hi, Rip)

    Kevin M (ed969f) — 9/14/2023 @ 11:35 am

    Romney is part of the generation that Nikki wants to replace.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  26. Dana, thank you for writing this. I remember when many folks here capered about how awful he was.

    Compared to whom?

    Politicians are, by their nature oleaginous and slippery. Romney was better, kinder, and more honorable than most.

    I wish him the joy of watching his grandchildren grow.

    Simon Jester (14c506)

  27. I’m speculating, but after being out of politics a few years and seeing how Trump was conducting himself, Romney basically said “eff it, this’ll be my last run, so I’m going to release the Real Mitt and run for Senator in Utah where I can win without too much effort.”

    It’s too bad this happened so late in his career, but I really like the Real Mitt, and it must have felt liberating for him, despite all the blowback from the Trumpist Right Wing. McKay Coppins was amazed at how much materials Mitt gave him and how much Mitt said to Coppins unfiltered, and I think this was Mitt’s final effort to get it all out.

    I hope he stays in the arena. Maybe he could effect more change from outside the Senate than from within.

    I pretty much agree with all of that, Paul Montagu, except that I hope that Sen. Romney fades into the shadows and devotes the rest of his life to his wonderful family. I’ve completely soured on the leadership of the Baby Boomer generation and just want them to all go away (and take the pre-Boomers like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell with them).

    JVW (1ad43e)

  28. Romneycare

    Regrettable, though I understand why he did it. I think it would have been a whole lot worse if nothing had been done and Deval Patrick had been elected in 2006 with a mandate to work with legislative Democrats to write their own health care plan from scratch.

    JVW (1ad43e)

  29. My fear is that, should Trump be elected again, no sane person will work for him.

    Well, he’ll have to pardon a lot of his hires first.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  30. You know, the kind of Justices that stymied him on all matters January 6th? I don’t.

    Would the Senate consent to Eastman or Powell on the bench?

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  31. Regrettable, though I understand why he did it.

    I’m pretty sure that it was mostly the Democrats who did it. If anything, Romney made it workable and deleted all the unicorns he could.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  32. leadership of the Baby Boomer generation

    Gen X is OK, but after that, the deluge.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  33. What, JVW, is wrong with Mitch McConnell, other than advancing age? Who would you prefer? Note that the Senate cannot fail to flip in 2024.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  34. What, JVW, is wrong with Mitch McConnell, other than advancing age?

    Come now, Kevin M, I’m probably Cocaine Mitch’s biggest fan on this blog. But he’s grown too old to be effective and it’s simply time for new leadership. Senate party leader is not a lifetime appointment.

    JVW (1ad43e)

  35. And not only will the Senate flip, but the House will, too, the way things are going. And there is no way that MTG loses her seat but NY and CA may be devoid of Republicans in 2025.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  36. John Thune would make a great Majority Leader.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  37. @33 AOC will make a great leader and President. Its to bad Ilhan Omar wasn’t born in america she would make a great president too along with the rest of the squad.

    asset (d80363)

  38. Its to bad Ilhan Omar wasn’t born in america she would make a great president

    Get yourself checked for brain worms.

    lurker (cd7cd4)

  39. Romney working with the Massachusetts legislature to create Romneycare is the essence of federalism and compromise that our system is predicated on. It’s complex, but what might work in one state might not be appropriate in another and might be wrong as a top-down national solution. We want states to experiment, creating data and evidence for others to make decisions.

    The reality is that our awkward political nomination process compels bumper sticker rhetoric and appeals to ideological purity. It frequently just promotes dumbness, like saying 2020 was a stolen election. Romney obviously is not great at that game and comes across as willing to say anything. I get it. The man is smart and willing to compromise to move the ball forward. This used to be applauded. Now we applaud felony indictments.

    AJ_Liberty (a4451e)

  40. Lurker, trolls gotta troll. And maybe that troll is a familiar face.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  41. AJ, that was very well stated, both about Romney and about politics in general.

    The perfect is the enemy of the good.

    And you have to make sure you are okay with the rules you promote being used by your opposition.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)


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