by Conrad Black
What an unexpected sorbet Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) served up on Wednesday afternoon. After the shambles of the Democrats in Iowa; the president, during the State of the Union, shoving into the faces of the Democrats a cream pie in the form of his overwhelming policy successes; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s tearing up of Trump’s speech at the podium in a demonic state of petulance; and the final collapse and disposal of the most inane official assault on the presidency in its history in the impeachment vote, Romney seems to have had an out-of-body freak-out.
This odd man, so overbrimming with conscience and full of consultation with the Almighty, has finally revealed his purpose in returning to public life. His incandescent conscience managed to be a self-enriching asset-stripper at Bain and Company. He possessed a near-Olympian talent for flipping in all four directions on practically every public policy question from abortion and healthcare to taxes. But he could not manage his spirit of vengeance.
As an authentically scriptural man, Mitt Romney would know that it is the “God of Vengeance, God to whom vengeance belongs.” In cobbling together the righteous fairy tale previously utterable only by chronically dishonest people such as Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Speaker Pelosi (doubtless resuming her famous prayers for the president after ripping up the text of his speech in front of 40 million viewers), Romney descended from the prophet’s chair in the Mormon Tabernacle to the gutter of American public life.
Though we are all unlicensed psychiatrists, I will not try to read Romney’s mind on this one. He may have managed the complicated procedure of convincing himself that an innocuous conversation with the president of Ukraine was a breach of President Trump’s constitutional duties on a scale that justified his removal from office. If so, he is a mentally disturbed person doubtfully qualified even to sit alone as a pariah in the Senate, like Joseph R. McCarthy after he was censured in 1954.
From February 5, 2020, onward, Romney is a political outcast—a briefly useful idiot for the defeated Democrats and a traitor to the party he once led in a presidential election.
Romney now claims to have had a long and cordial relationship with Trump, but the public account is that he asked Trump for his financial assistance when he was a presidential candidate, publicly reviled Trump as a dishonest and unqualified charlatan when Trump was the candidate, happily auditioned for the post of secretary of state when Trump was president-elect, and when no offer was forthcoming, was a sullen bearer of his grievances until, as an afterthought to an impeachment effort unfounded in law and fact, and certain of rejection, he crossed a personal Rubicon and stabbed the president in the back (ineffectually).
Since no one but a rabid partisan could construe Trump’s conduct as justifying impeachment and a vote to convict and remove the president, Romney’s antics must, in their way, be heartfelt.
Romney has always been a puzzling figure, a Michigander who had a very successful career as a consultant and then private equity manager, governor of Massachusetts, successful director of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, twice-unsuccessful candidate for president, and now a U.S. senator. He met his wife when they were both proselytizing missionaries for the Mormon Church in the surely unpromising pastoral territory of cynical, ultra-worldly, agnosto-Catholic France. I have gone as far as an outsider should, in exploring Romney’s motivations. But the consequences of it are clear and the subject of rightful comment.
Romney is too intelligent to believe that his vote would influence anyone or lead to anything but a political death sentence from the president who commands the support of over 90 percent of Republicans. His awkward, tortuous, drenchingly pious delivery, with frequent references to his religiosity and to God directly, convey what an apotheosis he went through to produce this preposterous vote. It was a gratuitously politically self-destructive act, for no apparent purpose, except to get something off his chest that he could no longer withhold: his hatred of Donald Trump.
Thus, Romney’s vote is in a different category of misconceived activity than the indiscrete peccadilloes that ended the political career and the marriage of New York Governor Elliott Spitzer, and altogether different from Charles de Gaulle choosing to retire as head of the Fifth French Republic which he had created over an incomprehensible referendum on obscure matters of provincial and university administration, as a final statement of his contempt for the absurdity and venality of partisan politics.
Romney has walked out the portals of political relevance on a lost cause that had no business coming to a vote at all, for reasons of hatred he has tried to disguise as righteousness, and in the company of unmitigated scoundrels and liars in the opposing party who cooked up this phony impeachment. Most people could respect Romney committing an act of hate and calling it that; I am not qualified to advise Senator Romney on the Scriptures, but Ecclesiastes does state “There is a time to hate.” Many would consider him entitled to it. But to swaddle himself in godliness while committing such a vile, false, and futile act, makes no sense, and is, in addition, profoundly dishonest.
And as a man who cares about his church, Romney might have considered what this will do to Mormon candidates in the future. He has made the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints look like a cult, whose members cannot be entrusted with responsible positions. His father, the governor of Michigan and a member of the Nixon cabinet is best remembered for saying that he had been “brainwashed” while visiting Saigon, causing then-President Lyndon Johnson to say that he “must have gone into a corner and brain-washed himself.”
As a presidential candidate and later a possible secretary of state, Mitt Romney was most noticed in his European tour for publicly casting doubts on London’s ability to conduct the Olympic Games successfully. Awkward and embarrassing, and even undiplomatic statements by public people are frequent and excusable. But Romney’s vote to convict President Trump is falsely reasoned, ignobly motivated, and finishes his useful political career on a tragically discreditable note.
– – –
Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world as owner of the British telegraph newspapers, the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times and scores of smaller newspapers in the U.S., and most of the daily newspapers in Canada.
Photo “Mitt Romney” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.