President Donald Trump took aim at Senator-elect Mitt Romney (R-Utah) after the latter wrote a blistering op-ed chiding the president for his leadership style. But Trump’s criticisms reveal more about his character than anything else and in some ways vindicate Romney’s original complaints.
In the Washington Post op-ed that Romney wrote, the former GOP presidential contender took issue with Trump for failing to live up to the standards of the office he currently holds.
“[P]olicies and appointments are only a part of a presidency,” Romney wrote in his opinion piece. He added, “To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation,” quipping also that Trump fails to inspire us to live to follow “our better angels.”
“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable,” Romney wrote. “And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.’
Trump in turn wrote a tweet on Wednesday morning chastising Romney. Trump wrote he “[w]ould much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t.”
Pointing out Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign loss is one thing, but the most revealing part of Trump’s diss of Romney came in the second half of his tweet.
Utah Sen.-elect Mitt Romney says "the departure of Secretary Mattis and the decision to pull out of Syria and the abrupt way that it was done," was the event that encouraged him to pen an op-ed against President Trump https://t.co/jE7oqvEuID pic.twitter.com/g1Aw8Jno3A— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 2, 2019
Trump wrote that Romney “should be happy for all Republicans,” and that the former governor of Massachusetts should be a “team player.”
We need to consider two important aspects of this back-and-forth between the next Senator from Utah and the current commander-in-chief. First is that Romney is making a criticism of Trump, pointing out a character flaw that the president has that is affecting his ability to run the country. Second, however, is that Trump doesn’t counter that fact directly, but instead implies that criticism of any kind, against any Republican, is bad.
Put another way, what Trump is effectively saying is that Republicans should put their own interests first and ignore the interests that transcend their organization. It’s not “nation over party” for Trump-style Republicans, but a different hierarchy: the president comes first, then the party, then the nation.
This is precisely what Romney is warning about within his op-ed. He doesn’t want a leader in the Oval Office who manages the government in this manner. Romney warns that the American people are set to “eschew the politics of anger and fear” that Trump often promotes, and that it’s detrimental for Trump to continue to lead in this way.
He’s right, of course, although his criticisms needed to be more vociferous when he was running for office, not after he had already secured the electoral victory. Trump isn’t looking out for you and me: he’s got his own interests in mind, and they don’t necessarily line up with what’s best for the nation overall.