Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Goodbye Mitt

Donald Trump today confirmed his pick of Rex Tillerson to be his nominee for Secretary of State. I can hardly rejoice about that choice but I can find one small consolation in it. Namely: I think we're done with Mitt Romney.

Romney was governor of my adopted state of Massachusetts 2003-2007. One of the votes he got was mine. I rarely vote for a Republican for any office (although I'm not sure whether a Massachusetts Republican even counts as a "real" Republican) but in my view at the time he was the most qualified candidate running. This was coming off the 2002 Winter Olympics, which I felt he had managed pretty competently, whereas his Democratic opponent just seemed to focus on criticism of Romney as a person, with comparatively little to say about her own policy proposals.

My problem with Romney began about midway through his term as governor, when he seemingly lost interest in being governor and wanted to be president instead. Apart from spending more time out of the state campaigning than in the state governing, he also started to transform himself—outwardly, at least—into a "real" Republican, apparently having concluded that being a Massachusetts Republican was more of a liability than anything else. Mitt's peculiar transformation would continue as he traveled the road to being nominated as the 2012 Republican presidential candidate. The most irritating, yet somehow unsurprising, aspect of that for me was how he portrayed the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) as "an unconscionable abuse of power" and called for it to be repealed, because while the latter may not be identical with Romney's own signature achievement as governor, 
the Massachusetts state health care reform, it's pretty hard to treat them as being somehow fundamentally different with respect to their core principles; unless, of course, you don't mind being a disingenuous hypocrite.

Clearly Romney doesn't mind. It was surprising—or not?—when Romney came out and so vehemently attacked Trump during the presidential campaign, summing up thusly:
"Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.
"His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill."
Let's recall that back in 2012, after Trump endorsed Romney, Romney praised Trump for his "extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works and to create jobs". And of course now that Trump has won and was dangling the Secretary of State job before Mitt's eyes, Mitt now wanted us to know that "[W]hat 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".

So who's the sucker now?

I wondered as I watched this whole thing play out whether it was just a clever trap set by Trump and his team, baited with Romney's own opportunism and vanity. Whether it was really part of some Machiavellian plan or just lucky (for Trump) happenstance, Romney is now in a pretty poor position to criticize anything Trump or his team say or do in the next four years, and looking at how his whole transition process has been, there will be no shortage of things to criticize (to put it mildly). It's hard for me to see why anyone would take anything the man has to say seriously at this point, and although stranger things have happened in American politics, I suspect that Romney's political career is over. Goodbye, Mitt. I won't miss you.