When Sen. Mitt Romney announced his decision to retire last week, most Republicans felt it was long past time to say ‘Good riddance!’ to the former governor of Massachusetts. Others, however, praised him for taking the moral high ground in the Senate before calling it quits.
It's not a strange concept. In history, journalism, and movies, we would all like to celebrate the hero, the committed statesman who defies evil and crusades for truth and goodness. That is not Mitt Romney.
Romney’s failures and flip-flops were legendary, but none so egregious as his flip-flop assessment of former President Donald Trump. Romney was pro-Trump in 2012 when he was a Republican presidential candidate looking for a celebrity endorsement and anti-Trump when he desperately wanted someone else to win the 2016 presidential primary. Back then, he refused to endorse any of the other Republicans running for president, choosing instead to unleash an uncomfortably long angry speech trashing Trump in every way he could muster.
In the past, Romney had lost a senate race to Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts and a presidential race to Barack Obama in 2012, but after Trump won, he embraced the man he tried to destroy in order to salvage his own political legacy.
Romney famously swallowed his pride to meet with President-elect Trump for dinner in November 2016, showering praise on Trump to the press and harboring dreams of a future position in his cabinet. Trump enjoyed the dinner but gave Romney nothing.
With his political ambitions still strong, Romney moved to Utah and embraced Trump to win his campaign for Senate. Romney soon flipped to an anti-Trump position after arriving in Washington, ultimately being the lone Republican senator to vote in favor of impeaching the president in 2020 and one of seven Republicans voting to impeach him again in 2021.
Republicans were not surprised by his duplicity. They were already familiar with Romney’s uncomfortable flip-flopping on political issues as he shifted from Governor of Massachusetts to a presidential candidate in 2012. He famously declared he was in favor of legal abortion before insisting he was “firmly pro-life,” supporting an assault weapons ban before vowing to protect gun rights and supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants before campaigning as an immigration hawk.
His record of insincerity and lack of principle are breathtaking - even for a politician.
But another side of Mitt Romney was revealed after his announcement to quit coincided with the first excerpt of his carefully choreographed biography with Atlantic writer McKay Coppins. In an unusual arrangement, Romney turned over his personal journal, records, text messages, and emails to Coppins while participating in hours of interviews with his hand-picked biographer.
It’s a revealing vanity project. The book uncovers Romney as a man who is not only deeply bitter and frustrated with his Senate colleagues but also terrified by his constituents. “There are deranged people among us,” Romney warns, noting that in Utah, “people carry guns.”
In his biography, Romney muses about his failure to achieve his perceived duty to save the Republican Party from Republicans, complaining that the party led by Trump was too willing to cross the boundaries of decency to win elections.
“You can always convince yourself that the other party, or the other candidate, is bad enough to justify your own decision to cross that line,” he complained. “And the problem is that line just keeps on getting moved, and moved, and moved.”
The book also reveals what Romney told West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, when visiting him on his boat on the Potomac.
“We’re both 72. We should probably be thinking about oaths and legacy, not just reelection,” he said.
The real Mitt Romney is a proud man who is so concerned with his legacy, that he is willing to hold his colleagues and constituents in contempt to earn respect from the people writing the history books.
In his mind, he's not the loser, everyone else is. It’s not about holding the moral line, demonstrating loyalty, or keeping an oath, it’s about his vain attempt to conjure a respectable political legacy out of a history of personal and political failure.
Charlie Spiering is a Wyoming native who works in Washington, D.C., where he continues writing about the White House, Congress and national politics. A former writer for Breitbart News, The Washington Examiner and columnist Robert Novak, Spiering frequently returns home to the family farm in Powell to escape the insanity of Washington.