Mitt Romney Is the Only Republican in Congress With Any Guts Left
The Utah senator enraged Republicans and showed you can take a stand against a lawless president
It ended as it was always going to end.
Mitch McConnell always had enough votes to prevent Donald Trump’s richly deserved conviction in the U.S. Senate. The combination of McConnell’s iron hand, the threat of him holding back National Republican Senatorial Committee reelection money, and the state of quivering, impotent terror to which Trump reduces GOP elected officials made reaching two-thirds a distant dream.
Trump’s GOP is a party bereft of heroes.
This afternoon America witnessed an act of political courage almost unparalleled in our degraded capital city in the era of Trump. Like the nerdy kid in the 1980s teen movie who finally knocks the bully down, Mitt Romney stood up for decency and history and delivered a blow that has enraged the Trump cult.
No, he didn’t take down Trump, but he showed everyone you can stand up and survive against a lawless president.
Sen. Mitt Romney is not a brawler. He is not an elbows-out political scrapper who goes for the throat and leaves bodies on the floor. Romney, a man who moves in the C-suites of America with patrician ease, is a man comfortable with unity, comity, and good faith. He is a man who loves his family more than the bar fight of American politics. Mitt Romney was not on anyone’s impeachment bingo card as the bravest man in Congress, but there he was today, the United States Senate’s one profile in courage, the one man willing to speak the truth to the ugly power of Trump’s criminal and corrupt behavior.
His extraordinary speech was a sharp rebuke to the transparently shabby cover-up engineered by Trump’s most eager lackey, Mitch McConnell. Romney’s floor speech steadily, methodically shamed the Coward Caucus of Senate Republicans who have deliberately dulled their moral senses and traded their honor for red trucker hats and pats on the back from a president they know to be lawless.
Trump was desperate for impeachment to end in “total exoneration.” The White House needed to preserve the illusion of Republican fealty and loyalty from top to bottom, and break off at least one Democrat. Joe Manchin, Doug Jones, and Kyrsten Sinema, all Democrats in red states, were their top targets. They hoped to pressure at least one of them into casting a vote so they could claim the exoneration was bipartisan.
Whoops. Turns out the vote to convict, not the exoneration, was bipartisan.
Within seconds, Trump world exploded, furious that Romney had dared to spoil their victory lap. All the usual media suspects and Trump’s constellation of online fanboys launched into a jihad against Romney, and the president’s social media grassroots Yokel Haram went nuts, declaring Mitt to be a traitor to the faith.
So yes, it ended as we expected it would end, but America owes Mitt Romney a note of thanks for showing the courage to stand up against a crook and face a highly personal and truly Trumpian wave of attacks.
There is power in courage. There is liberation in calling out blind party loyalty in the face of corruption, greed, abuse of power, and behavior that breaks the bonds of faith Americans should enjoy between themselves and their leaders. If you won’t call out rot and decay on your own team, you lose the standing to do it to the other side without the tang of hypocrisy on your tongue. It was a mistake too many of us made in the GOP — myself most certainly included — in the years before Trump.
We didn’t speak loudly enough against the crony capitalism of which we had become agents and facilitators. We didn’t wage a ceaseless war on the racist cockroaches in our own cupboards. We didn’t walk the walk on deficits or spending or entitlement reform or individual liberty. Donald Trump’s Troll Party has no truth-tellers inside.
Trump has already killed off the GOP as we knew it, devouring it like a ravenous parasite from the inside out. Once in a while, someone reminds them that the pain they’re feeling while defending Trump is the sensation of their souls trying to reenter their bodies.
That was the power of Romney’s speech today. It was a rebuke to a man with almost unlimited power in the Republican party. It was a rebuke to Trump’s enablers, his sycophants, and the opportunists who fall somewhere in the middle. We’ve come to expect the worst from wannabe players like Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Cory Gardner; even in failure, Romney’s call for his fellow senators to do their duty likely left many of them restless last night and wondering about their own value.
It was a stand Romney knew would end in the kind of furious anger and recriminations for which the Tweeter in Chief is infamous. Trump’s ire for opponents within his own party is always more intense than his anger at anyone else, foreign or domestic. A man who has tweeted lovingly about Kim Jong Un will doubtless engage in a ripping Twitter spree against Romney today, and Romney most certainly knows it.
For all of Trump’s bluster, swagger, and bellowing self-promotion, he was acquitted, not exonerated. He may have gotten off free as a bird, but we all know he’s guilty as sin. Mitt Romney was the only Republican who had the guts to say in public what every other senator is whispering in private.