Incoming Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, a leader of the GOP’s “Never Trump” movement in 2016, heaped scorn on President Donald Trump in a Washington Post Op-Ed.
The Utah Republican, who ran unsuccessfully for the White House in 2012, was elected to the Senate in November and begins his term Thursday.
In the Op-Ed, published Tuesday, Romney admitted he opposed Trump but said that at one point, based on early appointments, he had high hopes for the Trump presidency. No longer.
Romney wrote that “on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
Trump was not long in reacting to the column, which ran with the headline, “The president shapes the public character of the nation. Trump’s character falls short.”
“Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake?” Trump tweeted, invoking outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake. The Arizona Republican bitterly opposed Trump’s policies prior to his departure from the Senate.
“I hope not,” he continued. “Would 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. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would 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. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2019
Trump had endorsed Romney in the Republican primary bid for the seat vacated by outgoing Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2018
When Romney won, the president praised the former Massachusetts governor.
Big and conclusive win by Mitt Romney. Congratulations! I look forward to working together – there is so much good to do. A great and loving family will be coming to D.C.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2018
If Trump thought Romney would be an ally in Washington, the Op-Ed indicates otherwise.
Romney wrote that Trump’s administration “made a deep descent in December.”
“The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a ‘sucker’ in world affairs all defined his presidency down,” he wrote.
Romney admitted that he has few policy bones to pick with Trump, but said that Trump has been lacking in the role of moralist-in-chief.
“To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation,” he wrote. “A president should unite us and inspire us to follow ‘our better angels.’ A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”
Romney also said Trump’s methods have opened rifts around the globe.
“Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world,” he wrote.
Romney’s words drew a mixed reaction on social media.
I get that @MittRomney doesn’t like @realDonaldTrump But since the elegant new senator from #Utah accepted the president’s endorsement & earlier even petitioned @POTUS for a Cabinet-level position, Mr. Romney’s op-ed seems rude & has the trappings of political showboating.
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) January 2, 2019
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 2, 2019
Yea, Trump is an ignorant, dishonest bully and con man, but who is @MittRomney? The kind of spineless, rudderless wimp who’d write an op-ed ripping Trump today, but be first in line tomorrow begging to work for Trump if a plum position in Trump’s Administration opened up.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) January 2, 2019
Looking to the future, Romney made it clear he will back Trump when and if it suits him.
“I look forward to working on these priorities with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other senators,” he wrote.
As for Trump, “I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not,” Romney wrote.
“I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions,” he added.