WASHINGTON, May 15, 2016 — Mitt Romney has always seemed an honorable man: honest, sincere, compassionately conservative, charitable and a true gentleman. But his latest comments about Donald Trump are just plain shameful and embarrassing.
If Romney wanted to be president or to influence the GOP’s choice of nominee, he should have actively campaigned. Instead he dropped out and let the Republican voters select a candidate to represent the party. The voters had a choice of 17 very qualified candidates and they chose Donald Trump.
Trump will go to the convention in July with most of the delegates and more votes than any other Republican candidate in history, a plurality of primary and caucus votes. At this point, Republican leaders should coalesce around him. They can work with Trump to develop a platform to propel him to victory, while allowing the Republican Party to maintain or increase its majorities in both houses of Congress.
Paul Ryan has taken the lead. He has already met with Trump, and both emerged from their meeting optimistic that they could find common ground. Ryan represents the Republican establishment that espouses certain, often conservative positions. Trump’s more populist message appeals to voters who are generally conservative on economic issues but tend to be moderate on social issues.
Considering the problems stemming from the Obama legacy—the worst economic recovery of any presidency in history, a foreign policy that has left the world potentially on the verge of a world war and social policies that encourage Americans to have a distorted view of values—electing a Republican president in 2016 should be easy.
But Romney and others in the Republican establishment are doing their best to elect Hillary Clinton. This is just shameful. The party’s problems with Trump really don’t matter. The voters have selected Trump to lead the party, and the establishment should line up with the voters. If they wish to influence Trump’s policies, they should first reach common ground with Trump.
Instead, Romney has said and continues to say things that are damaging to Trump. Earlier this month, he called Trump a “phony, a fraud.” He added, “dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark,” pointing to Trump’s “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny.” If this is simply an attempt to destroy a Trump candidacy, it is shameful. It makes Romney seem a sore loser who fears a loss of influence should Trump succeed.
Romney has attacked Trump again for not releasing his tax returns. He said Trump should be disqualified from becoming president, noting that Trump must be hiding a bombshell. “Tax returns provide the public with its sole confirmation of the veracity of a candidate’s representations regarding charities, priorities, wealth, tax conformance and conflicts of interest.”
That’s a bunch of poppycock. Historically, pushing candidates to release their tax returns is intended to help he opposition find a “gotcha.” As a New York real estate mogul, Trump’s tax returns are so complex that it will be easy to find something that somehow casts Trump in a bad light, even if, in the end, everything represented in the tax return is legal.
Once those returns are out, the Washington Post will assign 20 reporters (which it already has, according to reports) to find inconsistencies in Trump’s tax records. The New York Times will do likewise and put the results on the front page, along with commentary about the unfairness of Trump’s (legal) actions to minimize his tax liability.
Most Americans don’t care about Trump’s taxes or his business failures (clearly smaller than his successes). They want a president who will tell them the truth, politically correct or not, who will stimulate the economy to create economic opportunity. The want a president who will negotiate trade treaties that put free trade on a fair basis. They want a president who can find compromise solutions to our problems.
The media continue to portray Trump as a racist, a bigot and a misogynist because he takes extreme positions to draw attention, knowing he will eventually compromise. Trump could be more easily understood if the party would support him and get a positive message out.
Many voters, including long-time Republicans, who say they will never vote for Trump. If that’s the case, electing him will prove difficult indeed. But if the party’s leaders support him and help him build a winning platform at the convention, he might very well win in November, carrying down-ticket candidates with him and forging a new Republican Party that is more inclusive than the current one.
Don’t Romney and the establishment Republicans want that? We’ll soon see.
*Cartoon by Branco. Reprinted with permission by arrangement with LegalInsurrection.