Here’s a fun game: guess who said this?
“Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark.”
“Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics.”
“There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake.”
“He has neither the temperament nor the judgment . . . and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”
“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.”
The answer is Mitt Romney. It’s hard to remember now, but in March of 2016, Romney gave perhaps the most lacerating and angry speech against Trump by any Republican in the country — it’s from that address that most of these quotes are taken.
“Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.”
To be sure, a Republican surrendering his dignity and pride to Trump for the president’s political support (or at least to stop from being attacked by him on Twitter) is not unusual. In America, we call it Monday.
For Romney to do it is even less surprising. This is a man who, while governor or Massachusetts, passed a universal health care bill, in part to help him run for president. When his party turned its back on technocratic solutions to major policy challenges, Romney did too — basically repudiating his crowning legislative achievement. He switched positions on abortion and on climate change and his hard-line position on immigration during the 2012 campaign helped lay the groundwork for Trump’s full-scale assault on undocumented immigrants as president.
Romney’s flip-flops were a means to a political end — he wanted to be president. When he attacked Trump in March 2016, he had no intention of running for office again (or so it seemed). Now that he has changed his mind (again), he is happy to accept Trump’s endorsement for the US Senate. Staying on Trump’s good side will, in his political view, make that more possible.
This latest episode in Republican spinelessness is perhaps the most underappreciated explanation as to why Trump is president. Cast all the blame you will on Democrats, and more specifically, Hillary Clinton. I get that, and certainly, they have to shoulder some of the responsibility. But ultimately Trump’s rise to power and his dumpster fire presidency is the direct result of a Republican Party that has refused to stand up to him; to hold him accountable or show any fealty to their core ideological beliefs. Short-term political gain has trumped every ounce of integrity or courage that exists in the party. For Republicans, the only thing that matters is political expediency, and there seemingly is no bottom for Republicans when it comes to enabling Trump’s corruption, inappropriateness, and moral cravenness. Mitt Romney is no different from Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell or the hundreds of Republicans in Congress who privately consider Trump a danger to the country and in public defend him to the hilt. He’s just occasionally pretended to have integrity.
It provides us with a great political irony. Republicans like to present themselves as tough and resolute, particularly on foreign policy, but also on terrorism and crime. But when push comes to shove, they are at their core a bunch of cowards — cowed by a narcissistic man-child who none of them have the courage to stand up to.Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.