If Mitt Romney wanted to pick a fight in Washington with his op-ed criticizing Donald Trump, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. His new colleagues didn’t see the point, and now they’re going on the record to express their displeasure. Politico gathered up quite a few attributed quotes suggesting that Romney would do better to shut up and learn the job before launching op-eds that distract from their agenda.
In other words, Mitt Romney’s the GOP’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I kid, I kid … kinda:
Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, a close Trump ally, dismissed Romney’s op-ed as an “attempted character assassination” and “deeply disappointing,” dubbing Romney a potential “Jeff Flake on steroids” in his own Washington Post op-ed. Most Senate Republicans won’t go that far, but they aren’t particularly happy about how Romney chose to enter office.
“Everybody’s got their strategy and their tactic. Mine is going to be to try and help the president and our country be successful. Mitt’s got a different take,” Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a fellow freshman, said. “I haven’t talked to anybody that’s encouraged by” his approach.
“The timing was kind of curious,” said new Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, who said Romney’s gravitas as a former GOP presidential nominee gives everything he says extra weight. “I wouldn’t have advised him to do it right now.”
Not all of the quotes from Romney’s colleagues were on the record. One Senator told Politico’s reporters on background that his strange timing for the op-ed and its regurgitation of Romney’s campaign messaging made them suspicious of Romney’s motives. “If you’re in the room,” the unnamed member said about caucus strategizing, “it will cause you to go back just a little, ‘What’s he thinking?’”
That’s still the question at hand. The column would have made sense if Romney planned to launch a primary campaign against Trump in this cycle, which would have to begin in the next few months. Romney insists that he won’t do that, however. It might have made sense if Romney had focused on a particular policy for his dissent, but other than the dismissal of James Mattis, there was nothing pressing or specific about Romney’s attack. Most of the complaints were old news and more about Trump’s personal qualities rather than policies, on which Romney professed broad agreement with Trump. So what was the point?
If it was just to reinforce the idea that politicians should refrain from unnecessary personal attacks, James Lankford thinks Romney himself missed the point — and the irony:
“It kind of felt like the same thing Trump does to everybody, Romney does to Trump. Smack you, and then want to negotiate,” said Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma. “It is funny to me that while he was complaining about President Trump’s personal attacks, he was personally attacking President Trump. I don’t know if he sees the irony in it.”
Trump does that for self-promotion, mainly. Romney’s new colleagues seem to think Romney had the same motives, and at their expense. Small wonder they’re not exactly rolling out the welcome wagon this week.