Incoming Sen. Mitt Romney fired off a volley at President Donald Trump just days before he is sworn into the U.S. Senate, saying Trump has not risen to the lofty demands of his office.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Romney wrote Tuesday evening that Trump’s conduct, particularly over the past month, has fallen far short of what we should expect from the occupant of the White House.
It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, 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.
It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.
To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. 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 said Trump’s actions have diminished America’s standing in the world. The rest of the globe is yearning for American leadership, and that can’t happen until we fix our broken political system back home.
To reassume our leadership in world politics, we must repair failings in our politics at home. That project begins, of course, with the highest office once again acting to inspire and unite us. It includes political parties promoting policies that strengthen us rather than promote tribalism by exploiting fear and resentment. Our leaders must defend our vital institutions despite their inevitable failings: a free press, the rule of law, strong churches, and responsible corporations and unions.
Romney reiterated he will support policies from President Trump that he agrees with, but he also plans to speak out when he disagrees with the president, particularly when he makes statements or actions that are “divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive.”