Since I was dead right (multiple predictions over many months) that Sen. Hatch would retire, here’s another prediction: Mitt Romney will get along with Pres. Trump better than most people expect when he becomes Utah’s next U.S. senator.
That will be very disappointing to many Republican never-Trumpers and liberal Trump-haters who have called on Romney to run because they expect he will stand up to Trump. They want another Jeff Flake or Bob Corker in the Senate who will fight Trump at every opportunity. They were disappointed that Hatch became a Trump ally on a lot of issues.
Romney’s stature certainly gives him a bully pulpit and lots of visibility if he wants to take on the role of Republican loyal opposition against Trump. He will get lots of ink and air time as the anti-Trump.
But, sorry folks, it’s not going to happen. Sure, Romney won’t hesitate to speak out on issues where he differs with Trump. And if Trump does things that are outrageous, illegal or immoral, Romney won’t be silent.
But simply being anti-Trump won’t make Romney a great senator, and it won’t help Utah.
I predict that on a broad range of policy matters, Romney will be a big Trump supporter. If Romney wants to accomplish anything on the policy front, if he wants to help solve America’s problems, he must align with Trump on many issues.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump and Romney have already had phone calls about working together.
In the Republican Party, there are three factions when it comes to attitudes toward Trump:
--There are the Republicans (mostly arch-conservatives) who absolutely love him, who totally ignore his crudeness, his erratic behavior and factual deficiencies.
--There are mainstream Republicans who have serious concerns about Trump’s flawed character and personality, but they agree with most of his policies and know that with him they have an opportunity to make significant progress domestically and internationally and reverse the nation’s drift toward the liberal abyss.
--Then there are the GOP never-Trumpers who can’t get beyond Trump’s character flaws and lack of discipline and want to see him fail even if it means defeat for the Republican agenda.
Personally, I am in the middle group, and I believe Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney are as well. We cringe at a lot of stuff Trump does and says, but like the fact that he and Congress are cutting taxes, trimming back the regulatory machine, listening to the states, defeating ISIS, and promoting a muscular foreign policy. And if Trump and Congress take on entitlement reform, a smart infrastructure program, and push the country further in a conservative direction, so much the better.
I disagree with Trump on international trade and especially immigration, but I balance that opposition with support for a lot of other things he’s doing. One year into his presidency, he has surprised me that he has mostly governed as a real conservative, despite all sorts of unnecessary distractions and detours.
Someone said something about Trump more than a year ago that is proving to be true: Trump’s detractors (including most of the media) take him (and his tweets) literally, but not seriously. It’s a lot smarter to take Trump seriously, but not literally.
Trump’s greatest strength – and weakness – is that he fearlessly charges ahead, no concern about political correctness, good manners, the level of opposition, the consequences, or even the prospect of failure.
That might be the recipe for bold, effective leadership. Or it might be a recipe for failure if he gets something really big totally wrong.
Romney is smart enough to understand the dynamics and tradeoffs with Trump. I’m betting Romney will become an important ally on a lot of issues, while maintaining enough distance to disagree when necessary.