Days away from joining the Senate’s Republican majority, Sen.-elect Mitt Romney used The Washington Post to broadly criticize President Donald Trump’s policies and character and argued that the president “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable,” the Utah Republican and 2012 presidential nominee wrote in a Washington Post op-ed posted online Tuesday night. “And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”
Romney was heavily critical of Trump during the 2016 presidential election, but pulled back on his attacks during his own senatorial campaign.
That all went out the window Tuesday — and in the political world of Washington, D.C. is a shockingly blunt attack on his party leader.
Romney’s biting public attack came at a time when Trump and Senate Republicans faced a new governing dynamic. Republicans on Thursday will cede control of the House to Democrats, who were prepared to oppose Trump on a number of policies and promised a slew of investigations into his actions and those of his aides and campaign officials, particularly with regard to Russia’s election meddling.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had criticized Trump before — notably, in a March 2016 speech he called Trump a “fraud” and opposed his bid for the GOP nomination — but made peace with the president-elect in the run-up to his election in Utah.
Romney’s rebuke of Trump drew a cutting reply from Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager. In a tweet Tuesday night, Parscale said Romney “lacked the ability to save this nation” —
The truth is @MittRomney lacked the ability to save this nation. @realDonaldTrump has saved it. Jealously is a drink best served warm and Romney just proved it. So sad, I wish everyone had the courage @realDonaldTrump had. https://t.co/mbxoTqbSX6
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) January 2, 2019
In the column, Romney offered approval of Trump’s corporate tax policies and efforts to cut regulations, appoint conservative judges and other “policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.”
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“To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation,” Romney said. He later added: “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.”
While saying Trump’s early administration appointments had been encouraging, Romney added that, “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.”
In describing a “deep descent” by the Trump presidency in December, Romney cited the departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly and what he called the appointment of people of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies, and Trump’s “thoughtless claim that America has long been a ‘sucker’ in world affairs.”
Looking ahead, Romney wrote that he would act as he would with any president from either party in the White House, supporting policies he believes are in the best interest of the country and his state and opposing those that are not.
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And he said he didn’t intend to comment on every tweet or fault.
“But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions,” he said.
Romney will be sworn in as a senator on Thursday.
Trump responded on Twitter, calling for unity among Republicans.
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2019
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The Associated Press contributed to this article