The revelations come from an excerpt from a new book about Romney written by the Atlantic’s McKay Coppins. The excerpt was published shortly after news of Romney’s retirement was broken by Dan Balz of the Washington Post.
In Romney’s interviews with Coppins over the past two years, it’s becoming clear that Romney is content to burn the house down on his way out — and spend his final 16 months in the Senate as even more of an outcast than he already is .
The article’s portrayal of Romney completes the picture of a conservative movement increasingly lacking in scruples and morality in the age of Trump. He focuses on his Senate colleagues, but also on former high-ranking Republican leaders more generally, often singling them out in ways one rarely sees from a fellow partisan, even at the retirement.
- Romney reserved his harshest words for the new Senate Republican, JD Vance of Ohio, once a staunch Trump critic like Romney who has reshaped himself as a MAGA warrior. “I don’t know if I can disrespect anyone more than J.D. Vance,” Romney said in 2022. Romney said he imagined confronting Vance and saying, “It’s like, really? Are you selling yourself so cheaply?
- Close behind are Senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), whose promotion of the stolen 2020 election Romney appears to view with particular disdain. “They know better!” he said. “Josh Hawley is one of, if not the smartest people in the Senate, and Ted Cruz could give him a run for his money.” Romney said they had made a “calculation” that “put politics above the interests of liberal democracy and the Constitution.”
- On former Vice President Mike Pence, a man who, like Romney, wears his religiosity on his sleeve: No one has been “more loyal, more willing to smile when he saw nonsense, more willing to attribute will of God to ungodly things than Mike Pence.” .”
- Romney said he believed he could work with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), unlike others, because Johnson was acting in good faith. But he suggests that Johnson’s good faith is symptomatic of his conspiratorial true believer. “Ron, is there a conspiracy you don’t believe in?” he recalled saying after Johnson spoke about Hunter Biden and Ukraine.
- He was less harsh on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But he suggested that McConnell, too, is letting political expediency trump principles. The article quotes McConnell telling Romney that he was “lucky” because, thanks to his unusual setup in Utah, Romney “can say the things that we all think… but can’t say.” . It quotes McConnell making an argument against convicting Trump in his first impeachment trial because Democrats could use it to gain power — while ignoring the merits of the case. It also quotes McConnell as saying that the impeachment managers “nailed” Trump and completely rejected Trump’s primary defense. (McConnell’s office said he did not recall saying the impeachment managers had “nailed” Trump, nor did it reflect what he thought at the time. The office said also said he didn’t remember telling Romney he was “lucky” but declined to do so. comment on whether he told Romney he could “say the things we all think .”)
- Romney also seems more understanding when it comes to his 2012 presidential running mate, former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). But he seemed surprised when, although Ryan had broken with Trump in some ways, Ryan cautioned him against voting to convict Trump in this impeachment, citing Romney’s personal political concerns. (Romney would later become the first member of a president’s party in history to vote for conviction.)
Then there are Romney’s broader comments about his party.
“A very large part of my party,” he declared, “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution. »
He said that privately, his Republican colleagues ridicule Trump — and that the Senate caucus even burst into laughter after a particularly rambling visit by the then-president.
“Almost without exception,” Romney said, “they shared my view of the president.” He says a senior Republican said Trump “has none of the qualities you would want in a president, and all the qualities you wouldn’t have.”
There is no doubt that Romney also played along, as the National Review notes. He played an important role in launching Trump’s political career by legitimizing him during the 2012 campaign, even as Trump was immersed in his ugly birth campaign. After the 2016 campaign, he briefly befriended Trump and even sought to become his secretary of state. Romney’s evolving positions on abortion over the years seemed to align with what was politically beneficial at the time.
In this sense, it is a story as old as time: that of an elderly legislator who, with fewer personal political concerns, is suddenly free to vote as he pleases and to express what he really feels.
What’s different about Romney today is that his development in this matter has been decidedly ill-timed. Not only has he been making these kinds of comments for years before announcing his retirement, but his position has made him a pariah within the party in which he made his name. And even though he is 76 years old, Romney could easily have continued to be a party player for many years.
We can blame him for his late conversion, but it is difficult to understand that what he does today is based on anything other than conviction, because of the costs that this implies. (Coppins reports that the wealthy senator paid $5,000 a day to provide private security for his family after January 6.)
And Romney no longer seems content to solely target Trump on his way out. He calls out the many colleagues who, according to Romney, went far further than ever before to help Trump – and played a vital role in maintaining his preeminence.
In this way, the Romney interviews should be viewed in the same light as the revelations made before Fox News’ $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems — a damning portrait of people who are better at saying things than saying things. they don’t believe in toeing Trump’s line, with little left to do. without regard to the damage done to our political system and our democracy.
Except that in this case, the revelations were entirely voluntary.