Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, having secured the necessary 1,144 delegates last night, is playing a dangerous game.
Rather than be a statesman, he refuses to forcefully condemn the birther barnstorming of Donald Trump. What the Donald is doing — flopping about in a pool of proven lies for attention’s sake — is detestable and corrosive to political discourse. To literally stand next to someone who rides a wave of racist conspiracy theories to question the legitimacy of the president is equally detestable and demonstrates a reprehensible willingness by Romney to do whatever he feels is necessary to win.
Putting Romney on the couch, Ruth Marcus gets at part of the reason for this by citing two separate profiles on his parents. “You have to wonder what George and Lenore Romney would have made of their son the candidate,” she writes in The Post today. “The last week has brought two insightful profiles of Mitt Romney’s parents, offering an implicit, and disappointing, contrast with their more successful son.”
Like his father, Wallace-Wells writes, Mitt Romney is “caught in a similarly uneasy negotiation with conservatives.”
Here is the telling difference, and the sad, perhaps inevitable, trajectory of any political dynasty, from idealism to expediency. George Romney railed — indeed, he battled — against what he saw happening. Mitt Romney has adapted to it.
But John Avlon gets right at the heart of the matter by echoing what I’ve been saying in one form or another for months now.
Romney’s repeated reluctance to take such a stand speaks to the extent to which he is still being held hostage by the right-wing reality-show primaries. It reeks of Stockholm syndrome — Romney seems to think his captors are his friends. If the lure of big money isn’t enough to cause him to break the birther embrace, what will? Where is the red line that Romney won’t cross in his pursuit of political gold?
The fact that his long-fought-for nomination victory is being overshadowed by this radioactive distraction ought to be wakeup call enough. Romney is now the leader of the Republican Party, and it’s his responsibility to stand tall and set a tone that shows a capacity to be president of the United States. Failure to confront and condemn ignorance and hate indicates precisely the opposite.
Romney had an opportunity to push back against Rush Limbaugh’s invective against Sandra Fluke. Instead he said, “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used.”
Romney had an opportunity to push back against the blunt and violent rhetoric from aging rocker and supporter Ted Nugent. Instead his spokeswoman said, “Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from. Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil.”
And Romney had an opportunity to push back against Trump, who used the airwaves to spread more lies about President Obama not being born in this country. Instead he said, “You know I don’t agree with all the people who support me, and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” Romney told reporters on his campaign plane Monday. “But I need to get 50.1 percent or more, and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”
This is but more evidence that Romney is still trying to convince the conservative base that he is one of them. If he’s not going to criticize Nugent, Limbaugh or Trump, at what point does Romney show himself to be a leader, not just of the Republican Party, but also as a potential president of the United States? Rather than show some backbone and stare down the crazy within his own party, he’s opted to go along to get along. The American people want a leader, a statesman. Romney has yet to rise to that level.