Wednesday afternoon, only a couple of hours before the U.S. Senate would fulfill their Constitutional charge of deciding the merits of two impeachment articles against President Donald Trump, Utah’s junior US Senator, Mitt Romney, spoke in somber tones from the Senate floor. Declaring the devoutness of his own faith — followed by fourteen dramatic seconds of silence to collect his emotions — Romney proceeded to lay out his high and noble reasons for his forthcoming vote to reverse the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election.
Early in his speech, Romney asserted the House Managers had “presented evidence supporting their case” — evidence that Romney says the President’s legal team merely “disputed.” Without specifically identifying any actual evidence, Romney instead simply repeated the House Managers’ core accusations, all of which contained unsubstantiated assumptions of Trump’s most nefarious potential motives. Each of these accusations had been presented as if it were incontrovertible evidence, creating a false and terrifying Kavanaugh-esque equivalence between accusation and proof.
Romney’s rationale for conviction was essentially boiled down to four points. Each of these assertions contained a kernel of truth married with an unsupported assumption. In Adam Schiff’s math class, truth + convenient assumptions = ABSOLUTE TRUTH. It looks like Mitt’s excelling at Schiff’s arithmetic, because according to Mitt:
- “The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.” True, but it was never established beyond reasonable doubt that he asked for the investigation because Biden was his political rival. Nearly everyone would generically agree that anyone wanting to become the President of the United States should be scrutinized to make sure their foreign interests won’t compromise their loyalty to the United States. There are compelling reasons to investigate any legitimate candidate. How we determine the gray matter’s mix of motive and awareness is a fool’s errand. But to undo an election over it? That is a frightening power above anyone’s pay grade.
- “The President withheld vital military funds from [Ukraine] to press them to investigate Biden.” That link actually was never established with anything beyond speculation and suspicion. In fact, the Sondland-Trump phone call suggests no linkage existed at all.
- “The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.” Is Mitt seriously suggesting that foreign aid should always simply go unscrutinized to allied nations (with a reputation for corruption, in this case) that are at war? Ukraine was unaware of the delay at the time of the phone call, and the aid was fully delivered before the deadline.
- “The President’s purpose was personal and political.” Mitt didn’t bother to offer any evidence, compelling or otherwise in making this assertion. When did Mitt become Carnac the Magnificent?
Before Mitt’s floor speech, he had met earlier that morning with Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace for a taped interview, aired nationally the moment his speech had finished. In the interview Mitt discussed how painful his decision, how grand his courage, how strong his conviction had to be in order to cast this vote. He said he knew how unpopular this was going to be. He had prayed about it. He had discussed it with family. He made an oath before God to do this. He even cited verse from a church hymn. But the pain of political martyrdom was worth it all because he needs all of us to know that his integrity is not negotiable.
Yet, something just nags at me that maybe — just maybe — there might be a mixed motive concealed beneath all of the professed courage and conviction and pious assertions of good intention.
As a young man, Mitt Romney watched the rise of his politically-gifted father seeking the Presidency. George Romney fell short of the White House, but had an incredibly respectable and impactful career in both the public and private sectors. It is not unreasonable to believe Mitt Romney wanted to complete his father’s presidential ambitions; Romney told Chris Wallace losing the 2012 race was the hardest thing he’s ever faced politically.
For Mitt’s very distinctive and conventional personality type and religious background, his convention demands stylistic conformity to statesmanship and civility. Such conformity is a sign of moral virtue. A crass man like Donald Trump simply does not deserve the White House. It adds insult to injury that Donald Trump, not Mitt, won the White House and is steadily racking up the economic, domestic, and foreign policy accomplishments that Mitt believes rightly belong only to decent people like himself.
Waking up each day lamenting that the wrong man lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue fuels a festering jealous anger that requires Trump’s removal and can only be concealed by the invocation of the greatest of intention and the highest of personal virtue. It is also this jealous simmer that makes every suspicion of nefarious Trumpian intent appear instantly true.
As I listened to Mitt highlighting the supremacy of his own integrity, I wondered why he never scrutinized the incessant dishonesty from Adam Schiff who promised we’d hear from the whistleblower, then absolutely denied any access to him at all. Why didn’t Mitt’s impeccable sense of fairness demand basic due process for the President in the House impeachment process? Why wasn’t Mitt’s integrity concerned with making sure House Republicans could bring in exculpatory testimony to balance out Shiff’s carefully manicured list of inculpatory witnesses? Adam Schiff has transcripts from his depositions, but won’t release them. Mitt seems uninterested. Why were Republicans denied a promised hearing in Gerald Nadler’s Judiciary Committee? Did Mitt ever wonder why Nancy Pelosi would not allow a full House vote to begin the impeachment process?
These are the questions that if answered could provide more truth that is suspiciously of no interest to Mitt Romney and his superior virtue.
In March of 2016, Mitt Romney delivered a speech in Salt Lake City in an attempt to take down Donald Trump’s strengthening candidacy. Then in January of 2019 as Romney was arriving in Washington as a brand new US Senator he had penned a guest column for that very day’s Washington Post declaring that Trump’s character falls short for someone who is supposed to shape the character of the nation. This week, given the high profile impeachment venue and the automatic media gifted to any rogue Republican, Mitt again foisted his self-professed virtue upon a nation that wasn’t exactly asking for it.
It’s disturbing what internal motivations we can indulge if we dress them up with labels of courage, conscience, and virtue.
Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson of Idaho Falls is the author of “Living in Spin.” He is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 106.3 and 92.1, and also at www.kidnewsradio.com. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 6:00 to 10:00. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.