Sorry, Mitt Romney

With what I know now, I may have been wrong about the former Massachusetts governor

I worried about our country when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ran for president against Barack Obama.

With name recognition and lots of money, including $45 million of his own dough, Romney became the Republican Party’s nominee nearly eight years ago. He chose a doofus as his running mate. Seriously, google “Paul Ryan working out” to see the backward-ballcap-wearing flunky posing with weights. Then tell me whether you’d have been OK with that guy being a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Choosing vice presidents poorly seems to be a thing with Republican presidential nominees. Four years earlier, Arizona Sen. John McCain put Romney on his shortlist—after Romney lost to him in the primary—but ended up going with a dimwit, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Fast-forward to the evening of the 2012 general election, you’d find me pacing in my living room. It wasn’t from excitement at the prospect of a second Obama term. It was more that I was fearful of what a Romney administration would look like.

Romney’s net worth then was an estimated $250 million—mainly coming from a private equity firm that specialized in so-called leveraged buying. During the primary, he took a lot of heat for being out of touch. Recall that $10,000 bet he made with then-Texas governor and candidate (now Trump stooge and exiting Energy Secretary) Rick Perry during a debate. Another big gaffe: responding to questions about workplace inequality with comments about “binders full of women.”

As a strict believer in church-and-state separation, I wondered how his faith might be reflected in his policy. As political scholars have noted, Romney arguably would have been the most religious president ever.

But 2012 feels like a million years ago now. I’ve admittedly matured since then—reflected perhaps in recognizing my own biases. In any case, I now see that Romney is part of an endangered species—Washington Republicans with integrity.

Indeed, Mitt Romney is one of the few high-ranking GOP members to consistently stand up to President Trump. He’s criticized him on his recent abrupt decision to abandon the United States’ Kurdish allies in Syria—a casual foreign policy about-face that has led to the brutal deaths of hundreds of civilians, including children. “Wrong and appalling” are the descriptors he used when asked about the president’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens—you know, one of the many things that should trigger his ouster.

You might think Romney has been audacious because he was elected to the Senate last year and thus is politically safe until 2025. While that’s true, it hasn’t emboldened his colleagues who have the same protection. Most continue to toe the Trump line.

Is Romney brave and persuasive enough to get the necessary impeachment votes and secure his legacy as a man who helped save the U.S. from a rising despot? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

I never thought my country would be in this position—where lawmakers cling to their party in the face of a constitutional crisis. I don’t agree with Romney on many policy fronts. But based on his ability to speak truth to power in these circumstances, I now believe I was wrong about him.