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Mitt Romney’s evaporating courage to call out Trump

2016 Romney versus 2018 Romney is quite something.

President-Elect Trump Holds Meetings At Trump Tower In New York
Mitt Romney isn’t going after Trump anymore.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Mitt Romney, a once-vocal anti-Trump Republican, appears to have been fully absorbed into the party of Trump.

In an interview with NBC News over the weekend, Romney, who is running for Senate in Utah, delivered a rather mild-mannered admonishment of Trump, saying “some of the things he has said are not ones that I would aspire for my grandkids to adopt.”

“I don’t think that I would point to the president as a role model for my grandkids on the basis of his personal style,” the former Republican presidential nominee said. “He has departed in some cases from the truth and has attacked in a way that I think is not entirely appropriate. I think that his policies have been by and large a good deal better than I might have expected.”

He added, “If the president were to say something that I consider highly divisive or racist or misogynistic, I’ll call him out on it.” For the record, Trump has said many things considered to be divisive, racist, and misogynistic.

Romney’s recent remarks are surprisingly forgiving toward Trump’s repeated lies, offensive and inflammatory comments, and often rash policymaking tactics, given his position throughout the 2016 election cycle. Let’s just compare Romney’s recent NBC interview with a March 2016 speech he delivered about Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Romney now says Trump “has departed in some cases from the truth.” But in 2016, he said “dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark” in a speech at University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.

“There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years but over the course of the campaign,” Romney said then. “And on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.”

2018 Romney says Trump “has attacked in a way that I think is not entirely appropriate.” 2016 Romney said Trump’s “brand of anger ... has led other nations into the abyss.”

Most importantly, 2018 Romney couched every critique of Trump’s actions. But 2016 Romney spoke holistically about the long-term damage of Trump’s rhetoric and mannerisms:

Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics. You know, we have long referred to him as “The Donald.” He’s the only person in the entire country to whom we have added an article before his name, and it was not because he had attributes we admired.

...

Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press.

Needless to say, a lot has changed since 2016 — namely, Romney is currently running in a Republican primary for Senate. He happily accepted Trump’s endorsement for the seat in February, despite saying he’d reject Trump’s support in 2016.