The good news is that a prominent member of the cowed Republican establishment is finally speaking out against Donald Trump. The bad news is, it’s Mitt Romney.
Oh man. This is the best they can do?
The guy who lost the ’08 nomination and lost the ’12 election (and who has been reviled by The Base ever since), the guy who passed on ’16 to clear the way for Jeb (insert joke here), has apparently decided that if nobody else is willing to fight the Batman villain who’s been dropped in their midst, it might as well be him. I guess he’s better than nothing. I guess it’s better late than never.
Mighty Mitt rolled into Fox News yesterday and trolled the mogul: “We really ought to see from [the GOP candidates] what their taxes look like to see if there’s an issue there. I think in Donald Trump’s case, it’s likely to be a bombshell.”
Whoa. What kind of bombshell? Mitt said he was only speculating. But still:
“Donald Trump has said he’s the best in the country for the disabled veterans and the disabled generals. Well, if his taxes show that he hasn’t made any contributions to the disabled veterans or to the disabled generally, that would be a big issue …. The reason I think that there’s a bombshell in there is because every time he’s asked about his taxes, he dodges and delays and says ‘Well, we’re working on it.’ Hey, we’re not talking about the taxes that are coming due this year. Of course they’re working on those. They won’t be ready for months. We’re talking about taxes already filed — back taxes.”
It’s nice that Mitt is giving it the old prep school try. Somebody in the party hierarchy has to try. As a Washington Post editorial put it yesterday, “History will not look kindly on GOP leaders who fail to do everything in their power to prevent a bullying demagogue from becoming their standard-bearer …. If Mr. Trump is to be stopped, now is the time for leaders of conscience to say they will not and cannot support him and to do what they can to stop him …. Is the Republican Party truly not going to resist its own debasement?”
So what the heck, Mitt might as well hit Trump on the tax return issue (His Lordship says he might deign to release his returns “at some point, probably”), because nothing else seems to be working. Assailing Trump for his substance-free agenda isn’t working. Rebuking Trump for his vile and racist insults isn’t working. Fact-checking Trump’s serial lies isn’t working.
The problem, however, is that Mitt is not the best messenger. Those of you with long memories (in America, four years is a long memory) will recall that Mitt the multimillionaire was infamously reluctant to release his past tax returns.
Before Mitt ever released anything, he complained about the demands that he do so. He whined, “I sort of feel like we are showing a lot of exposure.” In the winter of ’12, he grudgingly released one year (2010) and one partial estimate (2011), and said “that’s all that’s necessary.” Even Republicans were disgusted; ex-Bush pollster Matthew Dowd faulted him for “arrogance.” Mitt stonewalled until autumn. Six weeks before the election, he released a “summary” of the previous 20 years. Turned out, his tax rate was lower than the average Joe’s, because the tax code looks favorably on private equity managers’ investment income.
So today, the notion that Mitt Romney can play the populist against plutocrat Trump … the irony is so thick you need a carving knife to cut it.
And Trump, of course, has retaliated in his inimitable way. Yesterday he tweeted: “Mitt Romney, who totally blew an election that should have been won and whose tax returns made him look like a fool, is now playing tough guy.” Another tweet ridiculed Mitt as “awkward and goofy.” What fun for the junkyard dog! With Jeb gone, he was jonesing for a new chew toy.
There’s also buzz this week that Mitt is poised to endorse Marco Rubio. In what universe would that help Rubio? It has long been settled fact that The Base thinks Mitt is a squish who planted the seeds of Obamacare and saddled America with four more years of The Other. In tonight’s Republican debate — yes, folks, this one’s the 10th — Trump could probably score points with his credulous fans by gift-wrapping Mitt and Marco and tying them with a bow.
As a measure of the GOP’s desperation, Mitt’s fumbling foray is a perfect metaphor. Especially now, with the wolf at the door.
Meanwhile, the Senate GOP predictably announced on Tuesday that it will refuse to hold any hearings on whoever President Obama nominates for the Supreme Court, regardless of that person’s legal qualifications. The party’s dysfunctional hatred of governance has now spread like a disease to the judicial branch.
But by holding the court hostage, and condemning it to a year of 4-4 decisions, Republicans seem to be overlooking this fabulous fact: Whenever the high court is stalemated, the lower-court rulings become law of the land. And it just so happens that the lower courts are predominantly blue. After seven years of Obama appointees, nine of the 13 federal appeals courts have Democratic majorities; as one legal analyst writes, “Two-thirds of the people in the country live in blue-court America.”
So the joke is on the GOP. Or, as Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”