Mitt Romney — a politician who has made a career of bending hypocrisy into bold new shapes — signaled yesterday that he will support Donald Trump’s intention to stuff a new far-right Supreme Court nominee on to the still-warm seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Romney’s decision to allow Mitch McConnell’s brazen hypocrisy to stand unchallenged is yet another milestone on a long and winding career road, one that has often crossed over itself or gone straight over a cliff in its hapless quest to be all things to all people.
“The Constitution gives the president the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees,” Romney intoned on Tuesday morning. “Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”
Yes, yes, Mitt, follow the Constitution, like you did back in December when you voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power because of what he did to meddle with the 2020 election by way of Hunter Biden, and what he did to cover up that meddling. Trump wants this new justice as a firewall against defeat in November, which means he intends to meddle with yet another election, but go ahead, Mitt. Please proceed.
“My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that’s not written in the stars,” said Romney in an attempt to weasel out from under the profound implications of his decision.
This little straw man Romney constructed — Wah! Wah! The liberals are mad! — does not obscure the rank hypocrisy of the moment, particularly in regard to Merrick Garland, the Obama nominee quashed by McConnell because he claimed we can’t replace Supreme Court justices in an election year… unless, of course, the sitting president is a pliant Republican. The curtain on that double standard came down fast enough to chop the stage off at the toes.
This is peak Romney, though, the guy I’ve known since 1994 when he tried to unseat Ted Kennedy from his Massachusetts senate seat. That year, Romney painted himself as a warm and fuzzy liberal Republican, stoutly in the corner of a woman’s right to choose. After Kennedy beat him like a tin drum — a rare victory in the bleak year of Newt Gingrich’s ascendancy — he moved ever so slightly to the right in order to run Jane Swift, the Republican acting governor of Massachusetts, off the road in 2002.
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney again positioned himself as a “moderate” with “progressive views.” So progressive was he, in fact, that he championed the passage of “Romneycare,” a bill requiring all Massachusetts residents to get health insurance coverage or face tax penalties. It was the crowning achievement of his tenure as governor.
Right, yeah, you know what’s coming. In 2008, Romney decided to try and ride his “moderate” street cred as a Massachusetts Republican governor into the White House, but an already radicalized GOP base handed him beating after beating in the primaries. Romney folded his campaign tents in late January after Florida and endorsed the eventual nominee, John McCain. Romney waited by the phone for a call to join the ticket as vice president, but that call was directed to the Palin residence in Alaska for reasons that still confound and dismay.
In 2012, Romney ran for president again, this time as a fire-breathing conservative, against incumbent President Barack Obama… but more specifically, against his own Massachusetts health care reform bill, which Obama had used as the framework for the Affordable Care Act. His second presidential attempt resulted in a nomination, followed by a series of rattling humiliations, virtually all of which came because of the time he’d spent being for things before he was against them before he was for them.
Watching Romney try to run away from the signature legislation of his governorship was a sad and bewildering experience, and it led to some genuine comedy during the Obama-Romney presidential debates. “Please proceed, governor” will join the ranks of “I am paying for this microphone!” and “You’re no Jack Kennedy” in the annals of ruthless debate take-downs.
Here we are again today, watching Mitt Romney try to breaststroke through the tangled bowl of wet noodles that is his long, strange policy history. The former pro-choice governor who as a senator just nine months ago voted to impeach a president for his role in an election-meddling scandal has endorsed Mitch McConnell’s galactic hypocrisy by pledging to support a Trump nominee to the high court who will almost certainly meddle with the next election if given the chance, and will bring down Roe v. Wade if given another chance.
Mitt Romney has become a caricature, a parody of himself and of every weathervane politician who has ever lived. I met him when he walked into a Manchester, New Hampshire, coffee shop and started working the room in the winter of 2004. Shaking hands with him was like shaking hands with sand. That does pretty much sum him up, now that I think of it.
Mitt ran out of excuses for his many hypocrisies long ago. Seeking constancy or courage from him has been a fool’s errand for more than 25 years.