Saturday, September 16, 2023



Senator Romney's $15-million Park City ski lodge. After he leaves politics, he won't have to take vacations in Utah any mre

That crack from Willard Mitt Romney announcing his coming retirement from the Senate

“At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid-80s,” Romney, who is 76, said. “Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders. They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.”

seems particularly aimed at President Joe Biden, who will himself hit 85 in November 2027, as the 2028 campaign gets underway, as opposed to Romney's personal bête noire, the presumptive Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump, who will be a sprightly 81.

It should be noted that Romney himself wouldn't be in a position to make decisions that might shape the world in any case, as perhaps the dead weakest of all the senators, with no faction and no allies, which is the real reason he's leaving it, as far as I'm concerned, ever since his lonely vote to convict Trump in the first impeachment. Whereas Biden has that job Romney wanted and will never have, with all its privileges and appurtenances, and is making those decisions on a daily basis (something Trump wasn't cognitively able to do, as Romney is well aware, as he told McKay Coppins, dishing about Trump's "warped, toddler-like mentality").

All due honor to Romney for his conscientious opposition to Trump, by the way, at some personal risk to him and his family—apparently other Republican senators didn't follow him out of fear of exposing their loved ones to violence (they can't afford the $5000 a day Romney spends, according to Coppins, for his family's security)—but let's please not be overly impressed. Let's remember, as Jamelle Bouie advises in today's Times, that

... Romney also played a significant role in giving Trump mainstream political credibility when he enthusiastically accepted the reality television star’s endorsement in the 2012 Republican presidential primary. And beyond Trump, Romney — in both of his campaigns for president — eagerly and enthusiastically pandered to the right-wing rage and resentment that eventually found its champion in Trump. This was the Romney who promised to “double Guantánamo” in 2007 and urged “self-deportation” in 2012. It was the Romney who cracked, to a cheering crowd, that “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” and the Romney who did a great deal to appeal to the most viciously right-wing figures in his party.

Romney was, not unlike the colleagues he criticizes, willing to say whatever it took to win power, even if it meant smearing nearly half the country as essentially unproductive and opening the door to some of the most corrosive forces in American political life.

Or his out-of-control lying in the 2012 campaign, as in this memorable exchange with David Corn:

"Do you believe," I asked [after a talk in which he had alleged there was worse poverty in Europe than the US, caused directly by European welfare programs], "that there is more poverty in Europe than the United States?"
Is that before or after government payments, he responded.
You can define it any way you want, I said.
"Well, I'll have to think about that," he said, and started to shuffle away.
But, I said (quickly), you just stated that European-style welfare creates poverty.
"No, I didn't," Romney replied. "I said, look at Cuba, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union."
He hadn't said anything about those countries. He hadn't mentioned them once in his speech.
No, I insisted, you said European-style welfare leads to poverty. That's precisely what you said.
No, Romney repeated, I was talking about Cuba, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union.
It was hard to know how to respond to this utterly false denial. (Later on, I thought of an appropriate reply: "I'll bet you $10,000.")

(For much more, see this piece by Michael Cohen, not the former president's former attorney, in The Guardian.)

That he should have taken up being truthful about Trump in recent years, and now about his cowardly colleagues, is fine, and I'm sure I hope he gets some satisfaction for it—providing the reality-based community with some evidence he's not stupid, and providing himself with a little revenge for that awful moment in Trump's Columbus Circle restaurant Jean Georges when Trump pretended to audition him for secretary of state.

Anyway, nobody should be taking his concern trolling advice on the 2024 presidential election seriously. There's no reason to believe Biden's mid-80s as a second-term president will be anything like Romney's as a second-term senator, and that's not just because he'll have more power than Romney.

For one thing, Romney's life in Washington is kind of sad and lonely, in his $2.4-million townhouse:

He tried to make it nice, so that Ann would be comfortable when she visited. A decorator filled the rooms with tasteful furniture and calming abstract art. He planted a garden on the small backyard patio. But his wife rarely came to Washington, and his sons didn’t come either, and gradually the house took on an unkempt bachelor-pad quality. Crumbs littered the kitchen counter; soda and seltzer occupied the otherwise-empty fridge. Old campaign paraphernalia appeared on the mantel, clashing with the decorator’s mid-tone color scheme, and a bar of “Trump’s Small Hand Soap” (a gag gift from one of his sons) was placed in the powder room alongside the monogrammed towels.

Everybody who's read Coppins's excerpt has been fixated on the freezerful of salmon fillets, a gift from Senator Murkowski, which he eats on a hamburger bun with ketchup (distressingly no clue on how he prepares it, frying pan or microwave), which sounds as sad-sack as it gets, but I can't stop thinking about those crumbs, and the desolation:

Romney, who didn’t have many real friends in Washington, ate dinner alone there most nights, watching Ted Lasso or Better Call Saul as he leafed through briefing materials.

Biden, in contrast, spends the week with his wife around most of the time in the White House, with fridges stuffed with Haagen-Dasz chocolate chip, grapes and apples, and orange Gatorade, and has lots of friends for dinner, not to mention family almost every weekend, often at his own little beach place (I imagine Romney takes time off with family at one or another of his palatial residences, but that sounds cold too, and flanked on either end by an awful lot of air travel). And once again, when Biden is looking through those papers, it's from the standpoint of somebody who can make things happen. 

Biden's 80s are starting off really well for him, and for us. He's doing the job he's always longed to do, and learning that he's really very good at it. And he knows he's likelier than any possible candidate to win, with the celebrated advantages of incumbency and so forth (a much better indicator than polls 15 months out from the election). He'd be crazy not to run.

No comments:

Post a Comment