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It’s been a couple of days since now-Senator Mitt Romney’s petty and divisive Washington Post op-ed smearing President Trump. The failed 2012 presidential candidate also made his feelings known about him in March of 2016 when he gave a speech condemning, again, the character of then-candidate Trump.
In that earlier screed, he also predicted that Trump’s economic ideas would be a disaster for the country, and would “lead entrepreneurs and businesses of all stripes to flee America.” That prediction, like all the rest of his enraged pearl-clutching that night, didn’t age well.
In the aftermath of that 2016 attempted knee-capping of candidate Trump, I was especially struck by Romney’s ostentatious moral preening. This week he returned, standing upon his same well-tended molehill of superiority to again point at and accuse the president of, sigh, being a bad, bad man.
But Romney’s effort casting himself as the arbiter of character rings hollow for some who worked on, or were involved with, the Romney 2012 campaign for the presidency.
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Over the years, our current Ambassador to Germany and former Fox News contributor, Richard Grenell, and I became friends. Everyone was very excited when Romney, having won the GOP nomination in 2012, chose Ric to be his national security spokesman for the campaign. As the New York Times put it at the time, “Mr. Grenell, a 45-year-old with a sharp wit, had joined the Romney campaign in April with sterling recommendations from Bush-era foreign policy figures, and an impressive résumé. He had served as a United States spokesman at the United Nations under four ambassadors during the Bush administration…”
Choosing Ric as his campaign national security spokesman was a natural and inspired choice. But when character mattered, Romney choked.
While the following details have been presumed by many and written about by some, they have never been confirmed by Ric, who has a policy to never speak publicly about those for whom he has worked. Over the years, however, he has spoken to me about the details of his time on the campaign. But now, as Romney struts in with his smug rehab as the nation’s moral arbiter, a more complete picture of the politician is warranted.
After just three weeks with the Romney campaign, Ric resigned. There has been speculation about what exactly led to his departure. The fact of the matter is he was pushed out after Mr. Romney failed both a character and moral test: to stand up for someone he hired who was being attacked for being gay.
But it wasn’t just refusing to stand up for someone he knew was the best person for the job. The Romney campaign responded to the criticism by asking Ric to stay quiet and not speak publicly about anything. The character-filled Romney was asking the gay man to go hide in the closet.
The last straw was when the Romney campaign told Ric to pretend he wasn’t present during a conference call he arranged. In the aftermath, the New York Times reported of the bizarre scene, “It was the biggest moment yet for Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team: a conference call last Thursday, dialed into by dozens of news outlets from around the globe, to dissect and denounce President Obama’s record on national security,” reported the newspaper in May 2012, “But Richard Grenell, the political strategist who helped organize the call and was specifically hired to oversee such communications, was conspicuously absent, or so everyone thought…”
Ric, in fact, was present and listened as reporters asked if he would be joining the call and wondering why he wasn’t there. The message was clear. He was facing a deliberately untenable situation, which would appall any serious person. He consulted with mentors and then resigned from the campaign.
He also made the decision to never say a bad word publicly about Mr. Romney. Ric even wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal endorsing Romney over Barack Obama, because it was the right thing to do.
Did Romney recognize Ric’s display of character over the years in how he handled that debacle? Likely not.
Due to Romney’s failure to defeat Mr. Obama, Ric had to wait four more years before the nation had a candidate and then president with the character to not just recognize Ric’s talent but stand by him. Ric is now our Ambassador to Germany because President Trump made sure a passive-aggressive senate confirmed his nomination.
Mr. Romney says he doesn’t like what Mr. Trump stands for. But perhaps the fact that Mr. Trump actually stands for something is what really outrages the also-ran.
In 2012, Mr. Romney’s communications strategist was asked how the candidate’s message would change now that they were headed into the general election. The answer revealed just how vapid, or dare I say, devoid of character, Romney really was.
From the March, 21, 2012 edition of the New York Times, “Mr. Fehrnstrom on Wednesday reached for a word to describe how Mr. Romney might pivot to the general election, the one that came tumbling from his mouth was ‘Etch A Sketch,’ the children’s drawing toy in which nothing is ever permanent,” reported the newspaper. “’Everything changes,’ Mr. Fehrnstrom, 50, said on CNN, with a slight smirk that suggested he believed he was about to use a clever line. ‘It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.’”
President Trump’s personal mistakes have been the subject of non-stop public investigation, commentary and debate every single day, every hour, every minute, for years. We know the man, we know what he’s done, and most of all, we know who he has become.
Donald Trump, and his entire family, left comfortable lives, where their days were not filled with death threats, invective, lies, anthrax hoax letters, harassment on airplanes, in restaurants, mocking by the liberal media, accusations of being traitors, Nazis, and targeted by a weaponized federal government with the intention of nullifying his electoral success.
Yes, he became president, and family members have joined him, in working to deliver promises made on a campaign trail to bring back jobs, the economy, border security, the rule of law, and national security to this nation. In other words, he promised to bring back the future for American families.
President Trump’s promises and conversations with the American people during the campaign and every day since aren’t written on an Etch A Sketch, and every day he pays the price for not being like Mitt Romney.