Columns

Romney on Trump Criticism: People Can Suggest 'How I Could Do a Better Job, Too'

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Sen.-elect Mitt Romney (R-Utah) chat in the Senate subway in the Capitol on Nov. 15, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Mitt Romney, who will be sworn in as Utah’s new senator Thursday, said he wrote a Washington Post op-ed saying President Trump has a “glaring” lack of character because “it’s important as I begin this new job to make it very clear where I stand.”

“I will act as I would with any president, in or out of my party: I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not. I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault,” Romney wrote. “But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”

Trump said at a cabinet meeting today that he was “expecting something” from Romney “but I’m surprised he did it this quickly.”

“I was surprised at Mitt Romney but I just hope he’s going to be a team player and if he’s a team player that will be great,” Trump said. “I will say this: If he fought really hard against President Obama like he does against me, he would have won the election.”

Romney told CNN that he’ll “be with Republicans” on the government shutdown over the border funding impasse, and “the president, of course, is entitled to his perspectives, his own views, and I respect his right to express those things just as I do.”

“And we’ll work together on things that I think are in the best interest of the country and my state, and where we disagree, why, we’ll just have to disagree,” he added.

“…I’m really not looking for the next election and the next spot. I’m looking to try and represent things I think our country needs at a critical time, and I do believe that a president like any leader in a home, in a church, in a school, in a business, a leader has an impact not just on policies, but also on the character of the people who get to watch that person. And I think that scenario the president needs to focus more attention and hopefully make some changes there. And by the way, I expect people will have some suggestions for how I could do a better job, too, and I’m open to that.”

Romney said he has been concerned about Trump’s response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and the president’s support for Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race.

“So I’ve laid out time and again places where I disagree with the president, and I think it’s very important for a president to demonstrate the qualities of integrity and honesty, forthrightness, empathy, and respect for this institutions for our democratic republic. I think those are all parts of the job,” he said. “And while I agree with him on a lot of policy fronts and salute the work that’s been done by the Republican leadership in Washington, there are places that relate to the, if you will, forming of national character that I think we could do a better job.”

Romney said he won’t be running against Trump in 2020. “You may have heard I ran before. I’ve had that experience. And by the way, I acknowledge the president was successful, and I was not. He did something I couldn’t do,” he said. “He won, and I recognize that and appreciate that. But no, I’m not running again, and we’ll see whether someone else does in a Republican primary or not, but time will tell.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) defended Trump on Fox News today, stating that “when you attack someone’s character like that, I think that is such a low blow and so personally directed and so malevolent.”

“And I think it’s going to backfire on him. I think there’s going to be a backlash from conservatives across the country,” Paul said of his new fellow senator.

Paul slammed Trump’s for “his visceral response to attack people” during the presidential campaign, but told Fox today that “since he’s been elected president, I try not to have personal character assassination or attacks on him.”

“In some ways, it’s sort of this virtue signaling. When Romney wants to tear down the president’s character, he is sort of puffing himself up, that he is somehow so virtuous and above complaint,” Paul said.