Senator -elect Mitt Romney would very much like you to know that he's not Donald Trump. He's a much better person and will likely be a much better leader than Donald Trump, too.
No, that's not what he explicitly wrote in his preening Washington Post column, but it's what he rather obviously implicitly meant. In taking President Trump to task over Trump's supposed failure to "demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse," Romney is telling the world that he will do what Trump won't and be the man that Trump can't.
This is nothing more than virtue-signaling at its most nauseating.
Wait, presidents sometimes lie? That might have been news before the Pentagon Papers were released. Presidents aren't always paradigms of virtue? There's a twenty year-old stained blue dress that can attest to that. Presidents don't always elevate the national discourse? Tell that to President Obama, who called Republicans "hostage-takers" during a budget fight.
Of course, Romney won't. Not with the same vigor with which he attacks Trump, at least. Besides, there's no media praise and attention for a Republican who criticizes Democrats; only for a Republican who criticizes other Republicans.
Such is Romney's (and much of the remnants of the "Never Trump" movement's) rather cynical calculation: By giving the appearance of courage in "standing up to" a president unpopular with the media, the media will elevate the brave insurgent and reward him accordingly.
It worked for the late Senator John McCain throughout the George W. Bush administration...right up until the moment McCain ran for president. The media turned on him in an instant, labeling him "John McSame" for his allegiance to the very same Bush Administration that McCain had spent years criticizing.
Romney hasn't even taken office yet and already he is being "McSamed."
Will Romney actually vote with Senate Democrats on the neo-socialist nonsense sure to come out of the Democrat-led House? Of course not. He is, after all, a principled conservative. Didn't he just write an entire column explaining this?
"I will act as I would with any president, in or out of my party," he wrote. "I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not."
His state, Utah, is one of the most conservative in the nation and, as such, one of the most supportive of President Trump's agenda. From tax cuts to deregulation to judicial appointments, Utah (and its new Senator) are right there with the President.
Yet he still speaks of policy disagreements--on Syria, on trade, on an "America First" foreign policy--in apocalyptic terms and frames them as evidence of extreme moral deficiencies that make Trump almost unfit to lead.
So the President wants a Defense Secretary and Chief of Staff whose worldviews are more closely aligned with his--so what? What President wouldn't? If Senator Romney had a spokesman who didn't particularly like his vision or votes, should Romney be forced to keep him?
This has always been the "Never Trump" movement's fatal flaw: Its rather shameless self-aggrandizement. "We are everything good and pure about the conservative movement that Trump cannot be" isn't exactly effective branding, and the conservative voter's knowledge that any and every Republican who blasts Trump's character (while still privately agreeing with most of his policies) will get a recurring guest slot on CNN or MSNBC reveals a rather opportunistic calculation.
Romney is nothing more than the latest to make it.