Mitt Takes a Stand


Mitt Romney just gave a speech attacking Donald Trump. Brace yourself for the inevitable parade of liberals praising the speech. “Finally, a sane Republican is taking on Trump!”

So, what exactly did Governor Romney say? As a public service, here’s a line-by-line breakdown.


I am not here to announce my candidacy for office. I am not going to endorse a candidate today. Instead, I would like to offer my perspective on the nominating process of my party. In 1964, days before the presidential election which, incidentally, we lost, Ronald Reagan went on national television and challenged America saying that it was a “Time for Choosing.” He saw two paths for America, one that embraced conservative principles dedicated to lifting people out of poverty and helping create opportunity for all, and the other, an oppressive government that would lead America down a darker, less free path. I’m no Ronald Reagan and this is a different moment but I believe with all my heart and soul that we face another time for choosing, one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for the country.

So, who was this candidate who endorsed conservative principles in 1964, and which conservative principles did he embrace? The candidate was Barry Goldwater. The principles? Well, he thought President Johnson proposal for a “Medicare” program was creeping socialism. He was upset that Johnson wasn’t committing more war crimes in Vietnam. And, oh yes, when it came to “states’ rights” and “forced integration,” Goldwater made Donald Trump look like a Freedom Rider. As we’ll see, the Goldwater connection sets the tone nicely for the rest of what Mittens has to say.


I say this in part because of my conviction that America is poised to lead the world for another century. Our technology engines, our innovation dynamic, and the ambition and skill of our people will propel our economy and raise our standard of living. America will remain as it is today, the envy of the world.

Warren Buffett was 100% right when he said last week that “the babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”

That doesn’t mean we don’t have real problems and serious challenges. At home, poverty persists and wages are stagnant. The horrific massacres of Paris and San Bernardino, the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian mullahs, the aggressions of Putin, the growing assertiveness of China and the nuclear tests of North Korea confirm that we live in troubled and dangerous times.

To review, America is great! The kids born eight years after their parents savings were wiped out in the crash should thank their lucky stars they weren’t born in some awful country like Canada. But he doesn’t want to paint an excessively rosy picture. There are problems in the world. While America has been minding its own business, other countries have been “aggressive.” Why can’t they be peaceful like us?


But if we make the right choices, America’s future will be even better than our past and better than our present.

On the other hand, if we make improvident choices, the bright horizon I foresee will never materialize. Let me put it plainly, if we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.

Let me explain why.

OK, now we’re getting into the meat of it! The voice of the establishment is going to go after Trump for being a lunatic bigot. It’ll be just like Joseph N. Welch going after Joe McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings. “Have you no sense of decency?”



First, the economy: If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into a prolonged recession.

A few examples: His proposed 35% tariff-like penalties would instigate a trade war that would raise prices for consumers, kill export jobs, and lead entrepreneurs and businesses to flee America. His tax plan, in combination with his refusal to reform entitlements and to honestly address spending would balloon the deficit and the national debt. So even as Donald Trump has offered very few specific economic plans, what little he has said is enough to know that he would be very bad for American workers and for American families.

Got that? Mitt is upset about Trump’s protectionism. No surprises there. Free trade treaties are very popular with the Republican establishment. Not so much with the Republican base. Or the Democratic base. Or basically anyone whose annual income is less than what Mitt makes every night by letting his stock portfolio swell in his sleep.

He goes on to attack Trump for his “refusal to reform entitlements and honestly address spending.” This is the heart of his critique. It’s not that Governor Romney harbors any particularly tender feelings about Mexicans or Muslims. It’s that Trump isn’t willing to cut Social Security.


But wait, you say, isn’t he a huge business success that knows what he’s talking about? No he isn’t. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn’t create it. And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.

What a fraud that Donald Trump is, going around claiming to be such a hotshot businessman. I mean, sure, when Mitt ran for President in 2012, he constantly went on about how his experience as a “job creator” in the private sector gave him the know-how to fix the economy, but the difference is that Donald Trump inherited his money from his father. Unlike self-made Mitt Romney, who presumably worked his way up from the coal mines.


Now not every policy Donald Trump has floated is bad. He wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He wants to bring jobs home from China and Japan. But his prescriptions to do these things are flimsy at best. At the last debate, all he could remember about his healthcare plan was to remove insurance boundaries between states. Successfully bringing jobs home requires serious policy and reforms that make America the place businesses want to plant and grow. You can’t punish business into doing the things you want. Frankly, the only serious policy proposals that deal with the broad range of national challenges we confront, come today from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. One of these men should be our nominee.

Donald Trump has said that it would be bad to just let people die in the streets. In many contexts, this wouldn’t count as a particularly controversial comment. The Republican nomination fight is not one of those contexts, as proven at the last debate, when Rubio and Cruz tripped over each other in a contest over which man was more eager to let the uninsured die in the streets. Apparently, Mittens watched the debate and thought, “The Donald’s sounding a little fimsy here, but those other guys sound like they have SERIOUS health care policies!”


I know that some people want the race to be over. They look at history and say a trend like Mr. Trump’s isn’t going to be stopped.

Perhaps. But the rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign. If the other candidates can find common ground, I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism. Given the current delegate selection process, this means that I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida, for John Kasich in Ohio, and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state.

Got that? All those filthy peasants who have actually been voting in these primaries might think THEY get to pick the nominee, but Willard Mitt Romney knows better. Sure, the Donald might have gotten the most votes, but as long as he can be held down to one vote shy of the threshold for nomination at the first ballot, the responsible power brokers who know how important it is to “reform entitlements and honestly address spending” can take care of the rest. If we start leaving major decisions up to the voters, we might not even have a TPP!


Let me turn to national security and the safety of our homes and loved ones. Trump’s bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies. Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS. And for what purpose? Muslim terrorists would only have to lie about their religion to enter the country.

This is pretty much the only place in the speech where Mitt mentions Trump’s Islamophobia. His objection to the Donald’s insane proposal to bar an entire major world religion from the country has nothing to do with the First Amendment or the first principles of the Enlightenment or even basic human decency. Mitt is concerned that it would jeopardize America’s alliances with various monarchies and military dictatorships in the Middle East, and thus interfere with the continued capacity of the Empire to wage wars in the region. Why, if we offend their sensibilities too much, the Egyptian military might not even let us extraordinarily render suspected terrorists to be tortured in Cairo dungeons. Can you imagine?


What he said on “60 Minutes” about Syria and ISIS has to go down as the most ridiculous and dangerous idea of the campaign season: Let ISIS take out Assad, he said, and then we can pick up the remnants. Think about that: Let the most dangerous terror organization the world has ever known take over a country? This is recklessness in the extreme.

Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart. I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.

Liberals, take note. This is your “sane Republican” taking Trump to task for…being insufficiently enthusiastic about deepening America’s involvement in Syria’s Civil War. Mitt doesn’t go on to say what his preferred course of action might be. Setting up a no-fly zone and shooting down Russian planes? Boots on the ground? Or perhaps he agrees with Ted Cruz, referenced earlier in the speech as a source of “serious policy proposals,” that America should “carpet bomb” Syria until he finds out “if sand glows.”


I am far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament of be president. After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter’s questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.

Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.

You don’t need to be an apologist for Russian imperialism, or for the many reactionary and thuggish policies pursued by Vladimir Putin, to roll your eyes when representatives of the American establishment describe their geopolitical rivals as “evil” for engaging in milder forms of American imperialist behavior. If the annexation of Crimea is “evil,” what word can we use to describe the oceans of blood spilled in Iraq? And whatever you think about that issue, it’s amazing to watch Mitt breezily call Putin “evil” within a sentence of prissily chiding Donald Trump for calling George W. Bush a “liar.” Trump has said many inaccurate things since he threw his hat into the Presidential ring. That wasn’t one of them.


There is dark irony in his boasts of his sexual exploits during the Vietnam War while John McCain, whom he has mocked, was imprisoned and tortured.

McCain was shot down while dropping bombs that indiscriminately targeted Vietnamese civilians. In Romney’s worldview, Putin’s regional aggressions make him “evil,” but an illegal and undeclared war in which millions of peasants were tortured, held in tiger cages, burned alive by napalm, shot to death, raped or dismembered by the armed forces of the United States and its South Vietnamese client state is simply the backdrop to Senator McCain’s heroism. He saves his outrage for Trump’s failure to show the proper forms of ritualized respect for veterans.

The only war crime Romney sees fit to mention is one that was committed by America’s enemy. An inconvenient complication for this narrative is that North Vietnam banned torture several years before the end of the war. The South did not.


Dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark: He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong, he spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong, he saw no such thing. He imagined it. His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader. His imagination must not be married to real power.

The President of the United States has long been the leader of the free world. The president and yes the nominees of the country’s great parties help define America to billions of people. All of them bear the responsibility of being an example for our children and grandchildren.

Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics. We have long referred to him as “The Donald.” He is the only person in America to whom we have added an article before his name. It wasn’t because he had attributes we admired.

Now imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Will you welcome that? Haven’t we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct? We have, and it always injures our families and our country.

Watch how he responds to my speech today. Will he talk about our policy differences or will he attack me with every imaginable low road insult? This may tell you what you need to know about his temperament, his stability, and his suitability to be president.

Remember, Trump’s Islamophobia took up a couple sentences of Romney’s speech, sentences in which Governor Romney expressed mild concern that discrimination against Muslim immigrants might complicate America’s ability to bomb, invade, and occupy various nations in the Muslim word. Trump’s uncouthness, on the other hand, received five straight paragraphs of denunciation. It’s hard not to be reminded of P.G. Wodehouse’s observation that in certain circles of the British aristocracy, cheating at cards was taken more seriously than murder.


Trump relishes any poll that reflects what he thinks of himself. But polls are also saying that he will lose to Hillary Clinton.

On Hillary Clinton’s watch at the State Department, America’s interests were diminished in every corner of the world. She compromised our national secrets, dissembled to the families of the slain, and jettisoned her most profound beliefs to gain presidential power.

For the last three decades, the Clintons have lived at the intersection of money and politics, trading their political influence to enrich their personal finances. They embody the term “crony capitalism.” It disgusts the American people and causes them to lose faith in our political process.

Ah, yes, “the intersection of money and politics.” Good thing Mitt Romney has never spent any time at that particular intersection.


A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president. But a Trump nomination enables her victory. The audio and video of the infamous Tapper-Trump exchange on the Ku Klux Klan will play a hundred thousand times on cable and who knows how many million times on social media.

There are a number of people who claim that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. There is indeed evidence of that. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.

Here’s a one-question pop quiz, to make sure you’re still paying attention.

1. Which of the following is NOT one of Mitt Romney’s stated objections to Donald Trump’s reluctance to distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan?
(a) It might look bad in the general election.
(b) Trump is a flip-flopper.
(c) The Ku Klux Klan is a disgusting organization.


We will only really know if he is the real deal or a phony if he releases his tax returns and the tape of his interview with the New York Times. I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns. I predict that he doesn’t give much if anything to the disabled and to our veterans. I predict that he told the New York Times that his immigration talk is just that: talk. And I predict that despite his promise to do so, first made over a year ago, he will never ever release his tax returns. Never. Not the returns under audit, not even the returns that are no longer being audited. He has too much to hide. Nor will he authorize the Times to release the tapes. If I’m right, you will have all the proof you need to know that Donald Trump is a phony.

Attacking me as he surely will won’t prove him any less of a phony. It’s entirely in his hands to prove me wrong. All he has to do is to release his back taxes like he promised he would, and let us hear what he said behind closed doors to the New York Times.

God have mercy on a candidate so shady that he needs to be prodded on releasing his tax returns! It’s hard to imagine that such a scoundrel would ever ask anyone to vote for him a Presidential election.


Ronald Reagan used to quote a Scottish philosopher who predicted that democracies and civilizations couldn’t last more than about 200 years. John Adams wrote this: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” I believe that America has proven these dire predictions wrong for two reasons.

First, we have been blessed with great presidents, with giants among us. Men of character, integrity and selflessness have led our nation from its very beginning. None were perfect: each surely made mistakes. But in every case, they acted out of the desire to do what was right for America and for freedom.

“In every case, they acted out of the desire to do what was right for America and for freedom” should be a source of great comfort for the surviving relatives of those millions of dead peasants in Vietnam and Cambodia, and for the millions of innocents who’ve fled from the bloodshed Iraq since 2003. Perhaps that line could be put on a plaque in the city of Hiroshima. Certainly, it should be quoted in history textbooks when the subject turns to Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears. A Spanish translation should appear in Chilean newspapers every September to mark the anniversary of the coup against Salvador Allende. Truly, if anything proved what a wise and human man is Willard Mitt Romney, it’s his assessment that every act by every American President should be forgiven as a good faith attempt to do what’s right for America. And for freedom.


The second reason is because we are blessed with a great people, people who at every critical moment of choosing have put the interests of the country above their own.

These two things are related: our presidents time and again have called on us to rise to the occasion. John F. Kennedy asked us to consider what we could do for our country. Lincoln drew upon the better angels of our nature to save the union.

I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channeled that anger, and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose, and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good.

Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

Hey, that sounds good! At long last, he’s skewering Trump for the sorts of things for which Trump actually deserves to be skewered. Don’t worry, though, the speech closes with Mittens returning the subjects that seem to most concern him.


Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.

His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.

America has greatness ahead. This is a time for choosing. God bless us to choose a nominee who will make that vision a reality.

Mitt ends where he started. The Donald is dangerous because of his streak of economic populism, and because his foreign policy inclinations are insufficiently belligerent. So instead of nominating him, the GOP should choose a nice sensible candidate like Ted Cruz.

In Philip K. Dick’s bleak and funny semi-autobiographical novel VALIS, the main character is one Horselover Fat. (This is a little linguistic joke. “Philip” is Greek for “lover of horses” and “Dick” is German for “fat.”) At the beginning of the book, Fat’s friend Gloria asks him for pills to help her kill herself. Describing the phone call, Dick tells us that, “Fat heard in her tone the harp of nihilism, the twang of the void. […] What he did not know then is that it is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”

That harp and that twang are present in the deranged speeches of Donald Trump. He’s bad news, the Donald. But if Mitt Romney, scolding Trump for his insufficient enthusiasm about economic neoliberalism and endless war, is truly the voice of sanity, if this is what a “sane Republican” sounds like, then it’s no wonder insanity has become so popular.

Ben Burgis is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Underwood International College, Yonsei University.