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Redemption time for Romney?

Redemption time for Romney?

I’ve never thought much of Mitt Romney. I described him once in a book as “a vast reservoir of inner nothingness,” which wasn’t very nice.

This is not only because, during his two presidential campaigns, he scrupulously avoided any contact with me, or really with anyone who might have asked him anything that required a complex answer about his own phantom-like agenda.

No, it’s because Romney is a man who seems to lack any fixed point in public life. He’s always approached his ideological convictions the same way he does his allegiances to the various states where he has homes — as strategic assets to be shuffled around whenever it’s convenient, to the point that I doubt even he knows where he truly resides.

And yet, despite all that, I admired Romney’s decision to jump back into the political arena last week, and I’m hoping he can do more than just win Utah’s Senate seat in what will likely be the last chapter of his political odyssey.

Romney is exactly what his party needs at the moment, if he can at last summon the courage to be what the moment demands.

Romney’s small band of loyalists, of course, would argue that he’s never lacked for courage — only emotional fervor and self-righteousness. In their view, Romney is the ultimate corporate analyst, a conservative problem solver who stalks an issue from all sides and then pounces on it with ruthless efficiency.

The former Massachusetts governor may not have been an intrepid candidate, they argue, but he had more than enough inner steel and intellectual heft to govern the country well.

The problem with this formulation, though, is that campaigning and governing aren’t separate; as President Trump has amply demonstrated, how you do one says a lot about how you will do the other. There has never been a timid, equivocating presidential candidate who became, all at once, a fearless and resolute president.

And too often, Romney has treated principled rhetoric like a stretchy suit he can hurriedly change into in a phone booth, then throw into a trash can when no one’s looking.

Thus did Romney stand up almost exactly two years ago, after the first round of Republican primaries, and deliver a caustic, unusually personal rebuke of everything Trump represented as a candidate. In an address carried live on all the cable networks, he used words like “bully,” “phony” and “fraud,” and said Trump was “playing the members of the American public for suckers.”</p>
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