On Thursday, 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, where he laid out a full-scale assault on 2016 Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. As I wrote yesterday, this was a poor idea – it demonstrates in living color that the Republican establishment refuses to acknowledge the role it played in bringing Trump to prominence. Romney created the sense in 2012 that he was unwilling to fight Barack Obama with all the tools at his disposal; conservatives felt that the establishment crammed down the creator of Obamacare on them, and now here he is, lecturing grassroots voters on how best to uphold conservatism.
Romney’s speech was typically Romney: heavy on substance, short on style. Romney, unfortunately, can’t help being Romney. And so he dropped lines like this:
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.
To quote a once-candidate, at least 47 percent of Americans have no idea what “an article” means in this context.
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.
How about “stupid”? Or “dumb”? Talk about shying away from your rhetorical point.
Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes.
How about “nasty” purposes? Or “cruel ends”? The man can’t help qualifying his words even when in the midst of a no-holds-barred attack.
And then there was Romney’s actual argument – much of which was great, but some of which enhanced Trump’s strongest argument, that he says the Things That Must Be Said. Take, for example, Romney’s statement, “Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS.” Trump will shout that this is politically correct, and he’s at least half-right.
Romney used many of the same facts I’ve been pumping for weeks about Trump’s record, ranging from his problems with mistreating women to his failures in business. But because Romney is Romney, all of this will fall flat – or worse, backfire.
That, in and of itself, proves the point: the establishment just doesn’t get it. And so long as they don’t get it, the anti-establishment will succeed, even if they’re following a fool down the path to anti-conservative perdition.