The Useful Idiot Is Back
Mitt Romney started the new year with a bang, by writing a highly critical op-ed in The Washington Post, harshly rebuking the president of his own party. Romney may have thought he was calling attention to Trump's character defects, but all he accomplished, even if unwittingly, was to raise the ire of conservatives and remind them of the rank and manifest stupidity of former leaders of the party Establishment. Romney's attack also provided Republican voters an occasion for self-congratulation on the decision to banish witless Republicans like Romney to the hinterlands during the last election.
Romney exhibited one of the most emblematic and unforgiving characteristics of the Old Guard of the party: playing the role of useful idiots for the Democratic Party and its wholly owned subsidiary, the mainstream media.
Romney's rebuke of Trump, penned in the paper that serves as the official communications organ of the Democratic Party, clearly indicates he has been afflicted with a terminal case of "McCain Syndrome," a disease that has plagued the Old Guard of the Republican Party for the past thirty years.
One of the symptoms of the disease is the failure to recognize the obvious: for political journalists, who overwhelmingly lean left, Republicans are the enemy and will always remain the enemy. The fact that the media have become an extension of the Democratic Party seems to have escaped notice by those, including Romney, to whom it should be self-evident. Currying favor, or in Romney's case, doing the bidding of the media, is, in the end, always a self-defeating act that never works out well for Republicans.
None perfected the role of media useful idiot better than the late Senator John McCain, who had an interminable habit of poking a stick in the eye of conservatives — much to the delight of his cable TV interlocutors. McCain's natural constituency wasn't the voters of Arizona, but rather the mainstream media, whom he courted assiduously. McCain relished the adulation he received by playing his role as "Maverick" – a bulwark against the crazies of the conservative movement. During the 2007-2008 primary race, McCain particularly basked in his role as the conscience of the party, flattering himself as a man of "principle."
Yet, as soon as McCain became Obama's political adversary, he was assaulted by the very same pundits and commentators in the media who had earlier praised him for his willingness to break from conservative orthodoxy. Many loyal Republican voters who viewed this spectacle of self-immolation from afar wondered out loud, how many Democrats criticize members of their own party?
Democrats have always displayed enviable message discipline and party loyalty. There is no better example of this than those blue dog Democrats who went down to defeat for their support of Obamacare. Would a Susan Collins ever walk the plank for a Republican president?
Romney and other members of the Establishment continue to demonstrate an appalling ignorance of the nature of the modern-day Democratic Party as well as the political media. Romney, like his sanctimonious predecessor McCain, is too oblivious and full of self-regard to realize that the Democratic Party and the media are now one and the same; they have merged or fused into a new organization that can be accurately characterized as the Mainstream Media-Democratic Party Complex.
In his commentary, Romney blamed president Trump for the current political polarization in the country and stigmatized him and, by implication, his followers, as racists, nationalists, and misogynists. In short, he adopted all the unflattering buzzwords recited ad nauseam by the mainstream media and leaders of the opposing political party. The substance of Romney's reprimand was not at all different in kind from any of the anti-Trump rants made daily by hard-left MSNBC or CNN commentators. Romney's hit piece placed him and other Republicans in the position of being foils for the Democratic Party.
Romney seems determined to carry the torch passed by McCain and act dutifully in the role of a media lackey. Does Romney not understand that his pious criticism of the president makes him a water-carrier or willing dupe for the virulently anti-GOP media, who will use his infelicitous comments about the president as cannon fodder against every prominent member of the party?
Romney's attack on Trump has made him a media icon. Why he thinks he will now be able to help the GOP from his exalted perch as a media favorite remains a mystery.
Some conservatives might find Romney's vituperation of the president more palatable were he to condemn the incendiary and spiteful rhetoric spoken frequently by members of the Democratic Party. Mitt calls Trump "divisive" and accuses him of racism, yet, inexplicably, the man so high-minded and enamored of good "character" spoke nary a word in protest during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings when his fellow colleagues were stigmatized as white nationalists and white supremacists.
What irks Republicans about Romney's infelicitous attacks is that his invective is directed exclusively at Trump and never at the multitude of Democrats whose inflammatory rhetoric has led to increased political polarization in the country. Could Romney not find one instance of despicable behavior by Democrats that he could denounce with the same vigor and intensity as the vitriol he levels at the president of his own party?
Democratic politicians routinely make despicable comparisons between president Trump and a man who exterminated millions of Jews. From Mitt, nary a word in protest. Where was the noble and high-minded Romney when Maxine Waters openly exhorted Democrats to harass individual members of the Trump administration? Did Waters's dangerous," divisive," and incendiary rhetoric incur Romney's disapprobation? Romney constantly criticizes Trump's comments as beyond the pale, sufficient to render him unfit to serve as president. Is the spiteful language Waters used not similarly contemptuous?
Could Mitt not muster even the most benign reproach to members of a party who openly called for mob harassment of their political adversaries? For conservatives, Romney's silence on these matters is not only deafening; it is maddening, and his selective antipathy against the president is reprehensible.
What does Romney hope to gain for the party by his long-term see-no-evil stance when it comes to criticizing members of the opposition? Whether he intended it or not, by his silence, Romney continues to ratify the deplorable and unprecedented antics by members of the Democratic Party.
Someone needs to remind Romney that Trump slew Bush Republicanism forever. What NeverTrumps like Romney fail to understand, is that Trump's numerous character flaws will never serve as a catalyst for reinstating the ancien régime. The die has been cast, and there will be no going back to business as usual. When an unmindful Romney nonetheless talks about restoring the GOP back to its former Establishment glory, one can't help but remember Talleyrand's comments about the unwavering and retrograde mindset of the Bourbon dynasty upon their restoration in France following their post-revolutionary exile: "They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing."
John Kinsellagh is a freelance writer and attorney. He is the author of Election 2016 and The Mainstream Media-Democratic Party-Complex, both available on Amazon.