Senator-Elect Mitt Romney, Welcome to the Resistance: Reason Roundup
Plus: The government shutdown continues, and Netflix caves to Saudi censorship demands.
Romney v. Trump. Mitt Romney, soon to be sworn in as Utah's junior senator, took to the pages of The Washington Post Tuesday to register his dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump, whom he blamed for a number of recent bad policy maneuvers.
"On balance, [Trump's] conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office," writes Romney.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee notes that he agrees with many of Trump's policies—"[Trump] was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China's unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges"—but thinks Trump himself is damaging the character of the nation:
To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow "our better angels." A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent's shortfall has been most glaring.
Reactions to the op-ed have been mixed. Some have branded Romney a hypocrite for accepting Trump's endorsement in the Utah Senate race and then turning on the president after he was safely elected. Fox News talking head Dan Bongino called him a sell-out, a fraud, a phony, and a fake.
On the other side, The Week's Damon Linker speculates that Romney might be positioning himself as an option for anti-Trump conservatives who could suddenly find themselves in power again if this presidency goes down in flames:
The most likely reason Romney has chosen to fire a shot across the president's bow at this moment, less than two days before he takes his Senate seat, is that he wants to set himself up as the de facto leader of the (sizable but mostly silent) faction of the Republican Party establishment that still stands strongly opposed to Trump as a person and as a president….
But it may well be that Romney's only motive is doing what he deems to be right. That might sound naïve in our age of all-pervasive political cynicism, but recall the brutal speech attacking Trump and his campaign that Romney chose to deliver on March 3, 2016. There was no reason for him to launch that broadside beyond the conviction that Trump was unfit to serve as president and the desire to do something about it.
Trump responded to the op-ed as well, of course. Needless to say, he was not pleased:
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn't. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2019
Netflix has complied with a demand from the government of Saudi Arabia to take down an episode of the show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.
The episode featured Minhaj—a Jon Stewart/John Oliver–style comedian who offers a smug liberal take on the news—urging the U.S. to revisit its close relationship with Saudi Arabia in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's murder.
Saudi Arabia claimed the episode violates its cybercrime laws, which prohibit the "production, preparation, transmission or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals and privacy." It's essentially a catch-all law that gives the government broad authority to censor critics online.
Netflix defended its decision thusly: "We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and only removed this episode in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request—and to comply with local law."
Arguably, the company had little choice in the matter, but that doesn't mean it stings any less. At least Saudis can still view the episode on Netflix's YouTube channel.
There's no end in sight to the government shutdown, which entered Day 11 on Wednesday.
Lila Johnson, 71, is one of those contract workers. She works part time as a custodian at the Agriculture Department in Washington to supplement her social security and pension income and support her two great-grandchildren.
"I don't know if I'm going to be able to pay my car insurance, my life insurance, credit cards, rent and all that bills that I have being head of household," she said. "I am going to have to figure out how to get all this done without a paycheck."
But temporarily out-of-work government employees in Washington D.C. are receiving support from private enterprise. Celebrity chef Jose Andres, for instance, says that anyone with a valid government employee ID can receive a free sandwich at his restaurants "every day until back to work!"
The shutdown is also beginning to effect small businesses that rely on federal workers as customers, according to USA Today:
Sam Samhouri's corner cafe in Oakland, California, sits on what might normally be considered a prime piece of real estate: directly across the street from an 18-floor office building.
The problem for Samhouri is that the campus that supplies most of his customers is the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building. That means many of his lunchtime regulars have been furloughed by the partial government shutdown in its second week.
"There's nobody there," said Samhouri, whose City Cup cafe employs three people.
It's not all bad news: The FCC says its "activities will cease" on Thursday if the government is still shut down.
- Trump has invited Congressional leaders to the White House to work on a shutdown deal.
- Speaking of not making progress, Trump's negotiations with North Korea have stalled as well.
- The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria will now take place over four months, rather than 30 days, according to the president.
- Feminist writer and activist Amy Siskind reportedly tried to get a Boston College professor fired because he criticized her statement that she would withhold support from all white male candidates.