Donald Trump

Mitt Romney Says that Presidential Character Matters. But Policy Is Far More Important.

Donald Trump is not the personification of America.


John Angelillo/TNS/Newscom

"To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation," wrote Mitt Romney, the newly elected Republican senator from Utah, in yesterday's Washington Post. "A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect….[P]residential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent's shortfall has been most glaring."

As The Daily Beast notes, the predictable response from the president's supporters was that "all of Trumpworld united under the banner of a single cause: stuffing incoming Senator Mitt Romney into a locker." That included Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), who told the media on a call that the president didn't "deserve…to have a new senator…attacking his character."

As Katherine Mangu-Ward, Matt Welch, Peter Suderman, and I discussed in yesterday's Reason Podcast, Romney is certainly accurate in his depiction of President Trump's demeanor. The former real estate developer is a bully, a loudmouth, and a liar (or at the very least a bullshit artist). But Romney's take is seriously off in at least two ways that matter far more than whatever the presidential Twitter feed offers up at any given moment.

First, the presidency doesn't shape "the public character of the nation." We're not living in some Arthurian legend where a wounded fisher king or a healthy leader is a manifestation of the body politic. Trump's juvenile behavior has conceivably hurt America's standing abroad. Romney notes that just 16 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believe the president would "do the right thing in world affairs." Before Trump took office, that figure stood at 84 percent. But it's not exactly clear whether that's because, I don't know, he called a porn star horseface or because he's constantly bitching about Europe paying more for its own defense (or a million other policy proclamations). At any rate, do most Americans form their character based on who is sitting in the White House? I don't think so.

Second, Romney scants policy questions in his attack on Trump. Near the end of his piece, he rolls out a series of bromides that are so generic and uninspired they remind us why he lost the 2012 presidential race against an unpopular incumbent.

We must repair failings in our politics at home. That project begins, of course, with the highest office once again acting to inspire and unite us. It includes political parties promoting policies that strengthen us rather than promote tribalism by exploiting fear and resentment. Our leaders must defend our vital institutions despite their inevitable failings: a free press, the rule of law, strong churches, and responsible corporations and unions.

We must repair our fiscal foundation, setting a course to a balanced budget. We must attract the best talent to America's service and the best innovators to America's economy.

The link above goes to a column by George Will calling for a balanced budget amendment, which is nice. But it's also the case that Romney studiously avoided mentioning any significant cuts he would make when he was running for president. (At one point, he went out on a limb and said he'd axe the National Endowment for the Humanities.) He talked a game of "cut, cap, and balance" but made exceptions for military spending, Medicare, and Social Security, which is to say, most of the budget. He was consistently vague, except when he promised to cut taxes. In his Post op-ed, he says that he will "speak out against significant statements or actions" that are, among other things, "divisive" and "anti-immigrant." Romney's gesture toward inclusive immigration policy is nice, but he was persistently anti-immigrant in 2012. If he wants to prove he's changed those stripes, there's a long list of policies and priorities he can start pushing back on, including plans to intensify workplace crackdowns and reduce the number of H-1B visas (for highly trained workers in short supply). Yet he told CNN yesterday that he "would vote for the border wall." Go figure.

I'd argue that the country is suffering more from a lack of policy leadership than from a surfeit of ill-tempered tweets.

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  1. Mitt should offer Trump the services of his valet, show Trump how to keep a sharp crease in his slacks. That ought to take care of most of Mitt’s complaints.

    1. I still stand in awe of Mitt’s hair. If that isn’t the most presidential fucking hair, I don’t know what is. He looks like he’s right out of central casting. Compared to that “situation” going on on Trump’s head, I can’t believe the guy on the right isn’t the president and the guy on the left is.

      1. You may have attended a legitimate university and might reside in a modern, successful community. Backwater America resents Romney’s hair and aspires to Trump’s hair.

  2. “presidential character” is as nonsensical as “race” … Romney can suck an egg.

    1. The presidential race? Because nobody’s in a hurry?

  3. Thanks for this reminder of why I voted for Trump the last time and why I will do it again. (Of course I will vote for Rand in the primaries as I always do.)

    1. Because you like your presidents vulgar, mentally unstable, and ineffectual?

      1. which one wasn’t something on that list?

        1. Be honest, do you watch what he does, or do you get it through FOX New’s ass-kissing filter?

          1. neither … sun comes up/goes down the same no matter who the president is so i don’t let it affect me … life is more pleasant this way

            1. Ah so you are the no-information voter he so depends on.

              1. I am the results matter voter who elected him. You’re welcome. You can’t redistribute wealth if there is no wealth.

              2. Tony, you’re an ignorant faggot, and certainly no one to be calling out others for lack of knowledge.

                Now shut up baby dick.

                1. Obeying the preferences of his betters throughout his lifetime, and watching America progress against his stale preferences and bigoted efforts, has made this Last guy a bitter man.

    2. I’m just like you except I live in a heavy Red State, so I can also write in Rand in the Presidential election just like like I did in 2016 & not have to worry about a crazy Lib winning!….Heck, I’ve been writing in the Pauls for decades now……….Beats the 2 clowns the Libertarian party gave us in 2016!

  4. Exactly! I don’t condone wrong doing and moral failures in a president’s personal life, but what really matters is what he does in office for the American people…

  5. Weird how you almost never complained about policies when Obama was president (with the noteworthy outlying exception of his continuation of the drone strikes).

    Oh right, that’s because you supported and agreed with most of Obama’s policies, duuuh! You were joyous when he was elected (laughably telling us that it heralded the “libertarian moment”), and you will be as joyous once again when another left liberal democrat gets elected as you are angry and miserable now.

  6. When Trump leaves office in criminal disgrace, the Romney vs. Pence battle to take his place sure will zzzzz…..

    1. No matter what else Trump does, he is worth it for the tears Tony will shed when he gets re-elected in 2020.

      1. Literally impossible. Even with another round of Russia hacking the election, he won’t win in 2020.

    2. Who cares about Romney vs. Pence? When Mueller and the Democratic House remove Putin’s Puppet from office, Hillary Clinton can become President.


      1. Come on, man, don’t toy with Tony like that. It’s cruel.

        1. I would never be cruel to Tony. As a left-libertarian Clinton voter, I agree with him on most issues except raising the minimum wage (he’s for it; I’m against it) and raising tax rates on billionaires (same).

      2. Of what country?….Haiti maybe?….At least there she & HornDawg Bill can finish helping the poor Haitians who love them sooooooo much!…Maybe they can bring Huma Abedin & her frisky husband along to help?…I hear he is getting out early, in May 2019!…Boy, he probably would really like that young dark meat down there!

  7. The greatest thing about Trump is who is enemies are. They are always, always the enemies of freedom. His enemies could not be any more anti-libertarian, anti-freedom.

    But guys like Nick still hate him, because the wall or something. Methinks it has more to do with Koch funding, but who am I to say?

    I’m pretty ambivalent about the wall. The best thing about the wall is how much, again, the enemies of liberty hate it. Foiling their plans of subjugation seems like it could be a pretty important task, even if it doesn’t line up with puritan libertarianism.

    1. +100. I found it comical that Nick lamented Trump’s lack of standing in Europe. How dare Trump demand that other NATO countries honor their commitments. We’d better retract immediately so that we can improve our standing with Europe.

      1. Can you answer a question for me? Is it all the sciency logic and reason going on that kills reading comprehension?

      2. Careful. If Welch reads your comment, he’s going to get a tingle down his leg.

    2. Yeah, that’s the problem here: “always, always…but…still”. So he has at least 2 alignments against him: the enemies of freedom, and the, uh…”bosses”…including the bosses who couldn’t be more pro-freedom. Same problem w Howard Stern, Jesse Ventura, some others.

  8. If Romney thinks character is vital, and if Romney thinks his character fits the bill, he either has a very short-term and selective memory or blinders, or he is lying.

    I vote for all of the above.

    1. Romney has no character he is just a grouping of atoms holding up a suit thinking the suit makes the man

    2. Romney is the biggest liar of all by claiming he is a Conservative…..He is more Liberal & Progressive than most Dems!

  9. Follower Of Joseph Smith Urges Nation To Reject Morally Flawed Leaders
    SALT LAKE CITY, UT?Mitt Romney, incoming senator for Utah and follower of Joseph Smith, lectured the nation in an op-ed Tuesday on the need to reject morally flawed leaders.

    The man who has devoted his life to the teachings of a con artist encouraged the nation to examine its leaders to see whether they are worthy of our devotion and respect.

    “A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect,” wrote the man who follows Joseph Smith, a false prophet, notorious polygamist, and scam artist. He pointed out that the president hasn’t shown himself to be honest or forthcoming in his dealings with opponents and other countries, while Joseph Smith’s own prophecies failed to come true over and over again, and while the Mormon Church continues to deceive its members by covering up its past.

    Romney took Trump to task for his immoral lifestyle, slamming him for being divisive, destructive, and sexist, though the first prophet of his church consolidated power throughout his life in order to marry more women and eventually deceive millions into believing a false gospel.

    1. Not only is this “Mormons are devils” post bigoted and highly inaccurate, it paints the author as the kind of reader/voter/troll who believes whatever he is shoveled, rather than someone who investigates the facts for themselves.

  10. It’s all very well to complain about Trump. But at some point we’ll need to think beyond individuals and address whether we ought to make the office of president a personality cult, which is what it has been for a long time. Placing ourselves in a situation where our fate is determined by the mental and psychological fitness of any one person is a recipe for disaster.

    1. At some point you need to provide some tangible evidence of something the President has done wrong beyond “he is icky” if you want to condem him.

      1. Drumpf has …..

        Literally ripped children from their parents’ arms as part of his draconian immigration policy.
        Destroyed the amazing economy he inherited from Obama, which was the best in this country’s history.
        Appointed two dangerous right-wing extremists to the Supreme Court.
        Proposed withdrawing from Syria in a shockingly irresponsible act of cowardice that President Hillary Clinton would never have considered.
        Colluded with a hostile foreign power to steal the 2016 election from the most qualified candidate ever.

        Should I keep going?

        1. Funny thing: When Trump was elected the Left was screaming how he was going to be dangerously impulsive & start wars all over the place, maybe even a nuclear one & now that he wants to end the IMMORAL & ILLEGAL American war mongering, he is wrong!!!….LOL!!!

          Of course, HildaBeast would not withdraw from Syria, for she & Obummy ignited the war big time by ILLEGALLY running arms from Libya thru Turkey into Syria that ended up arming ISIS…It made Iran-Contra look like child’s play….. Obummy & HildaBeast are in part responsible for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians killed, maimed & displaced! ….But, yeah, she was the most qualified candidate ever!!!

        2. LMAO!!! Talk about shifting blame!
          1. Those Children/Parents wouldn’t be “ripped” if not for the lefts DACA program.
          2. Obama’s “amazing” economy — I really don’t think this even needs corrected short of stupid is – is stupid believes but maybe the word Recession rings a bell.
          3. I’m sure you believe all right-wing politicians as “dangerous extremists”.
          4. As someone else points out; When your self-proclaimed “dangerous extremists” go to war its war-mongering; When they pull out its “irresponsible ac of cowardice”.
          5. Is utter and joke and lie – especially in comparison to lefts known and documented record of “dead people” voting and “missing right votes”.

          You’re a psychopath and I think we’ve chatted before but you keep changing your username.

      2. I didn’t actually condemn him. Damn, you started off 2019 in a touchy mood.

        And my point is that it has nothing to do with Trump or Obama or Bush or Clinton or whomever. If we stay on this road sooner or later we will get a truly evil/crazy person in the White House, and that person will have enough power to make us really regret it. We shouldn’t imbue the office with that kind of power.

        (But I’m sure we will. I know I’m in the minority here.)

        1. I didn’t mean to imply you did condem him. Sorry that wasn’t clear. I was speaking more of his critics and specifically people like Nick who condemn him in a very off handed way without any real facts or reasoning behind it.

          1. That’s fair. And in that you have a point; the people shrieking that he represents some sort of Holocaust for (fill in the blank) have nothing to offer except his tweets.

          2. I think too that a lot of the complaints are not over what Trump has done, but rather that he hasn’t done what Hillary would have done. The Left had big plans for her reign. And it was her turn!

    2. If only there was a document that narrowly defined the powers that the executive has. Something ratified by a constitutional convention, that the states agreed to abide by if they joined the union.

      1. Just so long as it isn’t written by dead white guys. And it’s gotta be written on a Etch-a-sketch because it’s a “living” document. Well, except for the part about abortion rights, that’s gotta be set in stone.

  11. What does Mitt Romney know about acting Presidential?

    He’s never done it.

    The people of the United States looked at him and said ‘no fucking way’, as they did with Hillary.

    Now, he can be an example of how NOT to act if you are or want to be President, but otherwise he’s pretty much a non-entity.

    1. He can act presidential. He is calm, well spoken, articulate, handsome, well dressed, and that fucking hair – best since Kennedy and even JFK might concede Mitt has the better of him.

      I care less about that than actual policies, unlike most of the country.

      1. This is why he’ll be well placed for the 2024 presidential election. 2012 needn’t hold him back any more than Nixon’s loss in 1960 hurt him in 1968. There’ll be voters who’ll want a Republican w a very diferent personality from that of Trump.

        However, there’ll also be Democrats, Republicans, & independents, including many moderate libertarians, who’ll want another Trump, & who now know they can produce one.

        Trump pretty well has 2020 sewn up if he wants it. Whoever the Democrats nominate in 2020 is irrelevant, & they all know it. But 2024 should be interesting.

        1. Trump pretty well has 2020 sewn up if he wants it.

          Just not enough half-educated, stale-thinking bigots to get that done. People who live among the superstitious, disaffected yahoos in our shambling backwaters might overestimate our substandard population, though.

      2. He can’t act presidential. The people SAW his act–and they told him to go piss up a rope.

        So, what he’s doing, what he says in ‘presidential’ is, by the fact that he’s doing it, not presidential.

        And what Trump is doing is. Because he’s the president. And he’s doing it.

        1. Not building the wall and not collecting the cost of that war from Mexico seems to strike some people as presidential.

          Sad, obsolete, bigoted people.

    2. They said no effing way twice actually!!!

  12. Policy only matters if you care about policies. Identity politics helps keep your mind far away from that.

    Principals over principles.

  13. All of this is true

    Donald Trump campaigned and was elected on rolling back the regulatory state. He has made a good start on that Herculean project. He campaigned and was elected on taming illegal immigration. He is hard at work attempting to achieve that. He campaigned and was elected on cutting taxes. He managed that last year. He campaigned and was elected on rolling back political correctness. He has done that through Betsy DeVos’s department of education and in other ways. He campaigned and was elected on populating the judiciary with judges who were Constitutionalists after the pattern of Antonin Scalia. He has made astonishing progress in doing just that. He campaigned and was elected on rebuilding the United States military and, with a military budget of some $716 billion, he is well on the way to accomplishing that. He campaigned and was elected on making America energy independent. We are now the world’s largest energy producer. He campaigned and was elected on helping black and hispanic minorities, who now enjoy the lowest unemployment in history.

    1. He campaigned and was elected on a promise to challenge the spread of radical Islamic terrorism. During his first year in office, he obliterated ISIS as a fighting force. He campaigned and was elected on challenging North Korea’s nuclear program and has made historic progress on that front. He campaigned and was elected on reversing China’s unfair trade practices and expansionist policies. He has made significant progress on that front as well. He campaigned and was elected on moving our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. He did it.

      What exactly is the leadership problem Nick is whining about? Most of those things are things that Libertarians should support. And there are certainly more things there for Libertarians to feel good about than any President since Reagan.

      1. don’t make them question themselves

      2. What were his positions on Mexicans, drugs, or ass-sex?

        Mexicans – he wants to build a wall to keep them out.
        Drugs – he appointed Jeff Fucking Sessions to AG.
        Ass-Sex – he seems to be neutral on this subject.

        Reasontarian score – 0.5/3 = fail.

        1. He also signed the first significant prison reform in living memory. And Sessions isn’t the AG anymore. And I think Sessions was forced on him by the shit bags in the Senate who would have refused to confirm anyone else. So I think Trump is pretty good on drugs.

          1. Sessions was forced on him by quid pro quo. if Sessions hadn’t been offered a pretty good position, it would’ve said there’s little value to getting on board w Trump. Trump did what was required, & no more, immediately giving Sessions shit when he wouldn’t continue to play ball.

          2. Trump also put up a FDA commissioner who wasn’t actively anti-biz, which is better than what we’ve had lately. Far from a libertarian, but at least by-the-book.

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  15. Show me where Trump’s character is worse than that of his opponents.

    1. It is not his character they rail against, it is his lack of decorum! The man has no filters & will say what he thinks & does not give a crap about what others think…It is actually refreshing!!

      After he won the GOP nod, a journalist asked him if he will now become more civil & polite & he said, “No, I will not! I will be myself & if I lose I will just go back to my great life!”

  16. It is a testiment to how bad our education system has become that so many journalists and politicians think that someone’s character can be classified as “good” or “bad” in any definitive way and worse that that character is the person’s destiny. The idea that someone’s character is good or bad and can be classified as such ending the discussion is nothing but Marxist crap. It is Marxism and collectivism that says you are all good or bad based upon some arbitrary measure of character be that race or whatever. The western tradition is all about everyone being flawed in some way and everyone having a chance of redemption be that through God, reason, or education or whatever.

    1. Beyond that, people like Nick and the rest of the people spouting all of this “character is destiny” nonsense must not know the difference between a tragedy and a melodrama. A melodrama is where character is destiny and the bad guy gets what he deservers, whatever that means. And its nonsense. Life is tragedy. A tragedy is when someone’s normally good characteristics cause their downfall. For example, Oedipus was a well meaning guy who was horrified when told he was destined to kill his father and married his mother. Had he been a bad guy and not carried, he would have never ran away and never met his fate. That is a tragedy. And what can be a saving character trait in one instance can be your downfall and cause all kinds of harm in another. People can do great service to God and country because of character traits that are flaws in other circumstances. And people with great characters and who are well meaning can do all kinds of harm.

      This basic wisdom is appearently not taught in schools anymore.

      1. Tragedy is how I feel about Francois Duvalier & even Jean-Claude. I wasn’t even sure anyone could’ve done better than them by Haiti considering how it was. But things are a little better there now, so I guess it was possible?or was it? Maybe then it wasn’t, but now is.

  17. [… ] but he [Romney] was persistently anti-immigrant in 2012.

    Yes, but the issue is that he wasn’t rabidly and irrationally anti-immigrant. Being persistent is not enough. He wasn’t Trumpista enough, not to the millions of scared whites who decry the “demographic changes foistered upon them” notwithstanding the mythical nature of such belief. Therefore he lost in 2012 or Obama won or something.

    1. Trump is so anti immigrant he has offered to legalize the DACA people multiple times. He has also offered to increase legal immigration in return for border security. The guy hates immigrants so much he has agreed to let more of them into the country.

      Rabid, just rabid.

    2. oh shut up you senile wetback.

      The only reason you’ve got anything good to say about him is because he was born in Mexico.

  18. No one has ever cared what Mitt Romney thinks.

    1. True Dat!!!

  19. Character whatever it is matters very much to me. The reason is that no person is up to the job. Character is what happens when the individual is confronted with disaster.

    I will never be convinced that the words of the president can be seperated from how to judge the job.

    Words are the only thing the president produces.

    Today quote “I had a meeting at the Pentagon with lots of generals — they were like from a movie, better looking than Tom Cruise and stronger — and I had more generals than I’ve ever seen.”

    Yup, Tom is very good looking man and decent actor. Why this was mentioned in a top level security and political meeting is beyond me. Character might have something to do with it. You are not in a reality show you are reality. Not sure what “had” more generals “than I’ve ever seen” means.

    1. Words are the only thing the president produces.

      The President produces actions. And those actions have effects that words no matter how pretty never will.

      I am sorry but you are a complete moron.

    2. Well, then, Thank the Lord Obummy had a Teleprompter!

  20. Policy is more important than personality in politics?
    Since when?

  21. “Romney is certainly accurate in his depiction of President Trump’s demeanor. The former real estate developer is a bully, a loudmouth, and a liar (or at the very least a bullshit artist).”

    Ironic, is it not, that in 2012, Romney himself was called the Biggest Liar in American Political History, a liar so dishonest that reporters were forced to abandon the false equivalence of neutrality and openly support Barack Obama so that he could be defended from Romney’s despicable lying. Or so we were told. And now even people like Romney wonder why large segments of the American public let complaints about Trump’s lying go in one ear and out the other. Something about a boy and a wolf…

  22. I’m sure Mitt’s dance card is filled out following that OP-ED. NBC, ABC,CBS, CNN and even Fox have probably been calling non-stop to get him on their news shows. He will soon get a taste of the adulation of a Maverick. Eventually he will expand from dumping on Trump to dumping on Republicans in general. I wonder if he can fit into McCain’s tutu.

  23. I personally think character does matter, and that Romney’s article–if you, you know read it–made a lot of sense. But of course sense doesn’t matter to the extremists on either side. Or to voters who like Trump don’t even follow the issues, they just punch the button based on colors. You know, like three year-olds.

    We’re Libertarians. We’re supposed to try harder.

  24. Indeed it is! I don’t respect people for their moral failings, nor excuse them, but what really matters to us is how good the person can be a president!

  25. Mitt the big government liberal. The father of Obamacare in Massachusetts whose one term was so awful he dared not try for reelection. Never backed off his disdain of freedom with his unwavering support of the individual mandate. For that supposedly the conservative party made him their candidate where he showed his elitist arrogant disdain for 47% of the people. He can join Hilary and her deplorable comments. Both can do their sour grapes tour for losing the presidential election and offend nearly all of the population at the same time.

  26. “I’d argue that the country is suffering more from a lack of policy leadership than from a surfeit of ill-tempered tweets.”

    We’re also suffering from that, to be sure. However, policy matters less than character in my opinion. If you have character, you can be reasoned with among other things, and even if we still disagree in the end, we’re more likely to find practical solutions that have a real impact. And I find it laughable to suggest how our leaders conduct themselves doesn’t have a ripple effect. I don’t think Reason would say that about a business.

  27. Another RINO that needs to crawl back under his rock.

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