Mitt Romney, former presidential candidate and current Senator from Utah (and Mormon, and former hedge fund guy) is in some ways the last person one would expect to be the shining light in the dark, dank place where the modern GOP dwells. This is a paean to Mr. Romney, having found the courage to stand up for what is right, despite the fact that the vengeful Republicans and their craven Führer are going to rain down punishment on him like a vengeful Greek god. This story is truly one of earnestness, religiosity, courage, and character.
Romney is known as Mr. Cool. He doesn’t show much emotion, and is very cautious. He doesn’t want to make a mistake, be caught losing influence, etc. He comes from a family where is father was a respected member of the Church, and a politician. George Romney took a haricut by not being loyal enough (e.g., displaying courage, I suppose!) vis-a-vis the 1970s version of Donald Trump, Richard Nixon. It took a long time and it was very challenging, as I understand it, for George to get back in the GOP’s good graces. The GOP values loyalty, conformity, and self-sacrifice much more than they do character, courage, or conviction. Hence, they have been beating Democrats for years in elections.
Windsor Mann, from The Week, sums up Romney’s February 5, 2020 bombshell thusly: “Romney did the unthinkable. He told the truth about a man who never tells it on purpose…. At the 2016 RNC, Ted Cruz implored Republicans to vote their conscience. [Now, three and a half long years later], [t]hat is what Romney did, and what has made him a heretic in his party. Romney voted to convict the president. His fellow Republicans voted to convict themselves.”
“The president did in fact pressure a foreign government to corrupt our election process,” Romney revealed. “And really, corrupting an election process in a democratic republic is about as abusive and egregious an act against the Constitution—and one’s oath—that I can imagine. It’s what autocrats do.”
It is. That is what the GOP has saddled us with: a would-be dictator who now knows no fear of impeachment. And though he is amazingly frightened of Joe Biden (obviously), he also probably believes he can throw red meat to his “base” successfully enough to beat a Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, or Pete Buttigieg. A lot is at stake in 2020, and a man who has cheated and who has no moral compass to curb bad behavior, when external threat is removed, it’s a bull-in-a-China-shop phenomenon. Buckle your seatbelts.
MSNBC commentator and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough offered that Romney is known for being “maddeningly cautious.” Romney always takes the safest path, and chooses the wisest and most calculated move, he indicated. “Simply because of an inner voice and a higher calling: an oath he took before God [to do impartial justice in the Senate trial of Donald Trump],” Scarborough claims.
This is a man who voted 80% of the time with Trump, so I’m not a natural ally of the man. He also came across to me as a blue-blooded capitalistic Mormon old white guy, as exemplified by his “47% comment” from the Obama presidential race (if you remember that; he basically denigrated about half of the U.S. population in a speech to fat cat Republican donors in order to charm them and emphasize his bona fides).
Here is how the New York Times National Correspondent, Mark Liebovitz, describes Romney: “I talked to him about an hour before he gave that speech, and a couple things struck me. One, Romney is known for being an ‘icewater in his veins kind of guy’, but he was nervous. Not a lot seems to faze him, but he spoke very haltingly; clearly a lot was involved in this decision; he hadn’t slept much in a long time. Another thing that struck me is just how deeply he had thought about this. I think people will be very cynical about this, it’s sort of the nature of politics these days; they’ll see the agony as a bit of a performance. But as I talked to him there was a real sense of awareness of what was in store for him. There are going to be really severe political consequences for him, and that he was okay with it. He knew that the President and his allies are going to come right after him. He knows what kind of dust this is going to kick up, and yet, he did it anyway. He is prepared for the judgment of history, and for the judgment of his faith. Eventually this will subside and I think he will be remembered more for this than anything he has ever done in his political career (save perhaps for losing the presidency in 2012).”
So we are talking about courage, honor, real faith, and leadership. Legendary journalist Bill Moyers knows how rare and precious a moment I witnessed yesterday while on a treadmill at the gym. I will always remember it. He said, “For years now I’ve been taking every possible opportunity to talk about the soul of democracy. ‘Something is deeply wrong with politics today,’ I told anyone who would listen.”
John F. Kennedy said, “In whatever area in life one may meet the challenges of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.” He faced stiff opposition from the GOP in his time, and he wrote a book called Profiles in Courage. Very relevant to this issue.
Romney will be lambasted for telling the truth. That is how rare it is, at least on the GOP side of the aisle. And it demonstrates how incredibly partisan and fractious both the country and the Congress have become.
And it shows the power Trump has solidified, and how when he says “Jump!”, those morally repugnant Senators like Mitch McConnell and Susan Collins reply, “How high?”
White House Counsel during the Nixon meltdown, John Dean, has this to add: “Had the Senate or House, or both, censured or somehow warned Richard Nixon, the tragedy of Watergate might have been prevented. Hopefully the Senate will not sit by while even more serious abuses unfold before it.” We shouldn’t forget that the backdrop of this speech, a profile in courage if you will, is that the Republicans in the Senate behaved absolutely abhorrently by refusing to have a fair trial. Republicans hate to call one of their own out, which is much different than the treatment the Dems gave Clinton (who was, incidentally, contrite in his public reaction to the Monica Lewinsky debacle).
Click to read the transcript of or watch the recorded speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. It will go down in history along with House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff’s speech, as some of the best and most inspiring acts of political courage, will, defiance, and righteousness (and oratory). After the speech transcript, I will toss out a few quotes about courage, character, dignity, decency, and truth. One doesn’t see much morality in politics nowadays (to the degree that the two were ever particularly comingled!), but this act was truly one for the record books. Ω
“Bullies use the word patriotism to shoot down virtually all criticism of the current conservative geopolitical agenda, sort of a missile-defense system against original thought, open debate, and the free exchange of ideas. And to my mind, this abuse of language is an affront to any real patriot, who knows that public discussion and informed debate is at the root of what once made America (and to a certain extent Britain, too) great. It is the dissenters who are the true patriots.”
“This is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make in my career, and it is not a decision I enjoy making. However, after much study, much thought and much prayer, I have come to the following conclusion: Either we are a Nation of laws or we are not, and if we are, then those laws have to apply equally to all people.”
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without it we can’t practice any other virtue with consistency.”
“Nothing seems to embarrass the political class in Washington today. Not the fact that more children are growing up in poverty in America than any other industrial nation, not the fact that millions of workers are actually making less money today in actual dollars than they did 20 years ago, not the fact that working people are putting in longer and longer hours and still falling behind, not the fact that while we have the most advanced medical care in the world, nearly 44 million Americans – 8 out of 10 of them and working families – are uninsured and cannot get the basic care they need.”
“What a great statesman must be most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens; namely, a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions.”
“I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its Members to do some soul searching—for us to weigh our consciences—on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America; on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.”
“Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old.”
“Growth occurs when individuals confront problems, struggle to master them, and through that struggle develop new aspects of their skills, capacities, views about life.”
“The slow-rising central horror of Watergate is not that it might grind down to the reluctant impeachment of a vengeful thug of a president whose entire political career has been a monument to the same kind of cheap shots and treachery he finally got nailed for, but that we might somehow fail to learn something from it.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson
“You can’t test courage cautiously.”
“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” ~ John F. Kennedy
“President Trump told a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his political opponent. This can’t be acceptable to any Member of Congress—Republican, Democrat, or Independent. Please, my friends, speak out in support of this impeachment inquiry. Speak out in support of getting to the bottom of this. Join the Democrats on this one—because it’s the right thing to do. There is no disputing that President Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. As Members of Congress, you must condemn that.”
“Character is not cut in marble; it is not something solid and unalterable. It is something living.”
“How I wish that politicians could have the courage and the humility to admit that they have made mistakes.”
“Democracy is a breeze during good times. It’s when the storms are raging that citizenship is put to the test. And there’s a hell of a wind blowing right now.”
“All humans are capable of the full range of human possibility. Our persona imagination encompasses the full scope and is resonant with even the greatest extremes. The range of personas runs the gamut from Gandhi to Jeffrey Dammer. We all carve out our unique character plays from the collision of our temperament with our developmental experience. In this sense, we all come to our characterological positions honestly.”
“You cannot live your life other than walking in the truth. Your means are as important as your ends.” ~ Charles Colson
“The President’s actions are having a profound impact on our society. His misdeeds have caused many to mistrust elected officials. Cynicism is swelling among the grassroots. His breach of trust has eroded the public’s faith in the office of the Presidency.”
“We have just lost the South for a generation.”
“Good character is usually the result of nurture, training, example, correction, and habituation. Bad character is often the result of neglect. Good character is the main wellspring of ethics and sound decision-making. Bad character is the primary source of moral error. Good character is a prerequisite for proper and fulfilling goal-setting over the long run. Bad character is a guarantee of nothing but trouble and ultimately self-defeating action.”
“From Watergate we learned what generations before us have known; our Constitution works. And during Watergate years it was interpreted again so as to reaffirm that no one – absolutely no one – is above the law.” ~ Leon Jaworski]
“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”