Comes Mitt Romney Today To Destroy The #NeverTrump Movement

Not that he means to, of course. Mitt always means well.

He’s just outside of his skill set when it comes to politics. As usual.

Guy Benson, at Townhall, has a piece outlining what he thinks is the point of Romney’s “major speech on the 2016 presidential race” set for today. Benson says there are three purposes to be served – and no, Romney isn’t going to endorse anybody or say he’s getting into the race, according to Benson. The first purpose…

(1) He’s once again focusing the media’s attention on Trump’s tax returns, about which he’s been trolling the reality show star for several days.  Trump has responded with a flurry of insults and unfounded excuses, employing highly politicianesque parsed language about making future “determinations,” and the like.  He’s hiding something (perhaps beyond his hilariously exaggerated wealth), and Republican voters deserve to know what it is, especially given the shinola-storm the Left will throw at him if he’s the nominee.

Right, OK. That’s fine, and it might actually have value to the anti-Trump crowd. Staging a media event to force coverage of Trump’s finances is useful.

And let’s be honest about what that means – what Romney would be doing is forcing the media to cover Trump’s finances and his taxes NOW, rather than this summer after he’s the party’s nominee. Which is what the media wants to do. Don’t think for one second that Trump won’t get an unfriendly vetting by all those same media organs who cover him as a pop-culture phenomenon now. For all the bitching his supporters do about the media, most of which seems to be directed at Fox News (which should hardly escape bitching; their coverage of this election cycle has been almost criminally irresponsible), Donald Trump would have been Ben Carson but for the earned media he’s lived off of. As to scrutiny of his business dealings, in order to find some of the things laying there that would sink virtually any presidential candidate, we’ve seen very little.

But if you think CNN and NBC News and the New York Times and Washington Post are going to sit this cycle out without doing a deep dive into Trump’s finances and business dealings, you have lost your mind. That dive is coming. If Romney can somehow bring it on by baiting those media organs into beginning that vetting process and hastening Trump’s downfall before he clinches the GOP nomination, then whatever else he’s done to or for the conservative movement Mitt deserves our thanks.

That’s if he’s successful. We’re hardly convinced Romney has that kind of stroke in the media.

The second purpose, according to Benson…

(2) He’s doing the non-Trump field a solid by lending his “adult in the room” voice to try to at least tap the breaks on any Trump endorsements being mulled by establishmentish figures within the party.  He won’t be able to keep the dam from bursting forever, of course, but maybe he’s trying to buy Rubio, Cruz, et al a week or two to accomplish what they need to do on March 15.  If Trump carries the delegate-rich winner-take-all states of Florida, Ohio and Illinois that Tuesday, he’ll be virtually impossible to stop.  If most of those delegates are assigned elsewhere, the long slog to Cleveland can continue.

Maybe, but again – if we’re skeptical about Romney’s stroke with the media we’re even more skeptical about his influence with the voters out there who have yet to make a firm choice between going over to the Trump side or standing with Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or even John Kasich. Everything Romney’s campaign stood for in 2012 – raising enough cash from fatcat donors that he could use dollar bills as incendiaries to drop on his opponents in TV ad bombs throughout the primary process, speaking conservatism as a second language, treating Democrats with kid gloves and allowing himself and the philosophy he supposedly champions to be calumnized by the Democrat Party as out of touch with normal Americans – is what created Trump in the first place, and that’s why while Romney isn’t personally hated by most Republican voters, his political persona certainly is and his presence in this race has never been wanted. For him to patronize the GOP’s voters and scold them, even if he’s not trying to, about voting for Trump could backfire in a major, major way.

If he’s going to try to do that, then the only way it might work would be to put on the black hat and assume the persuadable GOP voters out there don’t like him – and then proceed to explain to them how Trump is so similar to Romney. He can talk about wealth and privilege and advantage, and how it insulates its bearer against the negative consequences of failure, how political attitudes are formed by hanging out with the high-society crowd, how the rich have contempt for Joe Schmo on the street, and so on. He’ll be engaging in a good bit of self-immolation in doing so and he’ll also be dragging lots of his blue-blood friends through the muck, but if he can successfully tie Trump into that self-indictment it might be worth it.

This would ascribe a level of communicative skill to Romney that he never showed in 2012, though. Y’know who could probably pull off a mission like that better than Romney?

Trump. That’s who.

Benson quotes Hot Air’s Allahpundit for the third purpose, which if Romney even hints at going here will make this speech a disaster…

“This does…look an awful lot like Romney putting himself back on the radar of #NeverTrump conservative voters at the very moment that they’re starting to look around for an ‘in case of emergency, break glass’ candidate. I think that’s the theme he’ll pursue tomorrow: Never Trump. He’s going to say that Trump is unfit for the GOP nomination for a hundred different reasons, from his temperament to his leftish policies to his proclivity for scams like Trump University to his dodging when asked about David Duke in that interview with Tapper…[The takeaway] will be that conservative voters must have a principled choice available to them in the general election. They can’t be forced to decide between two liberals from New York. He won’t say who that choice will be or that he has any plans to run; it’ll be a pure ‘conscience of a conservative’ speech denouncing Trump. But I think it’ll also be clear afterward that if Rubio can’t close the deal in Florida on March 15th, you may be hearing from Romney again. And the next speech will be a little more concrete than this one.”

No, no, no, and NO.

The idea of Mitt Romney as a third-party candidate is toxic. It’s poisonous. And it would be a complete bowdlerization of the #NeverTrump movement.

Understand something, because this is important. #NeverTrump is not, contrary to the statements of the pro-Trump crowd, an Establishment project and it had better not become one if it is to have any life.

#NeverTrump is a CONSERVATIVE project. It exists because Trump is not a conservative and what he would do as the GOP nominee and as president would sully and delegitimize conservatism as a philosophy, just as the flabby, dissembling cowardice of the Beltway GOP crowd which created Trump out of their failures has sullied and delegitimized conservatism. #NeverTrump doesn’t exist as an attempt to give us a third term of George W. Bush or a first term of Mitt Romney. It aims a lot higher than that.

#NeverTrump got started when Erick Erickson launched it. Erick Erickson is the guy who built RedState into a major conservative site, and he did it by savagely, ruthlessly holding the GOP establishment’s feet to the fire. It was RedState which played a huge part in Ted Cruz upsetting David Dewhurst, Marco Rubio beating Charlie Crist, Ben Sasse beating that moderate squish Whateverhisnamewas Mitch McConnell was backing against him in Nebraska, and Rand Paul beating Trey Grayson in Kentucky. Erickson has GOP Establishment scalps covering his wall; he is unequivocally not an establishment figure.

And Sasse is not an establishment figure. Not by a long shot. He’s a constitutional conservative with an impeccable record. When Sasse jumped aboard the #NeverTrump train it was not the Establishment co-opting it.

But when people like Lindsey Graham, Adam Kinzinger and now Mitt Romney suddenly jump aboard, and we are supposed to turn that movement over to Romney so he can ride again in a third presidential bid doomed to failure?

I’m a #NeverTrump guy, but I refuse to sign up for that.

There is some potential good to be had in this speech, but on balance it’s a terrible idea and it portends a good deal of advantage to Trump. And Romney shouldn’t be making it. The elements of good he could do would be far better served if he unloaded them on Twitter or did a few media interviews. Giving a speech that makes it look like he’s thinking of running for president again and asking folks to keep him in mind exposes the entire project to ridicule and defeat.

He ought not give the speech. We’re going to be sorry that he gave it.

UPDATE: Excerpts of this speech were released, and it isn’t going to work. Just as we feared.

In 1964, days before the presidential election, Ronald Reagan went on national television and challenged America that it was a “Time for Choosing.” He saw two paths for America, one that embraced conservative principles dedicated to lifting people out of poverty and helping create opportunity for all, and the other, an oppressive government that would lead America down a darker, less free path. I’m no Ronald Reagan and this is a different moment but I believe with my heart and soul that we face another time for choosing, one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for the country. …

At home, poverty persists and wages are stagnant. The horrific massacres of Paris and San Bernardino, the aggressions of Putin, the growing assertiveness of China and the nuclear tests of North Korea confirm that we live in troubled and dangerous times. …

But if we make the right choices, America’s future will be even better than our past and better than our present. …

Of the remaining candidates, the only serious policy proposals that deal with the broad range of national challenges we confront have come from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. …

Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while has called George W Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good. …

The president of the United States has long been the leader of the free world. The president and yes the nominees of the country’s great parties help define America to billions of people. All of them bear the responsibility of being an example for our children and grandchildren. …

Trump relishes any poll that reflects what he thinks of himself. But polls are also saying that he will lose to Hillary Clinton. …

On Hillary Clinton’s watch at the State Department, America’s interests were diminished in every corner of the world. She compromised our national secrets, dissembled to the families of the slain, and jettisoned her most profound beliefs to gain presidential power. …

A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president. But a Trump nomination enables her victory. …

I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channeled that anger, and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good. …

Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat. …

His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.

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