A prominent Republican delivered a powerful case Thursday of why Donald Trump should not be president. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a current candidate and it may have come too late.
In an extraordinary speech even in this most unusual campaign, Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, called Trump a phony and a fraud “playing the American public for suckers.”
Rightly, he also called on Trump to release his tax returns – and predicted he won’t because they will show that the business tycoon isn’t as rich or charitable as he pretends to be. Trump gives the flimsy excuse that he can’t release the returns while he’s being audited, but by refusing this straightforward step, he is not being open with voters.
Romney’s withering critique should be more effective than the schoolyard taunts that Sen. Marco Rubio tried last week to slow down Trump, who is the clear front-runner after Super Tuesday.
Yet as this campaign has shown, it may well strengthen support for Trump from voters fed up with the Republican establishment.
Still, fair-minded voters should take Romney’s criticisms seriously. Point by point, he dismantled the façade that Trump has built.
Trump as a great deal-maker? Romney listed all of Trump’s companies that have gone belly-up. “A business genius he is not,” Romney said.
Trump as job creator? Romney said that Trump’s economic policies would plunge America into a prolonged recession.
Trump as tough commander-in-chief? Romney says Trump’s views on foreign policy are reckless.
Romney, who said he isn’t running and isn’t yet endorsing anyone, said he understands anger among voters. But while presidents have forged anger into national resolve, he said, Trump is using it for demagoguery.
Trump responded just as we’ve come to expect – mostly with personal attacks. He dismissed the speech as “irrelevant” and called Romney a “failed candidate” and “choke artist” who “chickened out” from running in this election. Trump also said that Romney begged for his support four years ago and would have “dropped to his knees” to get it.
Clearly, the GOP establishment is in full panic about Trump. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, and House Speaker Paul Ryan joined Thursday in the criticism.
Where was all this before Trump got so much momentum?
If Trump does indeed become the GOP nominee, party leaders have no one to blame but themselves.