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January 24, 2018

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Jon Ralston:

Time for Romney to fire Trump


Steve Marcus

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, waves after being endorsed by businessman Donald Trump, left, during a news conference at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada February 2, 2012.

Donald Trump is not important; he just thinks he is.

Trump is a small man who has big thoughts about himself, a vulgar attentionophile who cares not what damage he causes or whom he might hurt so long as he is in the spotlight. His loud, full-throated (is there any other way for The Donald?) embrace of birtherism is hardly surprising considering truth or consequences have never mattered much to the man George Will accurately described last weekend as a “bloviating ignoramus.”

But, alas, Will got it wrong — or, to be precise, he captured the mere essence of Trump (he’s a buffoon) but failed to properly describe the sheer ugliness of what the reckless, solipsistic clown is wreaking by continuing to espouse his belief that President Barack Obama is not a native-born American.

It’s one thing to boast about how smart and successful and rich he is — Trump does that every day. But to try to tap into the worst instincts of some folks in the GOP base — and, I fear, too many Democrats and independents, too — with his hardly veiled racism consigns Trump to a category of unconscionable scoundrels and power-hungry demagogues who must be denounced, scorned and vilified.

Hello, darkness, my old Mitt.

It is this man who hosted the presumptive GOP nominee Tuesday evening in Las Vegas, who Mitt Romney tries to slough off as just like any other supporter (who hosts a $2 million fundraiser) who might have differing views (as if this is about a VAT or sanctions against Syria). To his credit, Romney was honest about what this is all about when asked by the national media over the holiday weekend, telling them, “I need to get 50.1 percent or more, and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

Forget his Electoral College miscue — just ask George W. Bush about needing 50.1 percent or more to become president. Romney translated here is simple: “I am willing to grovel before this odious man because I need to play the politics of addition, even if that means subtracting my self-respect.”

Instead, so far at least (I write this before the Romney-Trump-Newt event Tuesday), Romney has refused to denounce Trump and simply repeated his contention that he believes Obama was born in the United States. Does anyone — even ardent Romney backers not drinking the Trump birther Kool-Aid — think that is enough?

I don’t have to quote Edmund Burke or invoke the cliché analogy of the week, comparing this to Bill Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment, or even recall John McCain chiding a birther in a crowd four years ago. This is not about whether Trump will factor in any voters’ minds in November, although he is sure to vomit more obnoxious and offensive offal before the election. This is simply about where Romney draws the line, where he puts aside his quest for 50.1 percent (use 270 electoral votes next time, Governor) and declares this is behavior he will not tolerate.

Trump is a leech who has attached himself to Romney after risibly floating his own name for president, a bloodsucking egomaniac who has taken advantage of the presumptive nominee’s natural appeasement and hopes to bleed him for every drop of attention he can. And The Donald will keep doing so until he is standing on a stage with him in Tampa and, should Romney win, hosting a surely garish inaugural ball complete with a life-size ice sculpture of Trump. (“I’m melting ...”)

Romney could still win the election while manifesting his Trumplove — I doubt many voters will care that much. That’s because the entire Obama re-election strategy is predicated on a simple premise: This has to be a choice, not a referendum.

So the president will change the subject from the economy or health care reform or the stimulus — all of which are albatrosses — to try to make Romney seem the greater of two evils. This much we know, and we have seen that playbook in Nevada as recently as 2010, when Harry Reid was re-elected by running against Sharron Angle, not on his record.

This campaign will be won or lost on how successful Team Obama is in changing the subject and how skillful Team Romney is at changing it back.

At the climax, Trump will be where he belongs — a small footnote. But this is not about his impact on the race; it is about his impact on Romney.

The presumptive nominee, inartful as usual, once said he likes being able to fire people. If he actually cares about being able to look himself in the mirror after November, if he really wants to demonstrate that he has the character to be president, he needs to say to Trump the same two words that made the bloviating ignoramus famous.

Nothing less will do.

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