- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Days before he officially becomes a U.S. senator, Mitt Romney took to The Washington Post to fire a shot across President Trump’s bow, saying Mr. Trump had made a “deep descent” in December and is hurting the national character.

In an op-ed column published online Tuesday evening, Mr. Romney, now a Republican senator-elect for Utah, came down hardest on recent moves in foreign policy and Cabinet positions related to that.

“After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, [John] Kelly and [James] Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” he wrote.

Mr. Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, acknowledged that Mr. Trump had never been his pick for 2016. And he was careful to note that “it is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided.” He singled out conservative judges, tax and regulatory cuts, China-trade crackdowns and criminal-justice reform as legitimate achievements.

“But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency. To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow ‘our better angels.’ A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect,” he said, going on to blame Mr. Trump for being the equivalent of gasoline for a national political climate already ablaze.

“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump slams Mitt Romney as another ‘Flake’ after lawmaker’s criticism

Mr. Romney, whom Democrats assailed in 2012 for having “binders full of women,” for teenage prep-school jerkdom, and for wanting to kill grandma with cancer, said all political leaders “must defend our vital institutions despite their inevitable failings: a free press, the rule of law, strong churches, and responsible corporations and unions.”

Toward those ends, Mr. Romney said he looked forward to working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He also said he’d work with the president but claimed he would not be a rubber stamp and would call out Mr. Trump on excessive incivilities.

“I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions,” he wrote.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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