On New Year’s Day, the Washington Post published an editorial by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney, who has been elected to a senate seat in Utah, used scathing language to describe Donald Trump’s character and his presidency. Romney warned that the Trump presidency has been in a “deep descent” with the departure of key administration figures like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Romney also wrote that Trump’s character has “fallen short” and that he has failed to unite the nation. “On balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” Romney wrote. “With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable,” he went on. “And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”
It took almost a full day before the president responded to his one-time ally’s piece. But on January 2, Trump hit back at Romney, hinting that the Utah senator is a sore loser and a turncoat. Trump tweeted,
“Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”
The “Flake” mention was probably a reference to Jeff Flake, the outgoing Arizona Senator who was an outspoken opponent of Trump. But Trump may have also been asking whether Romney was acting “flaky” and wondering why Romney had been “so fast” to take a public stance against him. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that Trump was endorsing Romney’s Senate campaign and the two men seemed to be at peace.
Trump & Romney Have Had a Roller-coaster Relationship in Recent Years
Trump didn’t say it, but he and Romney have had a turbulent relationship since at least 2016. Before Trump won the Republican nomination to the presidency, Romney gave a speech in which he called Trump a “fraud” and slammed his character; Romney also criticized Trump’s foreign policy positions.
But Trump and Romney have also been allies at times. After Trump won the election, Romeny was one of the first to pay him a visit, and rumors swirled that Romney was interested in becoming the next Secretary of State. More recently, after Romney decided to run for the US Senate seat from Utah, Trump endorsed him, tweeting, “.@MittRomney has announced he is running for the Senate from the wonderful State of Utah. He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!”