What are the odds that Michelle Obama is a fan of Juicy Fruit, I wonder? Obviously there is a strong Chicago connection with Wrigley, but it seems to me there is a non-zero chance that she prefers something in the Dentyne Ice line of sugar-free chewing gums. Is our current president likely to have that sort of thing on hand, or is he strictly a Bubblicious Choco Choco Chip man?
These questions are relevant but not urgent. We probably won’t know the answer to them for another six years or so, when Teen Vogue and Buzzfeed report on the 19 cutest things about the time that Donald Trump gave Queen Michelle a stick of some at present indeterminable variety of flavored non-swallowable candy at the funeral of Jimmy Carter. By then this sort of aww-shucks media friendship will be an unremarkable part of Trump’s rehabilitation, along with his passive-aggressive comments about the leadership qualities of President Josh Hawley after he bans hardcore pornography by executive order.
Those of us who (barely) remember the heady days when George W. Bush was Hitler but dumber are moderately amused by what a lovable teddy bear he has become in his post-presidency. Bush was always a charming guy — that was exactly the problem, as far as his opponents were concerned. Which is why the transformation of Willard Romney, him of the “binders full of women” and the infamous 47 percent remarks, into #Resistance hero is even more entertaining. When Mitt says that he would theoretically consider voting to remove Trump from office, we are not only supposed to be shocked at his courage, the almost indescribable sacrifice to his own political fortunes this selfless patriot is making at the altar of principle. We are also supposed to forget that only a few years ago he was roundly considered just as vile as Trump — and for mostly the same reasons.
How did this hippie-baiting schoolyard bully whose decision to place a dog crate atop the family car showed indisputable evidence of his character defects, this out-of-touch reactionary who stole his Russia-baiting foreign policy from the far right at the height of the Cold War, this divisive purveyor of fake news often criticized by members of his own party for his mean-spiritedness, become a media darling? By not being the current leader of the Republican party, or of what remains of the so-called conservative movement. Romney represents every bit as much as George W. Bush a consensus that has been abandoned, an ideology with no adherents — or at least no adherents who don’t write a column for one of our few remaining national newspapers. He is about as threatening to the mainstream liberal establishment as the Duke of Edinburgh. He is relevant precisely because he is irrelevant. The former Bain Capital exec (who even has his own erstwhile secret Twitter account for moaning at conservative pundits) is the hero the #Resistance crowd deserves.
This is why we are now expected to swoon at Romney’s kindergarten teacher-in-chief routine (“Berating another person, or calling them names, or demeaning a class of people, not telling the truth — those are not private things”) in Atlantic profiles and exclusive sitdowns with that website that does articles in the form of PowerPoints. The actual content of what he says — a lot of gas about “character” — does not matter, nor does the fact that his actual views on a wide range of relevant questions are either the same as Trump’s (e.g., lowering taxes for the rich, Bret Kavanaugh’s suitability for the Supreme Court) or much scarier (the absolute moral necessity of fighting multiple unwinnable wars indefinitely in the Middle East). Since he has been in the Senate, Romney has voted in favor of Trump’s legislative agenda roughly 80 percent of the time, 11 percent more frequently than Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has enthusiastically defended Trump against critics both within and outside the GOP. F.H. Bradley once defined metaphysics as the finding of bad reasons for things we believe upon instinct.
If he wasn’t so gutless, he would have been President in 2012. If he had pushed back against Too Much Candy Crowley when she came to the defense of the lying President Obama he possibly could have won. His collapse at that moment cost him a lot of respect.