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Right Message, Wrong Messenger: Why Romney's Trump Takedown Rings Hollow

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney weighs in on the Republican presidential race during a speech at the University of Utah, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee has been critical of front-runner Donald Trump on Twitter in recent weeks and has yet to endorse any of the candidates. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney weighs in on the Republican presidential race during a speech at the University of Utah, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee has been critical of front-runner Donald Trump on Twitter in recent weeks and has yet to endorse any of the candidates. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
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Mitt Romney’s nuke-drop on Donald Trump Thursday was simultaneously spot-on, irrelevant and evasive.

Spot-on, because — do I really need to explain? A man who wants a religious test for banning immigrants, slandered Mexicans as rapists, doesn’t instinctively treat a Klansman as radioactive, mocked a senator who was POW and a reporter who is disabled and a woman inquisitor as unhinged by menstruation, and blithely lies about having done some of this: If elected, he’d be Richard Nixon, Bull Connor and Howard Stern rolled into one.

Irrelevant, because Trump trawls for support among those who are impervious to the foregoing and to the moral reasoning Romney laid out. Trumpeters don’t care that their man is temperamentally unfit and ill-informed for the presidency. They are working-class whites without college degrees and angry at an economy that’s forgotten them. Our mothers warned us that anger disfigures our ability to think straight. Or else Trump voters are lowlifes — white supremacists and homophobes, xenophobes — or whom thought is not a genetically bestowed trait.

Mitt Romney’s nuke-drop on Donald Trump Thursday was simultaneously spot-on, irrelevant and evasive.

Indeed, rich man Romney, who was caught dissing the dispossessed "47 percent" during his failed White House bid, is precisely the establishment type who Trump supporters tuned out long ago. He preached to the anti-Trump choir Thursday.

Evasive, because Romney acted as if Trump weren’t the Creature from the Tea Party Lagoon, spawned in the roiling waters of the GOP’s loony fringe. Romney suggested the wisdom of voting for one of the Republican alternatives to Trump. But they include men who get orgasmic over government shutdowns and refuse to even consider a president’s Supreme Court nominee.

Establishment Republicans like Romney have pandered to the GOP’s know-nothings. This is a man who disavowed Obamacare, when everyone knew it was kin to Romneycare (perhaps even Romney himself.) He genuflected to none other than Trump, seeking the New Yorker’s endorsement four years ago, even after the latter peddled birth-er lunacy about President Obama.

Tea Party favorites have repaid the sucking-up. All the Republican candidates this year pitched tax cuts for the rich, a knee-jerk crusade that the party elite trot out when times are good or bad, which means it’s theology rather than sound economics.

True, shortsighted progressives romanticized the benefits of higher voter turnout, failing to grasp that many ill-informed nonvoters, if they ever did show, might swoon for an authoritarian like Trump. But that’s a small mistake compared to Republicans stoking the fires inside their own crazies’ heads.

If Clinton is the only thing this fall standing between a megalomaniacal narcissist and the nuclear button, patriotism demands a vote for her.

“A person as dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president,” Romney said, as if to prove his Republican bona fides. Let’s concede that the former secretary of state’s jones for secrecy — her private email server and such — demands more explanation. But nothing has emerged during this campaign that would disqualify her election; her Nixonian image, let’s be fair, is partly the product of a generation of right-wing hammering (these are the guys who thought she and Bill offed Vince Foster, remember). Barring a criminal conviction for Hillary, this is a time when Romney, and all of us, should put country before party. If Clinton is the only thing this fall standing between a megalomaniacal narcissist and the nuclear button, patriotism demands a vote for her.

So desperate is the Republican establishment to halt Trump that some are even mulling running an independent candidate against him in the fall. That likely would throw the election to Clinton, at this point the presumptive Democratic nominee. Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to buy a “Vote Democrat” sticker?

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Rich Barlow Cognoscenti contributor
Rich Barlow writes for BU Today, Boston University's news website.

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