What Trump Gets From Denying Defeat

It’s been a month since election night, and after weeks of lawsuits, recounts, wild allegations, baseless conspiracy theories, fired election officials, and fervent denials, nothing has drawn into question whether Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on January 20th. He will.

I suspect Donald Trump is fully aware of this, but don’t expect him to concede defeat… ever.

This isn’t simply about his ego, though that’s a pretty big part of it. Trump and his loyal followers are faithfully invested in the theme that he is a consummate “winner.” That’s a tough narrative to reconcile after he lost the election by 74 electoral votes and lost the popular vote by a whopping 7 million… especially considering he was running against a candidate as unimpressive as Joe Biden.

Some may recall that Trump did this same type of thing back in 2016, attributing state primary losses to corrupt officials and “rigged” systems. Heck, he even did it after he won the general election, claiming without proof that he lost the popular vote because 3 million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary.

This is what he does. Thus, the denials will continue.

But again, this is about more than ego. While Trump’s actions and rhetoric are bad for the country, they’re pretty helpful to his political future, should he decide to have one. Because so many Republican voters don’t buy the results of the election (between 70 and 80 percent, according to the polls), it appears he’ll manage to escape personal accountability — at least among the Republican base — for having lost.

John McCain and Mitt Romney were cut no such break. When they lost their respective presidential bids in 2008 and 2012, it didn’t matter that both had run against a very strong, historically important opponent. It didn’t matter that McCain had the unpopularity of the Bush administration, years of war-weariness, and a 30-year mortgage crisis working against him. It didn’t matter that Romney had a big political disadvantage in running against an incumbent, landmark president. The sentiment among the GOP base, later tapped into and amplified by Donald Trump, was that they were losers. Thus, the party needed to get behind a much different type of candidate.

In 2016, Trump was that guy. A plurality of Republican voters saw fire in Trump’s belly. He was someone who would say anything and fight anyone. It didn’t really matter what was the battle or who was the opponent.

Trump also had luck on his side.

Whoever won the Republican nomination that year was going to have the historical advantage that comes with running against an opposition party that’s held the White House for two consecutive terms. But Trump also got to face a uniquely bad and broadly disliked opponent in Hillary Clinton, whose email scandal had been brought back into the spotlight (just days before the election) by an announcement of new developments from FBI directory James Comey. Despite losing the popular vote to Clinton by 3 million ballots, Trump won the electoral college and therefore the presidency.

With victory came the bragging rights, and boy did he brag.

Four years later, Trump also had a number of things working in his favor. He was the incumbent. The economy had been very strong under his watch, right up until the pandemic hit. The Democratic primary had come off like a political clown-show during every debate, producing one radical and ridiculous idea after another. That contest’s winner, Joe Biden, enjoyed little enthusiasm and drew serious doubts about his cognitive sharpness. Even with a global health crisis turning countless lives and livelihoods upside-down, state governors who took charge and exuded leadership saw their job-approval ratings rise; Trump did too, for a while.

But ultimately, Trump lost. And he lost by quite a bit. He was defeated by the same electoral-vote margin that he called a “historical landslide” four years earlier. 7 million more voters chose his Democratic opponent. In fact, as was the case in 2016, Trump won a smaller portion of the electorate than Mitt Romney in 2012, once again falling short of the 47% mark. Also, as in 2016, Trump under-performed congressional Republicans almost across the board.

By Trump’s own standards, as well as those of the Republican base in recent years, Trump is “a loser.” He’s a man who “choked.” A “total disgrace” who was “beaten like a dog.”

Yet, in the wake of the November election, few in the GOP seem to see it that way. By and large, Republicans aren’t placing blame on Trump. They’re blaming pretty much everyone else (Attorney General Bill Barr being the latest), but not him.

Trump’s super-power has long been his ability to alter reality, at least in the minds of many of his supporters, through righteous indignation and rhetorical repetition. All he’s had to do, post-election, is insist, over and over again, that he won. Well, that and cloud the airwaves and Internet with anecdotes, misinformation, and conspiratorial nonsense framed as massive, coordinated corruption.

It doesn’t matter that his case keeps falling apart even under the slightest bit of scrutiny. It matters even less what the news media is reporting, because they’re “fake news.” By continuing to “fight,” and refusing to concede defeat, Trump never really lost.

This will prove to be a huge political advantage for him, should he decide to run for president again in four years (which he’s rumored to announce during Joe Biden’s inauguration). Heck, it will be great for him no matter what he decides to do, whether it’s buying a cable-news network, starting a podcast, or taking his arena-show on the road as a private citizen. He’s already raised a ton of money off of the “rigged election” angle, much of which has gone toward paying down his campaign debt.

What it won’t do is help the GOP, as we’re already seeing indications of.

It was initially believed that Republican senate candidates would have a pretty easy time winning their Georgia run-off races, and keeping the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate. But after a month of Trump and his crew (including a number of media conservatives) baselessly declaring a massive election-fraud operation in the state, led by Republican officials (who are receiving death threats thanks to the bogus charges), there are now very real concerns that Republican turnout will be low enough, because of voter disenfranchisement, to hand the victories (and control of the Senate) to the Democrats.

This could be a lasting problem, and it’s not good for democracy. If Trump continues to press this theme from the sidelines over the next few years, other elections may be affected as well (not just in regard to turnout but also voters refusing to accept their outcomes).

And if you think Trump will feel even the slightest bit bad about any of the artificial chaos he has created, you haven’t been paying attention over the past five years. What Trump does, he does for himself. As long as it benefits him personally, he’ll never stop fueling unrest.

Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

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Romney Has Principles, and It Drives Both Sides Nuts

On Tuesday, Mitt Romney drew big headlines by announcing his approval of the U.S. Senate taking up President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination in our current election year.

Romney’s office released the below statement qualifying his decision — a decision that just about assures that Trump’s nominee will have enough votes to be confirmed (barring any significant missteps during the confirmation process).

“My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent. The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own.

“The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”

As is the case just about any time Senator Romney does (or even says) something of political consequence, once side of the aisle sang his praises and commended him for doing the brave and correct thing, while the other side trashed his character on very personal terms, and essentially portrayed him as a traitor.

There’s rarely any middle ground in situations like this.

Of course, the outrage this time came from Democrats and liberals who, earlier this year, hailed Romney as a man of deep integrity and conscience for being the only Republican senator to vote for conviction in President Trump’s impeachment trial:

As I described in a column back in February, it was a stark reversal from the left’s previous portrayal of Romney as a poor-people-hating bigot, who tortured a dog and killed a woman with cancer. But Romney had apparently earned liberals’ respect and good graces with his opposition to Trump, and also his participation this summer in a Black Lives Matter march.

However, the admiration only lasted as long as the next political earthquake, at which time many on the left, as expected, decided that they were right about Romney the first time:

With all due respect to Mr. Cleese, whose comedic talents have brought me countless laughs over the years, there was nothing even remotely dishonorable about what Romney did. There wasn’t even anything inappropriate about it — constitutionally, procedurally, morally, or otherwise. Heck, unlike a large number of his Republican and Democratic colleagues, Romney wasn’t even guilty of hypocrisy on the topic of election-year Supreme Court nominations.

His only sins, once again, were ignoring partisan considerations, taking his job as a U.S. senator seriously, and acting on principle. Sadly, such acts confuse and anger the tribes. They stoke a vitriolic sense of betrayal that’s driven not by reason, but rather emotion.

And emotions right now are as high as I’ve ever seen them, at least in the political world.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was undeniably an American icon, and her achievements, contributions, and idealism were especially important to people on the left. To many of those people, the mere notion of a conservative taking her old seat is vile and unconscionable. But as much as she was adored by her admirers, Ginsburg’s legacy and even her dying wish do not transcend the Supreme Court, nor the constitutional authority of our president and the U.S. Senate.

Romney recognized that, and made a principled and entirely defensible decision.

Likewise, Donald Trump doesn’t transcend the office of the U.S. presidency. His office grants him immense power, and despite the faithful enthusiasm and loyalty of many of his supporters, that power is subject to the law and congressional checks and balances. If a president is impeached for an abuse of that power, and a U.S. senator believes that the abuse is both legitimate and rises to the level of an impeachment conviction, it his duty to vote to convict.

Romney recognized that, and made a principled and entirely defensible decision.

Those politically driven by emotion over principle have a very difficult time understanding how such positions and decisions can, in good faith, exist… or perhaps coexist. Thus, those individuals’ recourse is to fall back on emotional safeguards like declarations of betrayal and cowardice.

The left’s doing that right now, and the right will return to it the next time Romney so much as disapproves of something Trump said.

In reality, standing on principle in this day and age is exactly the opposite of betrayal and cowardice. It takes guts and conviction to ignore the overbearing partisan pressure and tribal rancor that dictate so many of today’s political arguments. Some might even call that integrity.

I for one am glad that Romney not only has integrity, but also doesn’t seem to care which side he happens to piss off, on any given day, by demonstrating it.

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

Are We Living with Hillary Clinton’s Legacy After All?

I sometimes hear from lefties (both in my life and online) who insist that the Democratic base isn’t nearly as far to the left as the unhinged rhetoric on cable news and social media would suggest. Believe it or not, I’m sometimes even inclined to believe them.

Most of my Democratic friends, after all, are self-made people who aren’t out there advocating for socialist policies. Also, Joe Biden (who most people consider to be a traditional Democrat) took a significant lead in the polls over his more liberal competitors the moment he entered the 2020 race.

But one only has to have watched last week’s Democratic primaries, and listened to the words of almost all 20 candidates on stage, to derive that the crowd those individuals are speaking to is indeed very far-left.

Public funding of abortion (including late-term)? Government health insurance for all (including non-citizens)? Decriminalizing illegal border crossings? Free college tuition for all? Amnesty on student loans? These would have been considered fringe positions just a few years ago. Now, they’re right at the heart of the Democratic party.

So what happened, exactly? What drove the party so far to the left in a relatively short period of time?

And while we’re at it, what’s behind the similarly stark transformation of the Republican party?

Just a few short years ago, fiscal conservatism, free markets, stern foreign policy, government accountability, and personal responsibility were core beliefs of the Republican base. Now, Republicans shrug their shoulders at even higher levels of government spending than under Obama. They defend unprecedented trade intervention in foreign markets, along with the taxpayer bailouts spawned from it. They make excuses for our president’s fawning over murderous dictators, his diminishing of the work of our intelligence agencies, and pretty much everything else that comes out of his mouth. And they do all of this largely in the interest of tribal cohesiveness.

Democrats and Republicans have embraced populism to an extent not seen in my lifetime. And in a rather brilliant piece the other day, conservative writer Jonah Goldberg identified a single political figure who was instrumental in pushing both of the parties in the directions they’ve taken.

No, it wasn’t Donald Trump. Nor was it Barack Obama or even Bernie Sanders.

According to Goldberg, it was Hillary Clinton. And he lays out a very good case for her historical significance in this respect.

Goldberg points out that most people on the right agree that Donald Trump’s 2016 victory had a lot to do with Hillary Clinton. Where they disagree is how.

Always quick to point out the losses of John McCain and Mitt Romney against Barack Obama, Trump fans tend to believe that only someone as bombastic and unscrupulous as Trump could have taken back the presidency from the Democrats and the Democratic establishment (including the mainstream media). And because Trump was victorious, these folks view him as a savior of sorts, worthy of their unconditional loyalty.

Others (including me) have a different view — one that Goldberg described in his column:

“It wasn’t so much that Trump was the one person who could beat Hillary, but that she was the one candidate he could beat. In other words, it was only thanks to the fact that she was so unpopular that Trump had a chance. Trump-reluctant Republicans and independents could be persuaded by the fact that he was better than Hillary when presented with a binary choice.”

It’s worth remembering that poll after poll during the election (the same national polls that predicted the actual voting outcome months later) showed that both Clinton and Trump were very unpopular with the American people. Their main competitors in their respective primaries were viewed more favorably among the general electorate. In fact, a number of polls showed that Trump was one of the few Republican candidates that Hillary could actually beat.

Goldberg explains that “Trump didn’t have to convince those voters that Clinton was unlikable and a little scary; he simply had to exploit their preexisting opinion of her. Indeed, Trump’s continued obsession with bashing Hillary points to how central she is to his identity.”

I think he’s right, and this also explains the conservative media’s continued obsession with Hillary, years after her political relevance expired.

The Left hasn’t forgotten about Hillary either, though they’re much less vocal about it. Liberals look back at her in much the same way that many Republicans do McCain and Romney: as an acceptable choice at the time, but an unenthusiastic and ultimately ineffective candidate.

There were of course additional problems with Hillary, and not just her aforementioned unlikability. She was perceived (with good reason) as corrupt, and she commanded a sense of entitlement in regard to her White House aspirations.

Goldberg describes why these were significant factors in the election:

“[Bernie Sanders] came way closer to beating Clinton in the primaries than most people thought he would by tapping into the passion of the base and the frustrations of other Democrats who didn’t relish a Clinton dynasty and disliked both Hillary personally and the corrupt practices of the establishment she represented. She ran on the implied claim that it was simply her ‘turn’ to be president — a poisonous framing in a populist moment (just ask Jeb Bush). In retrospect, not being Hillary was almost as big a boon to Sanders as it was for Trump.

If the Clinton machine had not scared away more talented and resourceful politicians from running in 2016, it’s possible that someone other than Sanders would have captured the passion of the party — just as Obama did when he toppled Hillary as the inevitable nominee in 2008.”

Goldberg argues that because Clinton lost to Trump, the Democratic base got the message that “Sanders-style socialist populism was the key to success just as the GOP has concluded that Trump-style nationalist populism is the future of the right.”

Again, I think he’s right. And this is important because it illustrates just how reliant our politics have become on personalities and personas, and how disconnected they are from serious issues and common sensibilities. Desperation hatched from defeat has compelled both parties to conflate personal identity with political proclivity.

It’s like a domino effect of perpetual misreadings and misunderstandings — the kind that could have given the writers of Three’s Company a few extra seasons worth of material.

But this isn’t a sitcom, where the characters straighten things out by the end of the episode. It’s today’s politics… where identity itself is the script. And for that reason, the script will continue to be followed, no matter how absurd the story becomes.

Saving Time in a Bottle is Now Political Suicide

Imagine, just for a minute, a civilized culture in which it would be deemed societally unacceptable for an individual to be removed or disqualified from public office because of something in his or her high school or college yearbook.

As John Lennon might have said, It’s easy if you try.

Heck, on paper, a majority of Americans would probably even agree with such a standard. After all, I think most of us recall saying or doing at least one (and that’s a charitable number) incredibly dumb or insensitive thing in our student years — back before we left the cradle of academia and entered a real world of career pursuits and adult responsibilities. Is a snapshot of our youth really indicative of the person each of us went on to become?

The answer, in nearly ever case, would be no.

That’s not to say that people shouldn’t be held accountable for certain behavior they exhibited back in the day. The commission or even credible allegations of a serious crime, for example, would warrant long-lasting scrutiny and consideration. Aside from that, a person’s high school and college years have traditionally been recognized as a time in his or her life when there are few perceivable ramifications for immaturity and poor judgment among peers.

In other words, it’s the last real chance that people have to “screw up” without their mistake affecting their future.

But is this still the case? It sure doesn’t seem to be, and a lot of the explanation has to do with politics.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the old rules went away, but it seems to have happened somewhere between the 2008 and 2012 elections. While Barack Obama’s admission of illegal drug abuse (including cocaine) as a student in the 1980s barely registered a blip on the radar of his first presidential run (even with the vast majority of Republicans), Obama’s 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, received no such grace.

An alleged bullying incident from 1965 (nearly 50 years earlier), involving Mitt Romney forcibly cutting a fellow prep-school student’s hair, turned into a major national news story. The New York Times even managed to introduce an anti-gay narrative into the mix, framing the story this way:

“The day after President Obama endorsed gay marriage, Mitt Romney found himself responding to allegations that as a teenager he harassed a prep school classmate who later came out as gay.”

Of course, Romney wouldn’t have known anything about his peers’ sexual orientation back then, considering the discreet nature of the topic of homosexuality. But recognizing such historical context wouldn’t have been helpful to the media’s preferred political narrative in 2012, so a modern context was funneled in.

This retrofitting of today’s cultural and societal sensitivities to the conduct and character of one’s youth has become quite a bit more common in recent years. Hence, the rise of political discussions involving yearbooks.

Brett Kavanaugh’s yearbook became a hot national topic during his Supreme Court nomination process last year, after he was accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party. The yearbook offered no insight into the alleged assault nor any connection to the accuser. In fact, nothing beyond Ford’s testimony did. But that didn’t stop Kavanaugh’s political opponents and critics from turning written entries into smoking guns.

As a man in his fifties with a pristine reputation, Kavanaugh was called on to answer for dopey inside-jokes from his high school days about drinking, flirting, and farting — under the premise that such references might just suggest an inclination to sexually assault someone.

I suspect most people found that to be an awfully uncomfortable precedent. Would any of us, as adults, be able to clear the bar of being held to the dumb things we said in high school? How about the legal but poor decisions we made?

Quick sidebar: For the record, the most shocking thing anyone would discover about me from my yearbooks is that I once had great hair. So in case you’re wondering, this isn’t a preemptive attempt to bail myself out of jam.

Anyway, let’s talk about the latest yearbook controversy.

Unless you’ve been out of the country for the past week, you know that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (a Democrat) has been fighting for his political life ever since a 1984 medical-school yearbook emerged, showing a photo of Northam either clad in a KKK outfit or in blackface. It’s uncertain which of the two disguised individuals in the picture is him. And to make matters more complicated, Northam — after initially admitting to being in the photo (and apologizing for it) — decided a day later that it wasn’t him after all.

Why was he confused? Well, according to Northam, while speaking at a press conference, he had assumed that the photo being discussed in the media had been taken on a different occasion when he was disguised as a black person — specifically Michael Jackson. And he explained this shortly before his wife stopped him from moon-walking across the press stage

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

And apparently, there was some blackface craze in the 1980s that a lot of us are just becoming privy to, being that Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (another Democrat) just copped to doing the same thing. Even The View’s Joy Behar is now under fire for once dressing as what she described as “a beautiful African woman.”

To steal a joke from the Washington Examiner’s Jay Caruso, it’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing a reboot of Soul Man any time soon.

A few questions should probably be asked in this situation:

Should all of these people have known better?


Though I think that blackface has long been a confusing topic for non-black Americans who grew up after the Civil Rights movement, Northam was 24 at the time. He assuredly knew that what he was doing was inappropriate, and an apology was certainly warranted.

Would these acts from several decades ago have been deemed grounds for resignation or termination just 10 years ago?

I don’t think so.

But those are the new rules for how public figures are to be judged on such matters — rules that arose from a modern progressive movement that places far more importance on indicting people over youthful indiscretions than recognizing and appreciating the power of individuals to grow and better themselves.

People on my side of the aisle are having a pretty hard time finding sympathy for Northam and Herring as they’re punished by their own side’s rules. After all, we recently witnessed a group of Kentucky high school students portrayed as racists (their lives were even threatened) for wearing MAGA hats and smirking on a field trip to D.C. Last year, we also watched MSNBC pull former Fox News commentator Megyn Kelly off the air (subsequently cancelling her show and parting ways with her), citing her mere questioning of the inappropriateness of dressing up as an admired African American for Halloween.

So yeah, there’s some satisfaction in watching the Left now devour its own in Virginia.

Still, I think it’s important to search for a little bit of compassion in times like these. Maybe not for Northam’s weaselly changing of stories or the heat he has taken for his extreme stance on abortion, but for the predicament he and Herring have found themselves in over the poor personal decisions from their past. The same goes for Kavanaugh, Romney, and anyone else who has been in a remotely similar situation. We never know, after all, when parts of our own distant past will be dredged up and deemed disqualifying by today’s standards.

And if that time comes, it would be nice to believe that our lives, as we know them, wouldn’t necessarily be over.

The Defects in Dennis Prager’s Romney Piece

Senator Mitt Romney (left); conservative commentator Dennis Prager (right)

It’s been a week since Mitt Romney’s Washington Post op-ed was published, in which the incoming senator and former Republican presidential nominee qualified his belief the President Trump’s poor character is detrimental to American leadership. And unsurprisingly, pro-Trump media-conservatives are still pretty fired up over the perceived betrayal.

In a new column entitled “Mitt Romney Fails Again”, Dennis Prager describes Romney as “foolish,” and calls his op-ed “intellectually and morally shallow.” Notably, Prager offers no explanation of why he believes the piece was shallow in those departments, nor does he challenge any of Romney’s arguments (a common theme among those defending Trump on this matter). He does, however, throw out a long list of rhetorical questions. Each begins with “Does [Romney] believe attacking Trump is more important than…” and ends with a political or cultural topic. Most are related to some liberal atrocity.

This is a frequent response among many pro-Trumpers whenever people on the right criticize our president: Why are you going after Trump when the left is doing all of this bad stuff?

The obvious answer — to those not immersed in a partisan political tribe — is that one can recognize and work to address a whole host of legitimate problems, while simultaneously believing that an absence of character and integrity at the executive level of our government is detrimental to effectively dealing with those problems. Not to mention detrimental to society and our influence abroad.

As another conservative commentator, Guy Benson, said in a recent piece, “If a duly-elected Republican has concerns about the leader of the party, he or she is absolutely free, if not duty-bound, to air them.”

But Prager, by his own reasoning, seems to believe that loyalty to the leader of the Republican party should take precedence above all else. Otherwise, he would have written this week’s column about one of the topics he wanted Romney to write about. Right?

Anyway, what makes Prager’s piece remarkable is that he suggests Romney’s voiced dissent may be symptomatic of “character defects.” Yes, he actually used that term. And in his opening argument in defense of that thesis, he included this remarkable disclaimer:

“While we have every reason to assume Mitt Romney is personally honest and faithful in marriage, a public figure’s character is far more than his or her personal honesty and marital fidelity. Plenty of honest men and women and plenty of faithful husbands and wives have helped ruin societies.”

It’s pretty interesting to hear someone like Prager, who many in the conservative movement have long revered as a moral leader, divide the concept of character into two separate contexts. Distinguishing between personal character and public-figure character seems rather contrived, but for the sake of a political argument, it certainly provides a convenient (and creative) mechanism for minimizing the importance of traditionally admirable traits like honesty and faithfulness — traits that President Trump clearly doesn’t share.

But let’s get back to Romney’s alleged character defects.

Prager claims that Romney’s public criticism exhibits a lack of courage:

“In today’s environment, it takes no courage to attack Donald Trump, especially in the Washington Post. Sen. Romney is now the darling of the elites of this country. He will be showered with praise by the elite newspapers and all the news networks (except Fox). He will be invited to give talks at universities throughout the country. He will be feted in Europe. And no one will scream obscenities at him when he dines in Washington, D.C., restaurants.”

This is disingenuous to say the least. While it may take no courage for Democrats and liberals to publicly criticize President Trump, it has been a far riskier proposition, over the past two and a half years, for Republicans and conservatives to do it. This has especially been the case for Republican politicians whose political base is very supportive of the president, and conservatives in the media — many who’ve lost their radio shows and spots on Fox News for daring to speak out against the party leader.

Also, this notion of Romney as a liberal darling is just silly. Any “new found respect” he currently has from the left will vanish the moment he sides with Trump and his fellow Republicans on key legislation. Romney knows this. Prager knows this. We all know it. So let’s shelve this ridiculousness about the senator being embraced by liberal universities and Europeans.

The second character defect that Prager attributes to Romney is pettiness:

“It now seems very hard to deny that Romney resents Trump for doing what he failed to do: win the presidency.”

Could this be true? It’s certainly possible. It’s also possible that Romney believes everything he wrote in his op-ed, and felt it important, for the sake of the direction of the country, to air those concerns. And since Prager did not challenge any point Romney made in the op-ed, and even said that he has “every reason to assume” that Romney is an honest man, why is he inclined to attribute Romney’s motivations to pettiness rather than a love for his country?

Romney’s third character defect, according to Prager: lack of conviction:

“Does anyone reading this column know what Mitt Romney stands for aside from winning elections? Can one reader name one strong conviction Mitt Romney holds? I can’t. He appears to be essentially conviction- and ideology-free.”

While it’s undeniable that Romney’s political stances on multiple issues have changed over time, he has been running on essentially the same positions for at least the last 12 years, including in his successful Senate bid in Utah. He reiterated some of those positions in his op-ed.

Trump, of course, has had far more dramatic (and much more recent) position swings. Prager addresses this in his piece:

“When Donald Trump sought the Republican presidential nomination, I was convinced he had no ideology. And I could not identify any convictions. I therefore opposed his nomination. But I vigorously supported his campaign for president and hoped my original assessment was wrong. Lo and behold, Trump turns out to have the most solid conservative convictions of almost any Republican politician since Ronald Reagan — and an almost preternatural amount of courage to put them into practice.”

Of course, Prager’s conclusion is highly debatable and highly selective. One can point to Trump taking direction on Supreme Court nominees from conservative groups during the Republican primary, and identify something other than conviction and ideology. The same goes for Trump signing a tax reform bill put together by the Republican Congress. And if you ignore almost everything else, from the trade war to the size of our deficits to his threats against the 1st Amendment (like many on the Trump-right are clearly happy to do), it’s quite a bit easier to toss out a “solid conservative convictions” narrative.

Still, if Prager contends that he was wrong about a rhetorical chameleon like Trump, whose governing skills he now claims to find ideologically sound, why wouldn’t he afford the same consideration to a far more consistent politician who speaks much more glowingly of conservatism, and has just taken his first public office in over a decade?

Oh, that’s right. It’s because the guy dared to criticize Donald Trump. And at this point in the history of the Republican party, that’s the worst character defect someone could possibly have.