Days before he takes the oath of office as the new Republican U.S. senator from Utah, Mitt Romney fired a salvo at President Donald Trump that historians say is the biggest blast at a president by a previous presidential nominee of his party since 1935.
That was when Al Smith, former governor of New York and the 1928 Democratic presidential nominee, denounced President Franklin Roosevelt and charged that his New Deal agenda was moving the U.S. toward socialism and away from government cooperation with business.
Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, took to the editorial page of the Washington Post to strongly criticize the character of fellow Republican Trump and said the president’s “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.”
A “Never Trumper” in the 2016 race, Romney added that he planned to “speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest, or destructive to democratic institutions.”
On Wednesday morning, Trump fired back on Twitter and questioned whether “is he a Flake? [a reference to outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a never-Trump Republican]. . . I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on border security and so many things where he can be helpful.”
The scenario of past presidential candidates for president vying against the man in the Oval Office is not unique. John McCain, for example, voiced some disagreement with President George W. Bush in his first term, although they eventually put aside all differences.
But one has to go back to Smith and FDR in 1935 to find an accurate precedent for the Trump-Romney clash.
“Mitt Romney's biting critique of President Trump is noteworthy but hardly unique,” historian David Pietrusza, author of the critically acclaimed book on Theodore Roosevelt “T.R. Last War,” told Newsmax.
“FDR drew fire midway through his first term from not one but two former Democratic nominees, 1924 standard-bearer John W. Davis, and, more spectacularly, from his former friend and quasi-mentor, 1928 nominee Alfred E. Smith. Smith, the former model of a regular party man, ripped Roosevelt and his New Deal as part of the assault launched and well-financed by the American Liberty League at a famous white-tie banquet in DC.”
But, Pietrusza also noted, “Smith and Davis were outshone by the vitriol launched by Theodore Roosevelt against fellow Republican -- and his anointed successor --William Howard Taft. Where Romney's blast differs, however, is that his is not so much against Trump's policies but rather against his ‘character.’ It remains to be seen whether Romney ignites a party revolt a la TR or whether everything fizzles like Smith and Davis' charge against the New Deal."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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