Commentary: Tribune’s endorsement of Romney is disappointing

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Senate candidate Jenny Wilson holds a news conference in Salt Lake City, Thursday Aug. 2, 2018, to announce her vision for immigration reform. At right is Saida Dahir.

I found The Tribune Editorial Board’s decision to endorse outsider Mitt Romney for the U.S. Senate rather than native daughter Jenny Wilson deeply disappointing. As the editorial notes, “he will have to stand up to a rogue president and his xenophobic agenda, and Romney’s history with that has been, well, waffly.”

That it has.

Recall Mitt’s earlier commentary, “Where I stand on the Trump agenda,” in which he praised Trump’s “restoration of multiple use on Utah public land.” In fact, the only reasonable interpretation of “multiple use,” especially in view of the administration’s having put lands formerly protected as national parks up for sale to extractive industries, is that it meant privatizing and selling what once belonged to all Americans.

In fairness, the editorial board acknowledges that Wilson has the better understanding of Utah’s public lands issues, yet still concludes “We’re endorsing Romney because it’s a unique opportunity to replace Hatch’s seniority with Romney’s firepower.” The question is, where will that firepower be trained?

Jennifer Rubin, one of President Trump’s most relentless and eloquent critics, wrote in a Washington Post commentary Oct. 22 that, “Trump’s ongoing appeals to hatred and resentment remind us that much more than policy decisions or even oversight are at issue in these midterms.”

In connection with the Jamal Khashoggi horror, Rubin goes on to observe that, “Americans cannot tell whether Trump is so corrupted and compromised that he’s running Middle East policy to secure his own finances. The reason we do not know for certain is that Republicans refuse to look for answers.”

Which brings me to my number one reason for disappointment with the Tribune’s Romney endorsement: The last thing this country needs in Washington is another Trump enabler. Is Romney the odds-on favorite to win the Senate race? Yes he is. But if it indeed comes to pass he will become one more reason Donald Trump remains unaccountable for his cruel savaging of our democracy.

“He [Romney] will need more backbone,” The Tribune’s endorsement tells us. Other than words of assurance he provided the board, what real-world evidence can be found that he will develop that necessary backbone?

In his “where I stand” commentary, Romney assures readers that he will “continue to speak out when the president says or does something which is divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”

Given that those kinds of things represent Trump’s almost daily behavior, Mitt also finds it necessary to hedge, saying he will only raise his voice in opposition when “it is a matter of substantial importance.” If there is reliable evidence of backbone in these declarations I, for one, fail to see it.

Jenny Wilson may well lose this race, but she is the right candidate for Utah to send to Washington, one who would actually use her position to act as a check on Trump. A native Utahn and daughter of one of Salt Lake City’s most popular mayors, Jenny intuitively knows about Utah and what the state needs of its next senator. Jenny Wilson deserved The Tribune Editorial Board’s endorsement.

Thomas Walker

Thomas Walker, Salt Lake City, is a native Utahn, a keen follower of local/national politics and a prolific writer. A graduate of The University of Utah with a dregree in English, he is an avid skier, hiker and overall connoisseur of Utah’s incredible outdoor wonders.