Patsy Neal: Thank you, Sen. Romney, for having some class

Romney one of the few Republicans to call out Rep. Santos.

(Haiyun Jiang | The New York Times) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, right, exchanges words with Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., a fellow Republican who represents a New York district in Long Island and Queens, before the State of the Union address in Washington on Tuesday night, Feb. 7, 2023. Romney admonished Santos for positioning himself in a prime camera-ready spot in the chamber, saying he didn't belong there, and had no shame.

I, like millions of Americans, watched the State of the Union message by President Joe Biden. I was shocked at the disrespect by some who heckled and shouted at the President during parts of his speech.

Congress over the years has been respected and held in high esteem because of the role it plays in our government. Normally, so has the office of the president been respected, even though there may be disagreement with the individual holding that office.

That is why the display of disrespect during the president’s speech on the State of the Union was so jolting. When our highest branches of government become a place of jeering, heckling and rude outbreaks, it makes us wonder where our country is heading.

That is also why an unexpected confrontation by Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. George Santos is so meaningful — and can give us hope that we are not totally becoming a nation of uncivil and disrespectful citizens and lawmakers.

Santos is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for countless lies about his background, and by the FBI for illegal financial dealings with GoFundMe. When Romney saw Santos in a prime seat at the State of the Union Address, waiting to shake hands with the president and other top dignitaries, he stopped and confronted Santos, telling him he should not be there because he was an embarrassment.

This exchange is important because this is the first time a Republican has openly spoken out against Santos’s behavior, and demonstrated that elected officials should be held to a higher standard of behavior than most of us. It is even more important because it shows there are still lawmakers who believe moral values and civil conduct have a higher value than power or position.

Our country has been one of the most influential in the world for over 200 years. Banana republics have come and gone, while our form of government has held strong.

However, it has been obvious that in the last few years, we have edged closer and closer to the style of a banana republic government as our Capitol was overrun by a mob, misinformation and lies have run rampant as one political party tried to stay in power, and now, jeering and heckling at the State of the Union address.

We are so fortunate to have the freedoms and opportunities that our government has provided for us over the decades. When our republic was being formed, it was reported that a lady asked Benjamin Franklin (a Founding Father of our Constitution, if we had a republic or a monarchy. Franklin replied that we had a republic—if we could keep it.

We seem to be at a point where we must make a decision whether to keep it or not. It also seems that the only way we will keep it is if we have more of our leaders having the courage to speak out, as Romney did. We have never been a nation of cowards — but the intimidation and the cohesion of political parties make it almost impossible for individuals to speak out today without losing their election or their place on committees.

So, thank you, Sen. Mitt Romney, for being one of the few politicians who still cares about the values that made our country great—and who will say so regardless of the costs.

Patsy Neal

Patsy Neal lived in Utah for six years and has a Master’s Degree from the University of Utah.