Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) recently stated what many have observed in the wake of the Ukraine call disclosures — the push by President Donald Trump for Ukraine (and now China) to investigate his political rivals is unacceptable. The response from President Trump was both personal and perplexing. He denounced Romney as a “pompous ass” and seemed to call for his impeachment — even though there is not only no impeachment provision for a sitting U.S. Senator and Utah does not even have a recall provision. Sen. Susan Collins (R, Maine) has also made measured but critical comments recently.
Trump tweeted that not only was Sen. Jeff Flake “better” than Romney but “I’m hearing that the Great People of Utah are considering their vote for their Pompous Senator, Mitt Romney, to be a big mistake. I agree! He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats! #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY.”
It is certainly true that, according to a poll taken in July, Romney’s approval rate with Utahans is only 38% (the lowest on the delegation) with a 40% disapproval rate. However, President Trump’s disapproval rate remains over fifty percent.
None of that matters of course. A president should act with a modicum of decorum and dignity even in addressing political rivals. While one could give the President the benefit of the doubt and dismiss the impeachment talk as a joke, the personal attacks were not. Romney’s comments were reasonable and deliberative even if you disagreed with him. The name calling and unfounded talk of senatorial impeachments only make it harder for Republican senators to openly support the President. They also play into a narrative of the Democrats that Trump is wounded and unhinged. With the Senate now at risk in 2020, these Senators will be increasingly concerned about their future as a Senate impeachment trial looms. This is the not the way to assure them that the White House has a coherent and controlled strategy for navigating these increasingly dangerous waters.
The President has defenses to these charges but much will depend on intent and credibility. Neither is helped by these attacks on political rivals or fellow Republicans.