Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, has finally found his conscience, his spine and his voice, and plans a speech Thursday to denounce the 2016 GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump. It’s a sad end to a once-promising romance.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2012
Yes, you remember: In 2012, Romney and other GOP contenders breathlessly pursued Trump’s endorsement. The New York Times even reported that Newt Gingrich had won it, but Trump went with a lucky Mitt Romney instead. Romney even sponsored a “Dine With Donald” fundraising drive, where the winner got to have dinner with the happy couple. “There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them,” Romney mused at the press conference where he accepted Trump’s endorsement.” Indeed. He went on: “Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I’m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement.”
To be fair, at times during that odd 2012 tableau with Trump in Las Vegas, Romney looked bewildered, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did standing next to Trump on Tuesday night; a flash of Stockdale-ian “Who am I? Why am I here?” befuddlement occasionally flickered across his tanned, chiseled face.
But why, you might ask, did GOP candidates slavishly seek Trump’s endorsement in 2012 and not, say, in 2008? (Trump did endorse Senator John McCain in September of that year, but without fanfare or public courtship, on the Larry King show, and he admitted his enthusiasm was for Sarah Palin. Of course.) How did Trump Tower become a stop on the GOP campaign trail, alongside a stop for corn dogs at the Iowa State Fair, trips to court the New Hampshire Union Leader, a sojourn to the Reagan Library? What turned Trump from a self-promoting blowhard, real estate mogul, and reality TV star into a political powerhouse? On what issue, or issues, had he built his political reputation? Only one: He was the birther in chief, the highest-profile purveyor of the racist and destructive fiction that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and thus wasn’t a legitimate president.