Sunday, 12 June 2016
Mitt Romney warns Donald Trump will cause 'trickle-down racism' in the US
Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee fights tears as he says his presumptive successor’s effect on the party ‘is breaking my heart’
Mitt Romney warned on Saturday that Donald Trump threatens to cause “trickle-down racism” and, choking back tears, said the effect of the presumptive Republican nominee on their party “is breaking my heart”.
Speaking to a crowd of politicians, donors and businessmen at his annual summit in Park City, Utah, the 2012 nominee became tearful as he reflected on the chaos wrought by his successor, a former reality TV star who has called Mexicans “rapists”, accused a federal judge of bias because of his ethnicity, and proposed a temporary ban on Muslim travel to the US.
“These things are personal,” Romney said. “I love this country. I love the founders, I love what this country is built upon and its values, and seeing this is breaking my heart, for the party that means so much.”
Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate in 2012 and now the most powerful Republican in Washington, described Trump’s comments about the judge as “textbook racism” last week. But Ryan has refused to rescind his endorsement of Trump, despite the criticism.
Romney has railed against Trump for months, and has remained one of the few Republicans to unequivocally reject the businessman. A devout Mormon and extraordinarily wealthy financier, Romney has painted Trump as his opposite: a crude bigot, misogynist and fraud of a businessman who hides his actual net worth.
But Romney also acknowledged that Trump had won the Republican primary contest “fair and square” and had a “very effective strategy” – despite his skeletal campaign and minimal spending.
He also told the crowd that he understood Republicans like Ryan, who support Trump against Hillary Clinton but also denounce many of his comments and proposals. “I really understand both points of view about the pro- and contra-Trump setting, and respect people on both sides of this,” Romney said.
He added that he does not argue with Ryan about Trump, “and I wouldn’t suggest for a minute that he ought to change his position and adopt the one that I’ve taken”.
Trump endorsed Romney in 2012, when the New York businessman repeatedly harped on the false claim that Barack Obama was not born in the US. Romney said he thought the conspiracy theory “nutty” but not so noxious as to merit disavowal.
Romney’s loathing of Trump would not bring him to vote for Clinton, however. He said he considered both candidates “destructive”, and on Friday he told CNN that he might vote for a third-party candidate, the Libertarian Gary Johnson.
In that interview, he first explained his fear of “trickle-down racism”, saying: “I don’t want to see a president of the United States saying things which change the character of the generations of Americans that are following.
“Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation, and trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.”
On Saturday, he illustrated his theory of presidential influence by using a former president’s high-profile affairs as an example. “Bill Clinton’s dalliances in the White House affected the sexual inclinations and practices of a generation, and probably beyond,” he said.
Trump responded to Romney’s criticisms on Saturday, both at a rally and on Twitter. “Mitt Romney had his chance to beat a failed president but he choked like a dog,” he tweeted. “Now he calls me racist – but I am the least racist person there is.”
The presumptive nominee has compared his predecessor to a dog repeatedly over the last few months, a taunt that Romney dismissed.
“I have dogs. I don’t know dogs choking,” he joked to the crowd. “That’s an insult that somehow doesn’t work.”
Trump also argued that he has the support of the boxing promoter Don King, “and so many other African Americans who know me well and endorsed me would not have done so if they thought I was a racist!”
Polls show that black votersoverwhelmingly dislike the businessman, and on Friday King denied that he had ever endorsed Trump or any other candidate.
Like Trump, Romney had sharp words for his fellow Republicans, though his ire was directed at former primary contenders. He criticized Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush in particular for their long and expensive campaigns against each other and Marco Rubio, and for their failure to target Trump.
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and one of the men tasked with bringing order to the party, had a rebuttal to Romney on Friday.
“Respect Mitt and differences but couldn’t disagree more,” he tweeted. “Let’s stop this and unify.”