Conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot looked at the principled speech Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) made this week and contrasted it with the pathetic undoing of his colleague Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Writing Thursday, Boot explained that the history of the collapse of the Republican Party can be perfectly captured in the way both senators behaved during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
"I was an unpaid foreign policy adviser to both men: for Romney in 2012 and Rubio in 2016," Boot explained. "After their votes on impeachment — Romney was the lone Republican to vote for conviction (on the abuse-of-power charge), while Rubio joined the rest of his party in acquitting President Trump despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt — I felt prouder than ever of my work for Romney and more ashamed than ever of my work for Rubio."
Boot admitted that it was predictable that a reality TV star with little understanding of the way American government works "and even fewer morals" would end up this way. He watched Romney move from a moderate Republican governor to a "severely conservative presidential candidate."
"Rubio, by contrast, set conservative hearts aflutter because he seemed to be a true believer with a preternatural gift of communication. Some saw him as the second coming of Ronald Reagan," he wrote.
Before Trump became the Republican nominee, both Rubio and Romney were willing and eager to attack Trump. Romney called him a "phony" and "a fraud." Rubio called Trump a "con artist." When Trump became the nominee, Rubio lined up behind the president. Romney didn't. He gave Trump the respect of a meeting about a possible position of secretary of state and agreed he would accept. Trump endorsed Romney's senate campaign in return.
"In the Senate, both men have voted with the president most of the time — Rubio 90.4 percent, Romney 78.8 percent. Both men are religious — Romney is a Mormon, Rubio a Catholic — and both share many of the same conservative views," wrote Boot. "But the impeachment vote revealed the night-and-day difference between them: Romney is a man of principle and Rubio is a typical politician. In other words, the truth is exactly the opposite of what I had once assumed."
Meanwhile, back in Utah, Romney is being celebrated by hometown newspapers for taking his faith and oath before God seriously.
He blasted Rubio's justification for supporting Trump as "mealy-mouthed" and "unconvincing." Rubio admitted that even if he thought Trump did something wrong, he would vote in Trump's favor because it would only make "the bitter divisions and deep polarization our country currently faces" worse.
"This turn of events makes me regret that Romney never became president and hope that Rubio never will be," wrote Boot.
“I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me,” Boot quoted Romney's speech.
He wondered what Rubio will tell his children.
"That he had to shirk his duty so that he could preserve his political viability?" he speculated. "That Rubio is a Republican prince and Romney a Republican pariah tells you all you need to know about how low a once-proud party has sunk."