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Mitt Romney | Flickr

New year, same political drama. Freshman Utah Senator and former Repub­lican pres­i­dential can­didate Mitt Romney rang in 2019 with a scathing column in the Wash­ington Post attacking Pres­ident Donald Trump’s char­acter and tem­perament. In the piece, Romney claimed that while he hoped Trump would succeed, he did not believe the president’s conduct had “risen to the mantle of the office.” Romney con­tinued, admitting that while Trump’s policy posi­tions have been quite con­ser­v­ative, “policies and appoint­ments are only a part of a pres­i­dency.”

Romney says: “A pres­i­dency shapes the public char­acter of the nation. A pres­ident should unite us and inspire us to follow ‘our better angels.’ A pres­ident should demon­strate the essential qual­ities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national dis­course with comity and mutual respect.”

And he’s correct. The people we elect should be held to a high moral standard because, according to Socrates, lead­ership is “the noblest kind of excel­lence.” The actions and rhetoric of our pres­i­dents should befit the dignity of the office they hold and the ideals and values they rep­resent as the Pres­ident of the United States. It is no secret that Trump — an admitted serial adul­terer among other things — seems to be severely lacking in many of these essential qual­ities. He is not a leader that we should hold up to the next gen­er­ation for them to emulate, and he is not a man we should hope our sons grow up to be like.

With that being said, what is the point of Romney’s op-ed? Trump’s faults are not new and they have been more than suf­fi­ciently covered by main­stream media. Romney claimed he wrote it as a dec­la­ration that he will stand for his prin­ciples, not just for Trump and the GOP. This is all well and good, but actions speak much louder than a con­tro­versial column.

Fur­thermore, this moral pos­turing by Romney points to the pos­si­bility of a 2020 primary chal­lenger for Trump — a move that would be sure to fail and guar­antee a Demo­c­ratic pres­ident for the next four years. I may agree with the message of Romney’s op-ed, but his political moti­va­tions remain a mystery.

The reac­tions to Romney’s piece also reveal an alarming trend that has become all too common in the era of Trump. In an effort to defend the pres­ident and his agenda, Trump’s most ardent sup­porters attacked Romney and denied the exis­tence of the president’s obvious flaws.  One of the most egre­gious examples of this was artic­u­lated by the pres­ident of Liberty Uni­versity, Jerry Falwell Jr. in an interview with the Wash­ington Post.

When asked if Trump could do any­thing to lose his support, Falwell responded with a simple “No.” When pressed, he elab­o­rated, “Only because I know that he only wants what’s best for this country … I can’t imagine him doing any­thing that’s not good for the country.” This statement demon­strates an aban­donment of prin­ciples that has accom­panied the cult-like support of Donald Trump. The pres­ident, regardless of his char­acter, has become the standard by which right and wrong is judged, replacing the eternal truths that Chris­tians and con­ser­v­a­tives claim as their own.

Others, such as the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Henry Olsen, responded by saying Trump either had to be sup­ported entirely or not at all: “Romney would like you to believe you can have your cake and eat it, too — that you can be against Trump’s char­acter but for his policies.”

Others artic­u­lated a similar sen­timent, saying Romney should just get in line and help the Repub­lican cause rather than causing division within the party by talking about silly things such as one’s char­acter or morality. Like Falwell’s, such state­ments demon­strate the desertion of prin­ciples for loyalty to a man.

Loyalty is cer­tainly an hon­orable char­acter trait, but this kind of thinking is flawed. While we should love and support our friends, fam­ilies, and fellow coun­trymen, it is improper to give them our undying loyalty regardless of their actions. There are stan­dards higher than us by which we must judge the actions of fallen human beings, and the pres­ident is no exception. If we do truly care about the well-being of our country, we must hold the man who leads it accountable and asks him to do what is good and right,  not just what is expe­dient or what will “win.”

Like all of us, Trump will have to answer to his Maker for his sins. It is per­fectly rea­sonable to support him for his policy posi­tions while still admitting that he has many deep char­acter flaws. With that said, it is also rea­sonable to point to these flaws as a dis­qual­i­fi­cation for any person as a leader worthy of support. But what is not acceptable is a cor­ruption of our morals and values to kneel at the altar of a man. If we decide to put our faith in men, we will be dis­ap­pointed. But, if we stay true to the eternal morals, values, and truths handed to us from God above, using pru­dence as our guide, con­ser­v­a­tives will be fighting the good fight handed down to us from our fore­fa­thers. And that is a battle worth winning.

Erik Halvorson is a senior studying Eco­nomics.