Others may ridicule Pierre Delecto.
I just want to give him a hug.
Delecto, of course, is the Twitter nom de guerre of our former governor Mitt Romney, now a US Senator from Utah. Romney’s Twalter-ego was unmasked a few days ago by Slate’s Ashley Feinberg, after the senator dropped some clues in an Atlantic magazine profile.
Now, as those of us who have been following Romney lo these five and twenty years can attest, this is not the first time he has adopted a different identity. Before our very eyes, the socially liberal Romney who ran for senator and then governor of our fair Commonwealth morphed into the presidential candidate who reversed his stances on abortion, gun control, and the health insurance system that was his proudest achievement, who battled gay marriage, and signed on as a lifetime member of the NRA, styling himself a slayer of rodents, rabbits, and “small varmints, if you will.”
The Delecto affair appears to be a different kind of shape-shifting, however, one that says as much about our times as it does about Romney himself.
Ordinarily, such an alternate identity might be the vehicle for a publicly circumspect politician to really let fly. But apart from his swashbucklerish name, Pierre was just as milquetoasty as the real Romney — perhaps even more so, bless both their genteel hearts.
Before we get to the tweets, can we pause for a moment to reflect on how messed up it is that a sitting US senator, a vaunted member of a co-equal branch of government, feels he must assume another identity to say what he really thinks?
Monsieur Delecto’s opinions weren’t very out there, in any case. He mostly hearted other people’s posts, and pushed back gently — ever so gently — on Romney’s critics. When a Bloomberg reporter left Romney off a too-short list of senators who’d expressed support for Senate Intelligence chairman Richard Burr, Pierre politely noted the omission. When Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin called Romney’s approach to the president “non-confrontation verging on spinelessness,” Pierre offered an au contraire: “Jennifer, you need to take a deep breath,” he tweeted.
Only when journalist Soledad O’Brien tweeted that Romney lacked a moral compass, did Pierre get upset, or as upset as Pierre gets: “Only Republican to hit Trump on the Mueller report, only one to hit Trump on character time and again, so Soledad, you think he’s the one without moral compass?”
Poor Mitt. It does seem unfair to criticize his intestinal fortitude when it comes to Trump. Compared to the Republican bootlickers who surround him in the Senate, Romney is a hero, a moral giant.
It started in March of 2016 when, before Trump won the nomination, Romney delivered a speech that only seems braver in retrospect, calling Trump a con man and a fake.
Of course, Romney lost some moral altitude when he proceeded to suck up to Trump after he won the election, hoping to be named secretary of state, only to be rejected and humiliated by a petty, vengeful president. He wavered again when he accepted Trump’s endorsement in his Senate run.
But Romney regained his mojo just before he was sworn in as a senator, penning a Washington Post op-ed in which he said Trump lacked “the essential qualities of honesty and integrity [to] elevate the national discourse.” Earlier this month, he called Trump’s suggestion that China and Ukraine investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden “brazen and unprecedented,” and “wrong and appalling.” Last week, he gave a blistering speech on the Senate floor to decry Trump’s betrayal of our Kurdish allies in Syria, calling it “a bloodstain in the annals of American history.”
Such stands would be unremarkable in a different time — say, one in which Republicans in Washington had consciences to outweigh their terror of an infantile president turning his increasingly radical base against them. But these are not those times.
Sure it’s needy, and the Twitter disguise is kind of pathetic, but Delecto is right to argue that Romney deserves more praise than some have given him. History — assuming anybody sane is left to write it — will one day smile upon him. And why not a little love now?
Pierre? Mitt? Group hug!Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.