I’m not as certain as Lemieux (or, to be fair, the bulk of commentators on this matter) that the Mittens op-ed is completely worthless. Mitt is, as folks have reasonably pointed out, not a man of political courage, and everything he does should be evaluated against how he evaluates his future political prospects. But unlike Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, Mitt isn’t on his way out; he’s starting a Senate term that will be co-existent with President Trump for at least two years, and possibly for as many as six. That’s a significantly different position from which to stake out one’s anti-Trump creds.
More importantly, I think that Mitt still believes that Mitt can be President. And I think we need to take his opportunism on its face; he has decided that the way to give himself the best chance of becoming President in the future is to write a nasty op-ed about Trump, predicated upon a very narrow set of policy differences. It seems extraordinarily unlikely to me that Mitt will come to represent any kind of meaningful legislative opposition to Trump, but he obviously sees considerable value in becoming the rhetorical leader of the Trump-skeptics in the Senate. He may well see this Trump-skepticism as the only plausible foundation for a primary challenge in 2020.
And that, I think, is very interesting stuff. Don’t make the mistake of lauding Mitt Romney for his political courage, but taken his opportunism at face value. If you want to know which way the wind blows, it doesn’t hurt to look at the weather vane.