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SALT LAKE CITY — Citing former President Donald Trump's election fraud claims as an example, Sen. Mitt Romney says the United States is a country in denial and putting him back in the White House would only feed that malady.
In an op-ed published in the Atlantic on Monday, the Utah Republican writes that time and again he has seen a powerful impulse in himself and others to believe what they hope to be the case.
"A classic example of denial comes from Donald Trump: 'I won in a landslide.' Perhaps this is a branch of the same delusion that leads people to feed money into slot machines: Because I really want to win, I believe that I will win," he wrote.
Romney was among the first GOP senators to call out Trump's "big lie" over the 2020 presidential election results. He voted to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump has hinted at running for president in 2024, and Romney has said if he does, he would likely be elected again. But, he said, that would only worsen the notion that the country is in denial.
Romney said President Joe Biden is a good man, "but he has yet been unable to break through our national malady of denial, deceit and distrust. A return of Donald Trump would feed the sickness, probably rendering it incurable."
Congress, Romney added, is "particularly disappointing."
"Our elected officials put a finger in the wind more frequently than they show backbone against it," he said.
Bolstering our natural inclination toward wishful thinking are the carefully constructed, prejudice-confirming arguments from the usual gang of sophists, grifters, and truth-deniers.
–Sen. Mitt Romney
People think they don't need to cut back on watering, because the drought is just part of a cycle that will reverse, he said. With economic growth, they think the debt will take care of itself. And, he wrote, people see Jan. 6 as a false-flag operation.
"Bolstering our natural inclination toward wishful thinking are the carefully constructed, prejudice-confirming arguments from the usual gang of sophists, grifters, and truth-deniers," Romney said.
Listing how leaders such as Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Lech Walesa, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King and Volodymyr Zelenskyy have handled crisis, he said the cure for wishful thinking is leadership.
Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, said he hopes for a president who can rise above the din to unite the country behind the truth. Though he doesn't name them, he said several contenders with experience and smarts are waiting in the wings. Romney has said he would not run for president again.
In the meantime, he said, leadership must come from fathers and mothers, teachers and nurses, priests and rabbis, businessmen and businesswomen, journalists and pundits. That, Romney said, will require everyone to rise above themselves — above their grievances and resentments — and grasp the mantle of leadership the country so badly needs.