Mitt Romney has slammed Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic mocking him as ‘not the smartest guy in the room’ and saying his initial response was not a ‘great moment in American leadership’.
The Republican Senator laid into the president while speaking live on the Georgetown Politics Forum Tuesday evening.
As well as blasting Trump’s leadership style, Romney also criticized his move to stop funding to the World Health Organization and said a more centralized approach from the federal government would have been ‘more effective’ in tackling the pandemic.
Romney channeled former Treasury secretary Bob Gates to mock Trump’s intelligence.
Mitt Romney has slammed Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic mocking him as ‘not the smartest guy in the room’ and saying his initial response was not a ‘great moment in American leadership’
”The key in leadership is recognizing when you’re not the smartest guy in the room.’
‘In a setting like this I think it’s important for the people at the top to recognize that there are always people out there with more information,’ he said.
‘You want to bring them in and divide responsibility and have them manage… with that we’re not where we ought to be.’
Romney said he has taken this approach several times in his own career to bring together different stakeholders into taskforces and trust them to do a better job.
The former governor of Massachusetts did not hold back when asked about America’s leadership style during the pandemic.
He made a series of thinly-veiled digs where he did not name President Trump directly but said the initial response to the crisis ‘will not stand out as being a great moment of American leadership.’
‘The first phase which was getting ready to respond clearly we were not in a position of extraordinary strength,’ he said.
‘We did not have the testing as fast as we could have or should have. We did not have the personal protective equipment we would have hoped to have. I think part of that is just the recognition that in many cases American companies – multinational companies – are producing these products elsewhere, typically in China.
‘They had the crisis first, so they got the PPE – we did not.’
Romney continued: ‘That’s just in terms of crisis management – the willingness of the federal government to step in and coordinate everything from PPE to testing to repair of our hospital systems and so forth – none of those things really stood out as being great moments in american leadership.’
Other nations usually look to the US as a leader in moments in history, he pointed out, adding that the rest of the world was ‘surprised’ by America’s actions.
‘I think the world was a bit surprised by that as they think of us as the nation that first went to the moon and accomplished extraordinary things in the new economy,’ he said.
Trump at the White House Tuesday. Romney also criticized Trump’s decision to pull funding out of the WHO
‘And yet when it came to PPE and to testing and he speed of our response it looks slow relative to things like South Korea, Singapore, China, Germany and even Sweden – so that phase is not one that will not stand out as being a great moment of American leadership.’
A ‘more centralized, coordinated effort’ across the US to ensure tests and medical supplies got to the areas that needed them most would have been more effective than Trump encouraging every state to take a separate approach the pandemic, Romney continued.
‘It’s hard to say to all 50 governors: ‘You all do your own thing’,’ he said, adding that the state governors have done a ‘good job’ but the ‘federal coordination has been less than my personal style’.
Romney added that the US ‘didn’t do a good job getting out of the blocks’ but insisted he was ‘not blaming this administration’.
The US should have seen the crisis coming for a long time, he said, calling it a ‘black elephant’ not a ‘black swan’.
The 2012 presidential candidate also had some choice words around Trump’s decision to pull funding out of the WHO.
The WHO is ‘not doing a great job’ but it is in the interest of Americans for the US to stay involved in the institution to steer it in a better direction, he said.
Romney and Trump back in 2016. Romney’s comments are likely to reignite his long-running feud with Trump, after the pairs relationship turned sour several years back. The Senator was the only Republican to vote to impeach Trump for abuse of power during his trial in February
‘It’s in America’s interests – in America’s selfish interests to be involved in writing thre rules of the world,’ said Romney.
‘No I think the WHO are not doing a great job… but we should be more involved there not less.
‘We should be trying to get the institution to do a better job and make the world a better place.’
The 2012 presidential candidate offered a way for America to get back on track in its response to the pandemic.
‘As we get to the next phase – the recovery – then I think we have the potential to stand out in a positive way in the recovery area and I am talking in regards of treatments, of vaccines,’ he said.
‘That kind of research work is going on around the world – we may or may not be first but certainly there is a lot going on here that is not going on other places so we may well be able to lead in that area.’
Romney went on to say that in the ‘post-COVID’ world when the economy will need to be rebuilt, nations will look to the US.
‘We will certainly be looked to by the world to try to get the economy going… we’ll be a key leader in that regard,’ he said.
‘I think the US and China will be two nations that will stick out as technology will be more crucial.’
‘So the first phase we didn’t look really strong and that’s kind of an understatement,’ Romney continued.
‘But after this is over what we will have been able to do in our technology base will maintain our reputation as a leader – if not the leader – of the world.’
Romney’s comments are likely to reignite his long-running feud with Trump, after the pairs relationship turned sour several years back.
The Senator was the only Republican to vote to impeach Trump for abuse of power during his trial in February.
The two were once allies, with Trump endorsing Romney in his 2012 presidential campaign and appearing alongside him during the race for the White House.
But when Romney failed to be elected, Trump changed tact saying Romney had ‘never connected with the people’ and later saying he shouldn’t run again.
During Trump’s own White House race, Romney retaliated criticizing his campaign triggering a Twitter spat between them.
But when Trump was elected, the president said he was considering Romney for secretary of state before backtracking.