The Conflicted Legacy of Mitt Romney

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

After factional infighting dominated the G.O.P.’s struggle to elect a House speaker, it feels weirdly quaint to revisit Mitt Romney’s career. He’s served as a governor, a U.S. senator and a presidential nominee for a Republican Party now nearly unrecognizable from what it was when he started out. At the end of his time in public office, he has found a new clarity in his identity as the consummate institutionalist in an increasingly anti-constitutionalist party. But as a newly published biography of him shows, that wasn’t always the case.

McKay Coppins, a staff writer at The Atlantic, interviewed Romney dozens of times over the past several years and had access to his private journals, emails and text messages. In this resulting biography “Romney: A Reckoning,” Coppins pushes Romney to wrestle with his own role — even complicity — in what his party has become.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio App, Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In this conversation, the guest host, Carlos Lozada, and Coppins examine Romney’s legacy at a time when it may seem increasingly out of place with the mainstream G.O.P. They dive deep into the key decisions and events in Romney’s life; discuss the looming influence Mitt Romney’s father, George, also a Republican presidential candidate, had over his life; how Romney rationalized appeasing figures on the campaign trail he found disdainful, including Tea Party populists and an early 2010s Donald Trump; how Romney failed to articulate just why he wanted to be president; the many grudges he has against members of his party who acquiesced to or embraced Trump; how Romney will be remembered by history; and much more.

This episode was hosted by Carlos Lozada, a columnist for The New York Times Opinion and the author of “What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.” He is also a host on “Matter of Opinion,” a weekly podcast from New York Times Opinion.

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio App, Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View a list of book recommendations from our guests here.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

Credit…Jessie Pierce

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Rollin Hu. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld. Our senior editor is Claire Gordon. The show’s production team also includes Emefa Agawu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. And special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

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