In a Washington Post Op-Ed, noting the Trump administration's "deep descent" and exodus of talent in December, Mitt Romney said Trump "has not risen to the mantle of the office."

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After last year’s turmoil, Congress must be firmer and less forgiving of President Donald Trump in 2019.

Incoming U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, set the right tone with a powerful Op-Ed published on New Year’s Day in The Washington Post.

There is an abundance of Trump critics on the national stage, and Romney has been one all along. But there’s a dearth of them on Romney’s side of the aisle in Congress, where the nation needs principled leadership to keep this erratic presidency in check.

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Noting the Trump administration’s “deep descent” and exodus of talent in December, Romney said Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office.” Americans need a president who will unite them, vigorously oppose authoritarian regimes and defend vital institutions such as the free press and rule of law, he wrote.

Romney is doing more than announcing the start of his term. He’s echoing alarms raised by former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis — a native Washingtonian — in his Dec. 20 resignation letter that elevated concerns about Trump among both Republicans and Democrats.

Mattis said the nation must provide effective leadership to alliances such as NATO and be “resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” namely China and Russia.

“We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances,” Mattis wrote, adding that these are topics on which he and Trump are not aligned.

Romney also praised Trump for policies that are longtime GOP priorities, including corporate-tax reform, reduced regulation and cracking down on China’s unfair trade practices. But Romney is not letting his enthusiasm for those policies cloud his judgment and excuse unacceptable behavior that threatens America’s security and prosperity.

“I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault,” he wrote. “But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”

Let’s hope the rookie Senator follows through with this commitment and inspires others to take the high road, during what’s likely to be a turbulent new year in the nation’s capital.